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Lawyers Hill recognized by National Register of Historic Places


Lawyers Hill, an Elkridge neighborhood that used to be a summer retreat for Baltimore City jurists, has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

"We're happy it's been accepted," said Van L. Wensil, a Lawyers Hill resident whose efforts four years ago to save a two-story, circa-1850s home from destruction led to creation of the national historic district.

Ms. Wensil said residents hope the tax breaks and restrictions on federally funded projects that come with the designation will help preserve other homes in the area.

But she said the national designation offers no protection from private developers, and she supports the effort to create a stricter local historic district.

Because the area is now a national historic district, Lawyers Hill residents and commercial property owners are eligible for state and federal income tax credits.

In addition, all federally funded projects built in the historic district must be reviewed by the Maryland Historical Trust.

Lawyers Hill takes its name from members of the Supreme Bench in Baltimore City, who established homes in Elkridge in the 1800s, after the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was begun.

The 650-acre national district encompasses 68 properties along Belmont Woods Road, Elibank Drive, Lawyers Hill Road, Old Lawyers Hill Road and portions of the Patapsco Valley State Park, said David Holden, Howard County planner.

To be designated a national historic district, a community must have "historic significance, a concentration of historical resources" and architecture relating to historic events, he said.

The neighborhood was named to the National Register in September, but county officials didn't learn of the designation tTC until late last month, Mr. Holden said.

Lawyers Hill is the third county neighborhood, after historic Ellicott City and Savage, to earn a national historic designation.

Ms. Wensil said the national designation doesn't offer enough protection from developers.

L "It means very little," she said. "It's a nice distinction."

Ms. Wensil is involved in an effort to create a smaller, local historic district that would include 54 properties along Belmont Woods Road, Elibank Drive, Lawyers Hill Road, Old Lawyers Hill Road, Montgomery Road and River Road.

She said a local historic district would place strict controls on how the neighborhood is developed. All exterior changes would have to be approved by the Historic District Commission, which governs development and architectural standards in Ellicott City's historic district.

"A local district doesn't stop developers, but it gives architectural guidelines as to what can be done, and it gives us some voice," Ms. Wensil said.

Before a local historic district can be created, however, a zoning change is needed. The county Zoning Board is expected to hear the zoning petition in late January or early February, Mr. Holden said.

The only other local historic district in the county is in Ellicott City.

Other Elkridge landmarks on the National Register include:

* The 1835 Thomas Railroad Viaduct, the world's oldest multiple-arched, curved stone viaduct.

* The Belmont mansion in Elkridge, built by iron merchant Caleb Dorsey in the 1730s. The former family home is a retreat center owned by the American Chemical Society.

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