Tuscany-Canterbury gets its historical due

Distinction: Based on a resident's research, the North Baltimore community has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

January 09, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Tuscany-Canterbury, a North Baltimore neighborhood known for its architectural diversity, has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Much of the credit for the designation goes to Eileen Higham, a psychologist who began to write a book-length history of the community -- the world outside her Tudor-style window -- five years ago. Her research led to the application for historical status.

Higham, who has lived with her husband in the neighborhood since 1970, fits the informal profile of the 3,000 residents of this triangular enclave north of the Johns Hopkins University campus, bounded by University Parkway, Charles Street and Linkwood Road: bookish, academic or professional and settled.

"People come, and they stay," she said.

The 90-acre neighborhood features large apartment buildings with sun rooms and stained-glass windows or brick rowhouses and detached and semi-detached homes, in a community where the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors reports that the average home price last year was $195,000.

Architectural styles range from Tudor to Italianate to Art Deco 1920s apartment buildings that supplanted most of the Victorian-eramansions. Because it has more tall apartment buildings, it has greater population density than the city's rowhouse neighborhoods.

Leafing through her manuscript -- to be published soon by the Maryland Historical Society -- Higham said she documented the area's history from a 1688 farm owned by the Merryman family on wooded land bequeathed by Lord Baltimore, to the 1920s, when Tuscany-Canterbury was developed in one of Baltimore's growth spurts.

The nomination for historic status, prepared by paid consultant Dean R. Wagner, details the roads, homes and distinctive buildings of the community, centered at Tuscany and Canterbury roads, for which it is named.

The private Calvert School, built at the crossroads, opened in the mid-1920s, when the area was considered "country," Higham said.

Often overshadowed by neighboring Guilford and Roland Park, two other communities on the historic register, Tuscany-Canterbury attracted notice in fall 2000 when it became a battleground in a dispute over Calvert's expansion, now under construction on the site of a former apartment complex.

"After much tumult between the school and the neighborhood, this is definitely a positive thing for the community," said John C. Marchelya, 33, vice president of Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association.

Marchelya said he was drawn to the neighborhood a few years ago as "an urban environment with a strong sense of community, where you run into each other, and a bit bucolic at the same time."

Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust helped fund the application with a $3,500 grant. Other Baltimore areas recently named to the national list are Stone Hill, Lauraville, Greater Homeland, Franklintown and South Central Avenue, said Peter Kurtze, the trust's National Register administrator.

Oak and chestnut trees are surrounded by a patchwork of dwellings.

They include an 1898 farmhouse, the area's oldest home on Highfield Road, around the corner from Highfield House, an early-modern rectangular apartment building designed by Mies van der Rohe.

An architect whose work also helps define the Tuscany-Canterbury landscape is Lawrence Hall Fowler, whose most visible structure is the Calvert School.

The white marble neoclassical Scottish Rite Temple at 39th and Charles streets and the Inn at the Colonnade on University Parkway are two of the most prominent buildings to people passing by.

One benefit of the register listing is eligibility for state rehabilitation tax credits, Higham said.

A second is less explicit: "A little protection from adverse development."

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