Time stands still in Victorian village


January 29, 1995|By Beth Smith | Beth Smith,Special to The Sun

Take a leisurely stroll through the Baltimore County town of Glyndon and you quickly understand why the local history book is titled "Glyndon: The Story of a Victorian Village."

Wander along Butler Road, meander down Central Avenue, detour to one of the side streets like Chatsworth. What you see are handsome old Victorian homes, many with gingerbread-edged rooflines, high gables, bay windows and lattice decorations.

Built from the late 1870s to about 1915, these homes attest to Glyndon's beginnings as a town founded at the height of the Victorian Age. Less ornate than their city cousins, many of Glyndon's houses were built as summer homes for well-to-do families seeking to escape the heat of downtown Baltimore.

The railroad, providing easy access to city businesses, fueled the growth of the town. Commuters caught the train in the morning and returned in late afternoon. Their charming houses with gracious front porches provided the backdrop for gentle, firefly-studded nights.

These century-old homes were what drew Meredith and Charlie Wells to Glyndon more than 18 years ago.

"We were living in Charles Village when we saw an ad for an historic home in Glyndon," recalls Mr. Wells. "We really didn't know anything about the community, but we loved the house." The Wells bought it. Built in 1891, the Butler Road home became the recipient of a lot of "sweat and tears" as the Wellses restored it.

Eight years ago, by then parents of two children, they moved to a second Victorian, away from busy Butler Road -- which runs through the town and has turned into a commuter road between Route 795 and Hunt Valley.

"We really just love this village, and it really is a village," Mrs. Wells says. "We are probably the only community around where people look forward to their car being in the shop because they know everything is within walking distance, including the bank, post office and grocery store."

It is also one of the few places in Baltimore County where 200 families go to the post office to get their mail. Located in a 1904 building that was once the Glyndon Railroad Station, the post office is the "epicenter of the community," says Postmaster Mary Bloomberg. "People just love to congregate in the post office. We are the first to hear about births, deaths, illnesses, weddings, graduations."

Just about everyone you talk to about Glyndon mentions the friendliness of the community. The social event of the year is a huge holiday open house held in one of the Victorian homes. The entire town is invited. This year newcomers Beth and Foster Nichols, transplanted suburbanites from New York, were the hosts.

Arriving in Glyndon at the end of a long day of house hunting, they were immediately taken with a turn-of-the-century Victorian. Like the Wellses, they knew nothing about the community, but they loved the house. Over the last year and a half, they have become involved in neighborhood activities.

"We arrived in mid-June and a few weeks later, Glyndon held its annual Fourth of July celebration," remembers Mr. Nichols. Purposely low-keyed -- with a parade of kids on bikes and in wagons decorated in red, white and blue streamers -- the festivities end with a huge community picnic.

Other yearly events include a Halloween party at the Glyndon Volunteer Fire Company and a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, with Santa in attendance, at Glyndon Square, a row of specialty stores architecturally tailored to the community.

The center of Glyndon Square is Santoni's, a grocery story that comes in second as the place to meet and greet neighbors.

Houses in Glyndon come on the market only occasionally. In 1994, four houses, ranging from $80,000 to $187,000 were sold. Valerie Clark, a real estate agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, says Victorian homes average about $240,000.

Some new homes are being built. Near Central and Bond avenues, the southern boundary of Glyndon, are new townhouses and single-family houses. A few new houses are

even being built within the historic district.

Historic District

The town has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973 and is designated a Historic District by the Baltimore County Council -- so there are restrictions on building and remodeling. The Glyndon Community Association and Historic Glyndon Inc. monitor zoning changes and building in the area.

Other social as well as religious centers are Glyndon United Methodist Church, founded in 1879, and Sacred Heart Church, built in 1874 and now one of the largest Catholic churches in the Baltimore Archdiocese. There is also the Woman's Club of Glyndon and a community swimming pool. Built in 1931, the pool is still a mecca for Glyndon kids, their parents and grandparents in the summer.

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