Lake Roland Historic District
Robert E. Lee Mem. Park, Towson, Baltimore County
The Lake Roland Historic District consists of a man-made lake, portions of the Jones Falls and Roland Run streambeds, and portions of the rights-of-way of former Green Spring Valley Railroad and the Northern Central Railroad. The district encompasses the head of the Green Spring Valley north of Baltimore City, along with a section of Jones Falls and its tributaries. The setting of the district is within a forested valley bordered by hills and rocky prominences. The central portion of the historic district is occupied by Lake Roland. The lake is irregularly shaped and crossed by the north-south right-of-way of the former Northern Central Railroad. The lake retains its appearance from the period of significance, although there are some shoreline changes at its far northern and western edges. A stone dam capped by a stone valve house, built in 1858-1861, is located at the south edge of Lake Roland and spans the rocky gorge of Jones Falls. The dam and valve house, along with their associated gateworks, underground brick aqueduct, and waste weir remain essentially as constructed. South of the dam, the wooded ravine containing the Jones Falls retains its appearance from the period of significance. The right-of-way of the former Northern Central Railroad is near the southern end of the lake. The southwest portion of the district includes a portion of the former Green Spring Valley Railroad right-of-way and various bridges and structures. The embankment and bridge abutments of the Northern Central right-of-way remain. The lake is surrounded by open areas and woods. The district is surrounded generally by residential property on the southwest and northeast and Robert E. Lee Park to the west.
The Lake Roland Historic District is eligible for listing under Criterion A for association with an event important in Baltimore City history and under Criterion C for its design and construction features. Lake Roland was developed in the mid 19th century as a part of the city's municipal water system. From 1804 to 1854, Baltimore was dependent upon a privately owned water company. In 1854 the city bought the entire holdings of the Baltimore Water Company and began expansion of the facilities. Lake Roland was built as the main reservoir. Construction began in 1858. The dam and a Greek Revival valve house, both of stone construction and still standing, were finished by 1862. Lake Roland's role as part of the water system was terminated in 1915 when the system was significantly altered. The lake was abandoned, apparently because of silting problems. In 1916 some land was sold to a country club. Eventually the lake came under the charge of the city department of recreation and parks. Significant historic features of Lake Roland include the lake, the dam and supporting walls, the valve house, and the surrounding park area. The period of significance for this historic association ranges from 1858, the date construction began, through 1915, when the property ceased being used as part of the municipal water system. Lake Roland, and its accompanying dam structure and valve house, is an important example in Maryland of a major public engineering work, comparable to the Washington, D.C. water system which includes the Cabin John Aqueduct in Montgomery County. Virtually intact, although the lake itself regularly fills with silt, this resource, particularly the dam and valve house, provide a record of the level of technology in engineering in Maryland at the time it was built.