Nice and easy to find, difficult to pinpoint Brooklandville isn't Rockland, or is it?

Neighborhood profile: Brooklandville

September 28, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

John "Bud" Hatfield Jr., the genial publican who can be found most days and nights in the venerable Valley Inn, remembers growing up in Brooklandville during the 1920s and 1930s, when the little Green Spring Valley village was nothing more than a tranquil spot on Falls Road.

"I remember when farmers still traveled the Falls Road with horse-drawn hay wagons, and some even still rode in buggies," Hatfield recalled the other day from the inn's dining room.

Hatfield also recalls boyhood visits to the combination country store and post office in Rockland, just south of Brooklandville, at the intersection of Falls and Old Court roads. "It was run by two old-fashioned ladies who wore high-top boots, and I'd go in and buy a couple of Indian Head suckers," he said, laughing.

Hatfield's father, Col. John O. Hatfield Sr., a St. Louis resident who had served with Harry Truman's artillery company during World War I, and his mother, Elizabeth, took over operation of the Valley Inn in 1922.

He remembers Truman, then a senator, driving up to the inn for dinner one Sunday afternoon during the 1940s. He recalls when Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H. L Mencken and Alfred G. Vanderbilt could be seen dining in one of the old-fashioned rooms.

"It was Prohibition and the era of the roadhouse. Vince and Lou Young's jazz band broadcast live from one of the rooms over the radio. The parking lot was jammed with Packards, Chryslers and other fancy cars. It was a high and fun time," said Hatfield, who calls himself the "unofficial historian of Brooklandville."

"In those days, it was a beautiful, quiet valley, but after World War II, they took land and built a high transmission power line. And then the Beltway and the Jones Falls Expressway came along, and they took even more land," Hatfield lamented.

"It's not like it used to be -- too much noise. I wish they'd put it back like it was before the Beltway, but I know that's not possible," Hatfield said.

But where is Brooklandville? It's easy to find, but at times can be difficult to actually pinpoint. The village takes its name from Brookland Wood, the 1793 mansion built by Richard Caton, son-in-law of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

The four-story house of 50 rooms owned by St. Paul's School since 1952, has had only four owners including the Richard Catons, Alexander D. Browns (banking) and Isaac Emersons (Bromo Seltzer).

Its rooms and porches reverberated with society's elite, members of which gathered there in 1894 to watch the first Maryland Hunt Cup -- run over the estate's property.

Rockland, the little mill settlement where Ruxton Road crosses Falls Road and becomes Old Court Road, has been the setting since 1820 of a small cluster of brick-and-frame buildings.

A national historic site since 1972, Rockland underwent a restoration in 1982.

Boundary confusion

But confusion remains as to where Brooklandville begins and Rockland ends. The post office has not helped. For years, the Brooklandville Post Office, a nondelivery station with the ZIP code 21022, was located in Rockland. In 1962, it moved off Falls Road into a one-story building on Old Court Road, where it remained until it was moved several years ago to the Greenspring Station complex at Joppa and Falls roads, where the ZIP code is Lutherville-Timonium, or 21093.

Hatfield laughingly explains that it is nothing more than "those folks in Rockland" trying to cash in on the social cachet of the Brooklandville postal designation.

However, in the minds of most people, Brooklandville and Rockland are one and the same. "It's a ZIP code with no delivery. Residents who want to be identified with Brooklandville use the Greenspring Station Post Office. It's really kind of nonspecific and elusive," says Herbert A. Davis, a Realtor who has operated Herbert Davis Associates in the restored Rockland Mill since 1979.

"But it's really a no-man's-land between Pikesville, Ruxton and Towson. It's a hard area to locate on a map, and most folks haven't heard of it," Davis said.

However, Brooklandville, or Rockland, has remained home to some of Maryland's most historic families including the Garretts, Merrymans and Ridgelys who still live there.

Early families

The first inhabitant of Rockland was Richard Gist, who acquired Turkey Cock Hall and the first 200 acres in 1706, eventually expanding his holdings to include some 2,000 acres. He later sold to Edward Riston (also spelled Reeston or Reaston) the property including Turkey Cock Hall, which still stands east of Falls Road.

His daughter, Anne Riston, married Thomas Johnson in the mid-1750s. That began the Johnson family's interest and ownership of property there. Turkey Cock Hall is still owned by Johnson descendants.

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