Dundalk residents say jokes are unfair


June 19, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

William J. Mayer, a transplanted New Yorker who not only lives in Dundalk but tries to get other people to move there, takes offense at the slights from newspaper columnists, radio disc jockeys and comedians.

"This is the last vestige of discrimination," says Mr. Mayer, an agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn Inc. "They wouldn't think of poking fun at an ethnic group, but if they can do it to a community, they'll do it to this one."

But for those who know better, the community of two- and three-story single-family homes and rowhouses, as well as semidetached homes, has an old-fashioned hometown feel not worthy of such insults.

"As more people become familiar with Dundalk they'll learn that there's more to envy and less to poke fun at," Mr. Mayer says.

Diane Pinter, a proofreader for the Dundalk Eagle newspaper, has spent 40 of her 46 years in original Dundalk. For the past 13 years, she has lived with her husband and two daughters on Flagship Road in a three-story semidetached home. She is a third-generation resident and grew up in St. Helena, just west of old Dundalk.

"I like the idea that it was a planned community and just wasn't simply put up by a builder who came in and built a lot of houses and that each house is a little different. I like the old moldings and doorways, which are different, as well as the winding streets and green space. I like the fact that the area has a great deal of history," she says.

A visitor will be instantly struck by the community's quiet -- given that it is surrounded by the Dundalk Marine Terminal and the Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant. On a warm afternoon, the only sound here is often the breeze rustling the leaves.

According to Mr. Mayer, houses in the area are "very popular and the average time they are on the market is roughly 27 days. The turnover is certainly not great."

The average buyer is one who has some connection with the area and is returning from another community to move into a smaller house.

"A mixture of people live in old Dundalk -- educated, blue-collar, a few work in the arts and some are county employees who share the same values. They tend to be home, church and family-oriented," Mr. Mayer says.

The homes are easy to care for, he says, because they were built of stucco and have slate roofs.

Old Dundalk is a product of architects and planners who adopted the concept of a "Garden City," which features curved roads, open space, recreational areas, stores, schools and churches. The original plan drafted 75 years ago is still visible today.

The area has a strong resemblance to Roland Park, and not surprisingly. The Dundalk Co., a subsidiary of the Bethlehem Steel Corp., which was starting to develop the area, was headed by Edward H. Bouton, president of the Roland Park Co.

The resemblance is also due to the efforts of Edward L. Palmer, who designed not only houses in Guilford but 381 stucco homes here, and the Olmstead brothers, landscape architects who designed Dundalk's streets and squares where trees were a major component.

In an article during the time of the community's creation, The Sun called the project a "miniature Roland Park . . . a picturesque mass of high-pitched roofs and gables."

Heritage Park, between Shipway and Dunmanway streets, is one of Baltimore County's oldest parks and boasts more than 42 species of trees -- many uncommon in other parts of the Baltimore area.

Local folklore

Local folklore claims that old Dundalk was planned in the shape of a ship, while others suggest a ship's bell, a dog or a horseshoe, but there is no way to confirm this.

The area is distinguished by the "ship" streets -- such as Flagship, Shipway, Bayship -- because the original development was for the shipyard workers.

World War I caused all private development in Dundalk to cease. The U.S. Shipping Board -- in need of housing for shipyard workers at the nearby Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point yard -- began construction of 284 houses in St. Helena and 531 in Dundalk.

After the war, the public houses were sold for $3,500 to $5,500 and the project returned to the Dundalk Co.'s control in 1922.

Dundalk's roots go back to the days of Captain John Smith, who sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and landed in 1608 on the Patapsco Neck, between the Patapsco and Back rivers -- commonly pronounced Pataps-a-co Neck by the locals. The settlement of the Neck -- which was surveyed in 1652 and purchased by Thomas Todd of Virginia in 1664 -- predates that of Baltimore, which was surveyed in 1723.

Dundalk takes its name from Henry McShane, a foundryman who was born in Dundalk, Ireland, and emigrated to Baltimore and established the McShane Bell Foundry.

In 1895, he established a cast-iron pipe factory near St. Helena on the Sparrows Point branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Trains would deliver workers to the station that was simply designated Foundry in the timetable until Mr. McShane decided to name it after his hometown.

Historic district

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