2 communities embrace their rustic charm

Historic: Reisterstown and Glyndon maintain their identities as development encroaches.


September 26, 2004|By Nancy Jones Bonbrest | Nancy Jones Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Main Street Reisterstown, with its brick sidewalks, antique shops and specialty retailers, offers shoppers a choice apart from the big-box superstores that dot most of the road farther south.

Glyndon with its wrap-around porches, Victorian charm and well-maintained homes has also held onto its small-town feel in look and spirit.

Although the two areas boast different histories, they share a similar present with their rustic charm butting up against the ever-expanding Interstate 795 corridor. For the two communities, living in the shadows of bustling Owings Mills is not always easy. The feeling of encroachment can't be missed, especially when new homes or businesses seem to pop up on every open field.

However, Glyndon and Reisterstown - both National Register Historic Districts - have managed to keep their identities despite intruding development.

Reisterstown, which dates to 1758, initially flourished as a stop for travelers from Western Maryland and Pennsylvania heading to Baltimore City. It then became a commercial center for farms and mills. Many of the buildings that housed the inns, smith shops, stables and saddleries still are on Main Street today, except now they house antique shops, art galleries, offices and eateries.

The Main Street committee of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce, which was responsible for Main Street's facelift in the 1990s, has reformed to help shape the district's direction and to lend a hand to businesses.

"There now seems to be some energy and excitement back," said Peirce Macgill, a revitalization specialist for the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development. "As much as any district, Reisterstown has the ability to be a regional draw. What it has going for it is character. It is Main Street in name and look."

Reisterstown is a county commercial revitalization district, which means that business owners and property owners are eligible for incentive programs offered by the Baltimore County government.

Being part of a historic district can present challenges for businesses that try to renovate, expand, add parking or change uses because of odd lot configurations and current zoning regulations.

Architect William Keeney, a native of Reisterstown who has worked on many renovations of area historic buildings, is hoping the renewal of the committee will help Main Street maintain the antique shopping destination it is known for.

"Reisterstown for years was always considered an antique town, and we want to keep some of that antique flair in Reisterstown," said Keeney, who is co-chairman of the Main Street Committee.

"We want to be there to help guide business owners who want to come to town, survive and become lifelong members of Reisterstown."

Carolyn Brunk Eichler, owner of Bransfield Motor Co. on Main Street, was part of the original Main Street committee when it first formed and now is co-chairwoman. She says the group is in the planning stages of defining the goal for Main Street merchants.

Eichler, who lived on Main Street as a child, said she feels a responsibility to the town to make it better. "I think the streetscape looks really nice," Eichler said. "It made everything look a little cleaner."

Jeff Eline, whose family has run Eline Funeral Home in Reisterstown since 1863, says Main Street gives the area charm.

"I think the Main Street types of businesses are often the heart and soul of small towns," Eline said. "When you say Ellicott City, everyone thinks of Main Street Ellicott City, even though it's a very large area. I hope Reisterstown can get to the point where Main Street is the identifiable area of Reisterstown."

Eline Funeral Home is at Reisterstown Road and Franklin Boulevard in Reisterstown, but it originally sat where the Food Lion is today, on Main Street.

Eline said he treasures the history of the family business and the town. A tradition started by his great-great-grandfather continues today. Every Friday, Eline or someone from the funeral home winds the town clock at the Masonic Temple on Main Street. The town clock used to sit adjacent to the original site of the funeral home, on the grounds of the former Goodwin livery stable and community hall.

Neighboring Glyndon, founded more than 100 years after Reisterstown, blends in easily with the Main Street corridor and old Reisterstown homes.

Glyndon, the first area to be designated as a Baltimore County historic district in 1981, became a summer Victorian village for the rich. With a high elevation and surplus of trees, the area offered a retreat for city dwellers.

The name Glyndon was picked from a hat in 1875 at a public meeting to name the new subdivision laid out by Dr. Charles Leas, according to John McGrain, the Baltimore County historian. Leas, a former health officer for Baltimore City, retired to the area.

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