Baltimore City

Author writes book 'Around Mount Washington'

After 20 years as a Mount Washingtonian, Linda Noll felt like she still didn't really know her community and its past as well as she would like.

Now, Noll is promoting her new book for Arcadia Publishing, "Around Mount Washington," part of Arcadia's well-known "Images of America" series.


"This is a historical journey," said Noll, 64, who has spent recent weeks promoting her book.

Noll has given talks and done book signings as close to home as the Mount Washington Fitness and Aquatic Center, at a block party sponsored by the Mount Washington Village Merchants Association, and as a guide on a bus tour for seniors at Springwell Senior Living, an assisted lliving community in Mount Washington. But she has also gone farther afield, including to Breathe Books in Hampden.


Noll will drive to a Barnes & Noble book store in White Marsh on Nov. 23.

The 127-page paperback book explores the roots of Mount Washington, one of Baltimore's first suburbs, and Washingtonville, the first settlement in a 19th century cotton mill town that began with the granting of 786 acres of land from Charles Calvert to farmer Edward Stevenson in 1703. The area has evolved into a leafy northwest Baltimore community — "a peaceful, suburban retreat from city life," Noll writes in the book's introduction.

Highlights of the book include long-forgotten relics of yore, from the old Happy Hills Convalescent Home for Children (precursor to Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital) to the biplanes at the Curtiss-Wright Airport at Smith and Greenspring avenues.

Mount Washington once was home to its own power company and railroad station, the Kelly Avenue Viaduct, the Boy Scout Armory, Carroll Hunting Lodge, Rugby Institute, the Casino, an entertainment center in the early 20th century, and Mount Washington Popular Grocery, advertised as "the always busy store," where soap sold for seven cents and sugar for 17 cents.

Sports memories abound in the book, in particular cooling off at Meadowbrook Swim Club, where celebs like Olympic swimmer and Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller were spotted. Also commemorated is the big fire there in 1944.

Built-in audience

More modern memories include the dedication of Sinai Hospital in 1959 and the conversion of Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic School to part of the former Mount Washington Elementary/Middle School, now called Mount Washington School.

To research the book, Noll turned to a variety of sources, including Mark Miller's 1980 book "Mount Washington: Baltimore Suburb," the archives of St. Mary's Seminary in Roland Park, the Waldorf School of Baltimore, Bryn Mawr School for Girls, the Baltimore Streetcar Museum and Ruscombe Mansion.


At Breathe Books in Hampden on Nov. 2, a handful of people came, but Noll had a personal connection to her audience. Book Store owner Susan Weis, 50, is a longtime Mount Washingtonian and supporter of local authors, including Michael Olesker, who also lives in Mount Washington and was at Breathe Books the same day to promote his new book, "Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age."

"We've probably sold like five copies' of Noll's book," Weis said. "It's like a thesis on a neighborhood. It gives you a (sense of) place in the world."

In a lively discussion, more details about Mount Washington than are in the book emerged, like the history of Sabina-Mattfeldt, a small dell of a neighborhood off Falls Road.

"It's like the land that time forgot," said real estate agent Joan Goldman, of Ken Oak Road in Mount Washington.

Promoting a book is more difficult these days, said Weis, who admitted she hosts fewer book signing events than she used to.

"It just seems like there's a lot more competition for people's attention," Weis said.


Hard work

Noll is working as hard to promote the book as she did to convince Arcadia to publish it. She purchased more than 200 historical photos, many from the Legacy collection of the Baltimore County Library system's Legacy series. And she brought to her talk at Breathe Books a poster board full of photos that she said Arcadia rejected as too blurry or small.

"With Arcadia, it isn't as much about the history as it is about the photographs," she said. "You can only write about what photographs you find."

A lot of what she wrote in the photo-rich book didn't make it either.

"I have a tendency to write too much and then it ends up on the cutting room floor," she said.

Although Noll, retired former executive director of the Steppingstone Museum in Havre de Grace, has written two previous books for Arcadia, 2005's "Around Susquehanna State Park" and 2011's "Havre de Grace (Then and Now)," she still had to jump through hoops for Arcadia, writing a proposal, explaining why she wanted to write the book, why Arcadia should publish it and what her marketing strategy would be.


And beyond the cost of buying photos, she incurred fees for scanning and other services. Arcadia also insisted that she include chapters at the end of the book about the Old Pikesville and Pimlico communities.

"I not only invested many hours of research, writing and editing but a considerable amount in copyrights for and scanning of photos in the book," Noll said.

Although Arcadia pays Noll royalties, she said she only hopes to recoup her costs and that she wrote "Around Mount Washington" for the love of her community.

"It's worth it," she said. "I wanted to learn about my neighborhood and this was a great way to do it."