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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Rodgers Forge Historic District
Inventory No.: BA-3238
Date Listed: 9/24/2009
Location: Baltimore, Baltimore County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1925-1957
Architect/Builder: Developer: James Keelty
Description: The Rodgers Forge Historic District is an approximately 150-acre, primarily rowhouse, early suburban community developed by the large-scale Baltimore building developer James Keelty and his sons between 1931 and 1957. The district includes some 38 blocks located just north of the city line in Baltimore County. The oldest section lies just west of York Road, north of Overbrook Road and extending to Dumbarton Road. In the 1940s and 1950s the development grew to the west and south and is now bounded by Overbrook Road on the south, Bellona Avenue on the west, Stevenson Lane on the north, and York Road on the east. The oldest section of Rodgers Forge is distinguished by small groups of charming, well-built, and well-landscaped English-style rowhouses, erected over the course of the 1930s. Although the developer initially planned to build detached houses on half-acre to one-acre lots at Rodgers Forge, by the time he finally began building in late 1932/early 1933, he had made the decision to construct stylish, architect-designed group homes in the then-popular “English” style (the term then used by local builders to refer to their interpretation of the Tudor Revival). The term “group homes” was used to distinguish them from the long, seemingly unbroken rows of “old fashioned” rowhouses associated with city living, and also to relate them in the public’s mind with the highly fashionable and desirable “group homes” erected by the Roland Park Company on the fringes of their Guilford development in Baltimore City. Each “group” of homes was usually designed in a slightly different style from the one next door to give variety to the block face. In addition, the groups were small—in the earliest section, groups of only four, five, and six houses each were constructed, a major distinction from older city rows that occupied an entire block face. And if the attached houses comprised groups only four or five units long, there was much more opportunity to embellish the landscape of the development with grassy lawns, trees, and shrubbery between units, thus enhancing the “village” atmosphere. As the development expanded just before and after World War II, new rows went up in the then almost universally popular Early American style. Both design trends reflect national changes in residential architectural tastes between the mid 1920s into the late 1930s. The houses also offered the modern amenity of a small, detached garage—an attractive selling point for potential buyers of the property located about 8 miles north of the downtown. The quality of design and construction of the early Rodgers Forge houses established the neighborhood’s reputation, and it remains a highly desirable address for both young families and older couples. Significance: The Rodgers Forge Historic District is architecturally significant as a prototypical example of a type of suburban rowhouse development which characterized the region during the late 1920s through the mid-1950s, and is especially noteworthy for the quality of its planning, architecture, and construction. Following stylistic trends then being set in affluent suburbs, many suburban rowhouses of the 1920s were designed in an English cottage style, with builders striving to create “the English village in the city.” English-style houses continued to be built during the Depression years, but when the construction industry revived after World War II, most new neighborhoods took their stylistic cue from the recently opened tribute to America’s colonial past, Colonial Williamsburg. In the Baltimore area, with returning veterans creating an enormous demand for new housing, broad geographical areas just within and without the city’s boundary filled with Early American-style rowhouses. Rodgers Forge stands as the most architecturally accomplished of all of the Early American-style rowhouse neighborhoods built in the greater Baltimore area during these years. The neighborhood was named for a blacksmith shop located at the southeast corner of York Road and Stevenson Lane since before the Civil War. Also used for a time as the local post office, the shop was run by George Rodgers and his descendents until 1947 when it was finally torn down to make way for a gas station. It derives additional historical significance for its association with the suburbanization of Baltimore during the period. Consisting primarily of attached houses, built some miles outside of the city along a major transportation route, this type of neighborhood offered residents convenient access to city jobs along with the newly attractive amenities of the suburbs—landscaped lots near healthy, open land, and a garage for the new family automobile, if they were lucky enough to have one. The district exhibits an extremely high degree of integrity. The period of the district’s historic significance is 1925-1957, corresponding to the period during which the Keelty Company was actively engaged in the construction of Rodgers Forge.
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