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Glyndon, where old customs endure

Houses handed down within families in this Baltimore County enclave

By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

7:26 PM EDT, August 31, 2012

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On a late summer afternoon, Glyndon, the village tucked between Reisterstown and the Worthington Valley and its Sagamore Farm, looked as pretty as the black-eyed Susans tumbling over the old-fashioned fences. Had I wandered outside Baltimore County and fallen into a lost Cape May neighborhood?

Was it all the porches, awnings, screen doors, rocking chairs and gardens? Glyndon indeed was once a summer retreat, miles distant from the city's heat, but connected by the rails, coaches and steam locomotives of the old Western Maryland Railway.

Over the years, people started living here full time. And nearly 35 years ago, Glyndon became Baltimore County's first community to be protected by a historic preservation ordinance.

Old customs endure nicely here. The old railroad station is now the post office, and residents with the 21071 ZIP code pick up their mail from individual boxes. There's a volunteer fire company, a market, and in what was once a summer boardinghouse, some boutiques. Glyndon residents formed stock companies to buy the post office building as well as a popular community swimming pool.

Houses are handed down within families, especially within the old Methodist camp meeting tract known as Emory Grove. Its 47 picturesque cottages fan out from the open tabernacle, where summer Sunday services and Wednesday night hymn singing sessions are held. Today, the grove's pristine hotel (all open windows and no air-conditioning) is a popular wedding reception venue.

It's Labor Day weekend and the just-bloomed bridal veil clematis was falling over the stone wall around George Wroe's home on Butler Road, one of Glyndon's main streets. Soon I was sitting on his porch, in a big wicker chair, and hearing about a lifetime spent in Glyndon.

"As a teenager, my first job was in downtown Baltimore," he told me. "I'd hear the Western Maryland [train] whistle blowing up around Hampstead and roll out of bed, pull on some clothes and run down the next block. I'd make it, too."

Wroe recalled that his father paid $10,000 for a commodious shingled house, four-car garage, orchards, chicken house and a clay tennis court on more than five acres. The natural clay court remains a neighborhood landmark.

He was vaccinated by Dr. Thomas Rowe Price, an earlier occupant of the house Wroe now owns. Dr. Price was well known in Glyndon and doubled as the Western Maryland Railway's surgeon; his son, T. Rowe Price Jr., was the founder of the well-known investment firm. Another pretty famous Glyndon resident, who lived quietly near Sacred Heart Church, was Agathe von Trapp, of "The Sound of Music" fame.

Eleanor Healy Taylor is another Glyndon original. She was born at the Healy family home on Central Avenue and was delivered by Dr. Price. Beginning in 1943, she started writing for the old Baltimore News-Post; she still writes a column for the Community Times.

She clearly cherishes Glyndon.

"It has all the qualities that make you want to remain," she said. "Even when it started, though it was a country village, it had a cosmopolitan air because of the makeup of its people. Professional people, lawyers, judges, business people could travel back and forth easily."

Taylor was a moving force behind the historic district movement in 1976 as president of Historic Glyndon. Gaining the approval of 75 percent of the residences' owners was not easy. It took several years.

"People were so jealous of their property rights," she said. "What we wanted to do was preserve the look of the community at a time when everything seemed to be changing around us. Today, Glyndon looks pretty much the same."

But Taylor says that while people are attracted by the show of Victorian architecture, it is the spirit of this small place that keeps people here.

"Glyndon is such an intergenerational town," she said. "People do come back here to live. Families have held houses for generations. It is a wonderful, happy place to raise children."

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com