Town's history unfolds in book

25-year resident puts together old and recent photos

May 04, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A new book of old and recent photos of 96-year-old Sykesville celebrates the founding and growth of the town along the Patapsco River -- a place that residents say more people should see.

"Sykesville Past & Present: A Walking Tour," by Linda F. Greenberg, offers accounts of longtime residents and portrayals from those who are leading the Carroll County municipality into the future.

"I tried for interaction with history and a way for people to use their imaginations," Greenberg said. "I have seen people looking at these buildings. The town has a story to tell. It is not just bricks and stone."

The book details 170 years of adversity and progress. Although fires and floods nearly destroyed Sykesville and the Route 32 bypass sent it into a commercial decline, the resilience of its residents has kept the town vital. Downtown business today has antiques shops, small businesses and restaurants, one in a restored train station.

"We don't have the bread-and-butter stores, but there are shops that people enjoy," said Greenberg. "It is small scale, but the kind of street that reminds people of back home, of an older time. People here made it work."

Greenberg revised and embellished her 1986 book of the same title, adding a walking tour. She weaves her text around more than 70 photographs.

"I realized there was a lot more to tell in terms of town facts and the history of the buildings," she said. "There is a wonderful Americana story I wanted to tell. This town really lives through the lives of the people who have lived here."

She has frequently walked the tour, described in a book.

The words encourage readers to stand in front of the buildings and visualize the structures' pasts. Among the pages is a 1913 advertisement that says "all roads lead to Sykesville" as it touts the Merchants and Farmers Carnival. The three-day event was held in the Arcade Building, an imposing three-story edifice featured on the book cover.

The carnival promised "excellent music, good speaking" and prizes to the prettiest girl, the largest man and the best pumpkin pie. Five dollars in gold was to go to the cutest baby.

Sykesville still draws crowds to its annual fall festival, although hayrides, craft shows and bed races down Main Street have replaced the beauty contests.

Duane Doxzen, who wrote the introduction to the book, said it brings new information to light and helps longtime residents rediscover the town. It also offers newcomers insights into the past and introduces visitors to Sykesville.

"It just makes everyone part of the town," said Doxzen, a member of the town historic commission. "This book works on lots of levels."

The town Bruce and Linda Greenberg have called home for nearly 25 years is "a mixing pot of old and new, where traditions and values meet, and usually accommodate," she said.

Bruce Greenberg reviewed his wife's manuscript, compiled much of the book's historical photography and shot many of the new pictures.

"With a mobile society like ours, a sense of who we are and what we are about can be greatly aided by a book about our town," he said. "One of our goals in writing was to contribute to a sense of whence we came."

Linda Greenberg's research goes back to 1837. She drew on records from several counties' historical societies, the Sykesville museum and the recollections of many people, including Thelma Wimmer, the town historian, and Dorothy Schafer, a lifelong resident and retired teacher.

Greenberg relied on Schafer, who she said "skillfully wove together facts, people and values." Schafer's home, as it appeared in 1936, and her high school graduation portrait are among the photographs.

Early Main Street commerce grew from the town's location along the river and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line.

The book showcases the entrepreneurs, their office buildings and homes that stand today along Springfield Avenue.

The town, which was incorporated in 1904, has grown to about 3,500 residents, nearly a third of whom have arrived in the past decade. From 1896, the economic and cultural history of Sykesville was entwined with Springfield Hospital.

"Springfield and the town grew together," said George Horvath, a retired cartographer whose work is shown throughout the book.

"This book gives some sense of what Sykesville represents," said Greenberg. "It gives them the story of a town."

Her husband added, "It helps define our place for people."

The Greenbergs and several contributors to the book will gather for a reception at 1: 30 p.m. tomorrow at St. Barnabas Parish House, 7609 Main St., a stone building that is one of the town's oldest. The public is invited. Information: 410-442-1537.

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