On The Sunny Side Of The . . . Highland?


March 07, 1993|By WAYNE HARDIN

The post office address has been Street since 1885 but for many residents their hearts always will be in Highland.

These northern Harford Countians appear at ease with a few seeming contradictions about where they live.

"Just say it's the village of Highland in Street, Md.," says Samuel Q. Tharpe Jr., curator of the Highland Community Association archives. Which is one way of saying, the place with two names. Even then, it can be a little confusing.

Mr. Tharpe, 31, lives in nearby Pylesville. Jim Richardson, community association president, has a 200-acre farm eight miles from Highland/Street -- almost on the Pennsylvania line. Violet Merryman, association treasurer, lives in Whiteford. Vice President Donald Galbreath, a Baltimore City policeman, does live in Street, in a home chunked out of the family farm.

All consider themselves Highlanders. The old Highland School, which they attended, provides the continuum. "I go to church here," Mr. Richardson says. "I went to school here. It's my community."

Mr. Tharpe sees their rural community of 200 residents as a "unique little oasis" bounded by Routes 543, 165 and 624, which take traffic past but not through.

The trees are mature in the oasis, the houses brick, stone and frame with front porches. The 103-year-old Highland Presbyterian Church has a tall steeple, wood cathedral ceiling, stained-glass windows, roof with diamond-shaped slate and a cemetery.

On a winter day, a golden sunset descends over brown fields and pastures. In view are red-roofed barns and gray grain bins, bumping against two of the village's four baseball fields. And through the countryside winds the "shaded scar" -- a name for the roadbed of the long-gone Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad -- the Ma and Pa.

From the parking lot of what once was Snodgrass Chevrolet, you can imagine what Street was like when the shaded scar carried Ma and Pa rails between York, Pa., and Baltimore.

To the north, off Highland Road, stands the former railroad station/post office. It's now a private home but still resembles its former self. Where rails once ran, Rufus Wimer parks his pickup truck.

"You heard the whistle at the crossroads and the train would pass and shake the place," says Adlene Wimer, 67, his wife. They have lived here 40 years.

Robert H. "Hank" McGraw, an administrator for Baltimore County schools, and his wife, Mary, a schoolteacher in Delta, Pa., have lived off Miller Road in "beautiful downtown Street" for 22 years. When they arrived, the railroad was only a memory (it ceased Maryland operations in 1958), but Mr. McGraw still feels connected to it.

"The Ma and Pa at one time ran through my back yard," he says, walking through a juniper windbreak in the yard to the edge of a hill overlooking an empty valley. "The trestle was right here."

The Ma and Pa created the Highland/Street split personality. The name Highland worked fine here until 1885, when the railroad stops became post offices. Because Highland in Howard County already had a post office, Highland in Harford County became Street. (The name honors an 1817 settler, Col. John Streett, a veteran of the Battle of Baltimore.) But the railroad station was still called Highland, as was a store.

That set the stage for the modern-day dichotomy. The 1907 school building was called Highland High until 1950, grades 1-11, and then Highland Elementary, grades 1-6, until it was closed in 1984. Turned over to the community association, the three-story, brick building now is Highland Commons. It is run by the association and is the center of the community. It houses a senior center; a food assistance program; community association offices and archives; a preschool; a library branch, and the Street post office.

Things are changing some in Street, but at a slower pace than in areas to the south like Bel Air and Fallston.

"When we moved out here, Street was much more rural," says Mr. McGraw, 51. "Miller Road was dirt. You could see lights of three houses from here. Now you see 15 to 20."

But "a lot of people are very serious about preserving farmland around here," he says.

One of those preservationists is V. David Thompson, 40, president of Foxborough Nursery, a 370-acre landscaping and tree-farm operation off Miller Road. "There's nothing like the aroma of fresh-plowed soil, or fresh-cut hay or a field of growing corn," he says.

Street or Highland, rural or more suburban, the community engenders special feelings from its residents.

"I love it," says 65-year-old Mary Louise Tharpe, Samuel Tharpe's mother. "It's home."

The Street Beat

THE FAMOUS VISITOR: Henry A. Wallace. The U.S. vice president came to town in September 1944. As part of a two-day Maryland swing, he visited Harford farms and had lunch at Highland High School.

THE GROUP: Highland School Alumni Association, started in 1910. Has held an annual reunion ever since, except for during World War II.

THE PRINCIPAL: Marie H. Amos, 88, head of Highland Elementary School 1950-67. She was a 1921 graduate of Highland High, and has been a town resident for 74 years.

THE STORE: Halsey's, at Old Pylesville and Street roads. Called by owner Gary Fullerton "one of the last of the country stores."

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