Treasuring distinctive designs Historic locales: Original Northwood, born during Depression, seeks national recognition.

March 02, 1998

ORIGINAL NORTHWOOD, the 1930s neighborhood that is applying for listing on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places, has many of the characteristics of tonier Roland Park (started in 1891), Guilford (1912) and Homeland (1924). And why not? It was built by the same development company to cater to wealthier families desiring suburban-style living.

Because of its pedigree, Original Northwood, a community of 303 homes and apartments bounded by The Alameda, Loch Raven Boulevard and Cold Spring Lane, shows how the thinking of the Roland Park Co. progressed during a period that preceded the )) rampant suburbanization following World War II. That company was Baltimore's most important developer of in-city garden districts in the years before the stampede to the suburban counties after World War II.

It was not the local pioneer of suburbanization, though. That distinction belongs to the 1850s builders of Mount Washington and Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect, who laid out Sudbrook Park in 1889.

Original Northwood has had its ups and downs. Today the community of single homes, which once excluded homebuyers on racial or religious grounds, is among the most diverse in the city. It is a delightful corner of Northeast Baltimore, surrounded by underappreciated rowhouse neighborhoods.

The 1930s Original Northwood is by far the youngest city neighborhood to seek National Register recognition. But other relatively recent communities are also considering applying for a federal or local listing that would qualify homeowners for tax credits.

Among them are two public housing projects. The 298-unit Poe (for blacks), in Poppleton, and 688-unit Latrobe (for whites), near the State Penitentiary, opened within months of one another in 1940 and 1941. Despite their size, they were intimate, garden-type developments -- unlike the monster high-rises that would start appearing two decades later. Indeed, some of the design features of Poe and Latrobe are duplicated in replacement public housing developments the city is building.

Historic places need not be ancient. In fact, the sooner they are recognized, the better they can be protected.

Pub Date: 3/02/98

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