Slate Ridge School
Old Pylesville Road, Whiteford, Harford County
The Slate Ridge School stands on the west side of old Pylesville Road in the village of Whiteford in northern Harford County, Maryland. The school faces west, overlooking the road from a slight rise that ascends to the ridge where slate was once quarried. The rectangular front section or main block of the building is of brick laid in common bond on a stone foundation. This section is two stories high and has a slate hip roof with a small wooden cupola in the center. A narrow hyphen containing a stairwell and corridor connects the main block to a similar two-story rectangular block behind it. At the extreme rear is a one-story wing containing a stage and gymnasium that can be converted to an auditorium. The main section of the school, built in 1912, was designed by the Baltimore architect Otto Simonson. The one-story section at the rear was probably built just after World War II. The school was updated from time to time so that it could be used until about 1980. The floor plan remains relatively unchanged and the interior still retains much of its original detail. A central corridor runs through the two-story section of the building, with large classrooms on either side. Most of the classrooms have double hung windows with wooden sash, glass transoms above the doors, and vertical beaded board wainscoting.
The Slate Ridge School in Whiteford, Maryland, was built in 1912 to accommodate the expanding school population of the towns of Cardiff and Whiteford. These two towns, and the adjoining town of Delta, Pennsylvania, are on Slate Ridge, the source of Peach Bottom Slate. This slate formation, about 10 miles long and a half mile wide, runs from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, across the Susquehanna River, through Peach Bottom and into Harford County, Maryland. For many years, slate provided the economic base for Whiteford, Cardiff, and Delta, which, except for the political accident of being on different sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, were essentially one community. The years between 1890 and World War I constituted the boom years for the slate industry in this area. During that time the population grew, and the new Slate Ridge School helped to satisfy its educational needs. Therefore, the Slate Ridge School is significant for its association with the growth and development of the towns of Cardiff and Whiteford and the slate industry. The school is also significant because it is the design of Otto G. Simonson, one of Maryland's best known early 20th century architects. Simonson designed the Slate Ridge School in 1911, when he had already designed a number of public and private buildings in Baltimore. Among his extant works in the city are the Maryland Casualty Building, the Eastern Female High School, the Empire Theatre, the American Building, the United States Fidelity and Guarantee Building, and the Southern Hotel. The Slate Ridge School is an unusual example of Simonson's talents applied to the design of a smaller building in a rural setting. Although two other early 20th century school buildings survive in northern Harford County, neither is associated with the slate industry in the Delta/Cardiff Whiteford Community, and neither approaches the architectural character of the Slate Ridge School.