Preserving Lawyers Hill HOWARD COUNTY

November 19, 1992

In 1924, a Sun writer described the Lawyers Hill section of Elkridge as "a neighborhood which clings affectionately to the traditions of the past."

Those words still apply, as evidenced by the efforts of Lawyers Hill residents to have their community listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A more likely candidate for the National Register would be hard to find. One of America's first commuter suburbs, Lawyers Hill was established 150 years ago as a summer community for a group of Baltimore judges and attorneys. These days, the approximately 100 upper middle-class residents live there year-round.

Lawyers Hill sits on a tree-thick crest of a hill and is dotted with 40-odd houses, mostly original structures from the 1800s. The range of styles is an architecture student's dream: Victorian, Italianate, Gothic Revival, even a Sears mail-order job.

"When you enter the area, you're surrounded by these old houses and trees, and it feels like you're stepping back in time," says Lawyers Hill community association president Gary Ticknor, who works in Baltimore as -- what else? -- a lawyer.

The proximity of Interstate 95 and encroaching development keep the neighborhood from being a complete throwback to olden days. Indeed, the fear of further construction near Lawyers Hill is what spurred the residents to seek the historic designation, which would effectively block the use of federal and state money for projects that would harm the historic character of the community.

"While the designation isn't a guarantee against development, it gives the community a good say in projects proposed for the area," explains Alice Ann Wetzel, the Howard County historic planner.

For added protection, the residents have asked the county's planning and zoning board to place the neighborhood under the jurisdiction of the county's historic district commission. The commission would thus gain control over any exterior work on the houses. That kind of power is why most building owners fight historic designation -- but not the residents of Lawyers Hill.

"An outsider might find it hard to understand why a community would put itself under such control," Mr. Ticknor says.

"I think it just shows our strong desire to preserve what we have here."

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