After last week's column decrying the definite lack of charm in downtown Towson and its hideous collection of dehumanizing architecture, I thought I might have to enter the federal witness protection program.
I feared I'd be chased from my West Towson home by a torch-carrying mob of rustics similar to the one that pursued Frankenstein's monster or have my Baltimore County citizenship revoked by the county executive.
No mob came, nor did an invitation to speak from the Towson Chamber of Commerce. My phone rang and my e-mail inbox brought similar lamentations from readers who had their own thoughts on what's happened to Towson since the end of World War II.
What brought all of this about was the recent publication of photographer-writer Melissa Schehlein's excellent book, "Towson: Then and Now," which takes readers on a contemporary tour of the Baltimore County seat and includes contrasts with historic photographs.
The result is dizzyingly depressing when one contemplates what has happened to Towson.
Readers fondly recalled the long-gone Towson Theater (now the Recher Theater), Crown 5 and 10 store, Thom McAnn Shoes, Elite Laundry and Dry Cleaners, Rudolph's Towson Bootery, Finkelstein's, Little Tavern, Robinson's Liquors, Penn Hotel, Stebbins-Anderson Co., Maryland Restaurant, Yorkhill Lounge and Restaurant, and other businesses that had once lined York Road in Towson proper.
In an e-mail, Sara C. Douglas recalled growing up on Woodbine Avenue during the 1930s, when her parents did their grocery shopping in Towson on Saturday nights, and seeing local families as well as farmers.
"There was always a crowd in town on Saturday nights. I don't remember stopping for a meal or any entertainment as this was during the Great Depression," wrote Douglas.
After her marriage, Douglas and her husband, who worked for Hutzler's and was eventually assigned to the new Towson store, bought a house in Stoneleigh, where they lived for 49 years.
"We could walk to the library that was in a store on a side street and to the Kent Lounge occasionally. I loved the appearance of 'Main Street,' with the original houses showing above the store fronts," she wrote.
And then along came the "fad of glass towers," she wrote. "Towson used to be a comfortable county seat with a family feeling. I won't read Ms. Schehlein's book but will go to the Baltimore County Historical Society for books of the past."
Rudy Fischer, a builder and noted Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad historian, expressed his opinion that "present day Towson bears little or no resemblance to the nice, quiet, little town that it was when I was growing up there in the 1940s and 1950s. Most of the public buildings built in the last 40 or 50 years have no soul."
"I've been ranting about the destruction of Towson for at least 30 years, although it can actually be traced back to before my family moved here from Philadelphia in 1961," wrote Bob Hughes, county library spokesman.
"Those old photos reveal what a nice, quaint place Towson was before the developers and political beneficiaries of their financial largesse turned it into a hodgepodge of steel beams, concrete and disjointed design notions," he wrote.
Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, who lives in Towson and teaches art history at Hood College in Frederick, used her professional eye in compiling a detailed list of what she calls the "worst architectural offenders."
Taylor-Mitchell said that Towson had the components of becoming a Frederick if "anyone running the county … understood the positive economics of historic preservation."
Here are some of her thumbnail criticisms of buildings:
•Towson Sheraton Hotel — "The Flying Brown Accordion, or magnitude 8.2 earthquake."
VIPS Building — "The Fish Tank, with opaque, cataract blue sections."
Radio Park on East Joppa Road — "It has one of the most deadening cookie-cutter facades ever — as if all of the businesses there were exactly the same."
"Grand Prize for the worst building with no character, blighting both neighborhoods and the Beltway in my area: the 'Circus Tent' put up by Baltimore Lutheran School, but you may have better contenders."
County Safety Building on East Joppa Road — "The same design basically given to the awful Investment Building refurbished near the roundabout, not visually stimulating enough for babies, let alone adults."
She also observed that distance doesn't necessarily make the heart grow fonder or make Towson look more charming.
"The views of Towson coming up York Road, Dulaney Valley Road and Joppa Road are just appalling, as bad as the urban sprawl on those roads themselves."
"That drive up York Road takes the cake," wrote Christopher Corbett, former Associated Press Baltimore bureau chief, who writes a humor column for Style magazine. "How many Bedding Barns and IHOPs do we need?"