Dean R. Wagner
Cedarcroft Historic District
Cedarcroft is an early-20th century residential subdivision located just inside the northern Boundary of Baltimore City. The historic district is roughly bounded by Gittings Avenue, York Road, East Lake Avenue, and Bellona Avenue, all heavily trafficked roadways. Cedarcroft Road, which runs east-west between York Road and Bellona Avenue, is the only major road within the district. Other streets in the district, including Blackburn Lane, Hollen Road, Sycamore Road, and Pinehurst Road, are narrow and curve with the contour of the land, which slopes gently from Bellona Avenue to York Road at the lowest point. Old growth trees are lining the roadways and within house lots, informal landscaping, shallow gutters, and original exposed-aggregate concrete sidewalks contribute to the appearance of a rustic setting. With the exception of one church and its connected parish house, all 290 resources within the district are single detached houses, most of which were constructed between 1909 and 1937 during the period when Cedarcroft was actively developed as a residential suburb. Houses in the district reflect the influence of a wide variety of early-20th century revival styles, predominantly Neoclassical Revival and Dutch Colonial designs, but examples of Tudor Revival, Shingle Style, American Foursquare, and Bungalow types are found as well. Many of the houses have associated garages. The church and tower reflect the half-timbered Tudor Revival style; the parish house, constructed later to the design of Baltimore architects Mottu & White, exemplifies the Late Gothic Revival style. The work of at least seven local architects or architectural firms is represented in Cedarcroft, including Edward L. Palmer, Jr., Roy G. Pratt, George Norbury MacKenzie III, Herbert L. Walton, J.S. Downing, G. Bernard Lohmuller, and the firm of Mottu & White. The design sources for the majority of the buildings, however, are undocumented. One 1848 house and its associated outbuildings survive to represent the area's history as a rural country seat in the mid 19th century. The district retains a high level of integrity both in its architecture and in its landscape. The buildings have experienced relatively few alterations and additions, and those which have occurred are generally not deleterious to the overall character of the district.
The Cedarcroft Historic District is significant for its association with the suburban development of Baltimore in the early 20th century, and as an example of a type of residential subdivision which characterized the area in the period. York road, which bounds Cedarcroft on the east, was established as a major turnpike in the early 19th century, linking the growing port of Baltimore with agricultural lands to the north. The first house in the area that was to become Cedarcroft was constructed as a country retreat in the late 1840s, about the same time as the horse-drawn street railway was introduced to Baltimore. A horse-drawn railway became established on York Road in 1863 and was subsequently converted to electric power. York Road's importance as an artery into the city from points north was confirmed with the increasing popularity of automobile travel after the turn of the 20th century. Around that time, real estate developers began to focus their attention on the York Road corridor, where a relatively undeveloped, pastoral setting combined with convenient transportation to downtown to make it a desirable location for suburban residential subdivisions. The development of Cedarcroft also illustrates the process by which the overall appearance of the community was shaped by a few influential house designs. The architectural office of Edward L. Palmer, Jr. created three plans for houses in Cedarcroft in 1916 and 1919. Although only eight houses were constructed using these plans, many of the design elements they employed came to be seen throughout the district.