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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Dumbarton Historic District
Inventory No.: BA-3237
Date Listed: 12/30/2009
Location: Pikesville, Baltimore County
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1924-1956
Architect/Builder: Architects: Palmer and Lamdin and others
Description: The Dumbarton Historic District is a suburban subdivision roughly bounded by Park Heights Avenue, Slade Avenue, Seven Mile Lane, and Old Court Road in the Pikesville Area of Baltimore County. Primarily developed over the period 1924-1956, the district reflects the influence of Olmstedian design principles in its curvilinear streets following the natural topography, and generously sized lots retaining the established vegetation. The houses vary in size, and their siting varies with the topography of the lots. The housing styles reflect a wide range of American and European prototypes, and the buildings were designed by many of Baltimore’s most prominent residential architects of the period, including many of those who had been commissioned to designed houses for the city’s premier suburban developer, the Roland Park Company, in its Guilford and Homeland subdivisions. The spacing of the housing conveys a sense of openness and suggests a collection of country estates. While the majority of the housing in Dumbarton was designed in traditional styles, the mid-century Ranch, Contemporary, and International types are also represented in the district. While conveying an impression of spaciousness, Dumbarton is recognizable as a clearly defined, visually cohesive neighborhood. Buildings represent a range of construction materials, including wood frame, brick, and stone masonry; roof coverings include slate, tile, asphalt, or composition shingles. Many of the properties contain accessory buildings such as garages; while these secondary structures were not specifically counted, those that were constructed during the period of significance, between 1924 and 1956, and retain integrity are considered to contribute to the character of the district. Significance: The Dumbarton Historic District is historically significant for its association with the suburbanization of Baltimore City. Developed in the mid-1920s, it represents the northwestward expansion of the city during the period, and the importance of the Park Heights corridor as a center of the city’s Jewish community. Many of Dumbarton’s original residents were prominent Jewish merchants and industrialists who were tacitly denied access to the city’s established suburbs because of their religious and ethnic affiliations. At the turn of the 19th century, Baltimore’s early Jewish community was concentrated in Oldtown and South Baltimore, in the earliest-settled parts of the city adjacent to the harbor. Solomon Etting, a prominent early Jewish resident, estimated that approximately 150 Jews lived in the city in 1825. Later in the 19th century, Baltimore’s upwardly- and outwardly-mobile Jewish community established a pattern of relocation from the early neighborhoods around the city center along a series of northwesterly routes centering on Park Heights Avenue. By the 1860s, some Jews began to move “uptown” to areas north and west of Oldtown, such as Reservoir Hill and Madison Park/Eutaw Place, near Druid Hill Park, the city’s largest public park. This trend continued into the early 20th century. A social and ethnic stratification began to emerge, separating more prosperous “uptown” Jews of German heritage and less prosperous and more recently arrived “downtown” Jews from Eastern Europe. In 1901, an especially elite group of wealthy Jews, mostly of Germanic heritage, established the Suburban Club in a location along the Park Heights corridor between Druid Ridge Cemetery and the northwestern boundary of Baltimore City. Built at the considerable cost of $200,000, the Suburban Club not only assessed substantial dues, but also required that its members contribute a certain amount of money annually to Jewish charities. The pattern of Jewish migration through the city was complex, and occurred along several major arteries including Liberty Road, Reisterstown Road, and Park Heights Avenue. Expansion along the Park Heights corridor took place in several stages in the early 20th century. Among the neighborhoods that particularly attracted middle-class Jewish homebuyers were Forest Park and Park Heights. The resources along Lower Park Heights, between Druid Hill Park and the Park Circle neighborhood, consisted primarily of rowhouses and minor commercial buildings, whereas the development just beyond the city limits was decidedly suburban in character. The most influential enterprise in developing suburban communities for Baltimore’s elite during this period was the Roland Park Company. Beginning in the 1890s with the development of Roland Park in North Baltimore, the Roland Park Company set the standard for suburban residential development. Its projects combined a high degree of quality in design, both of the community and its architecture. As was common at the time, the Roland Park Company employed discriminatory covenants in its property deeds to exclude African-American and Jewish residents from its communities. The Dumbarton Historic District, in part developed as an “alternative” to other suburban developments which excluded Jews, nevertheless was influenced by the design and planning precepts of the Roland Park Company and its emulators. The layout of the district, with its curvilinear streets, lot configurations, and naturalistic landscaping generally reflect design principles associated with Frederick Law Olmsted which characterized the Roland Park Company’s seminal developments. Architects and builders whose creations contributed to the distinctive character of such Roland Park Company communities as Guilford, Homeland, and The Orchards were hired to design and build houses in Dumbarton as well. The architectural firm of Palmer and Lamdin, long associated with Roland Park Company projects, designed several houses in Dumbar
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