Book celebrates first 100 years of Windsor Hills


Many a school child learned the footnotes of Maryland history from a large map the Pratt Library still keeps in print.

It was artist Edwin Tunis who drew this grand plan of the state more than 60 years ago. I should have guessed that someone with his talent would have lived in Baltimore's Windsor Hills neighborhood.

To celebrate this remarkable community's 100th anniversary, residents have issued a handsome new book, a people history.

The book is called "Windsor Hills: A Century of History." It has an oblong format, is 55 pages long and must be the only community text that devotes four pages to residents' books and scholarly articles.

This is the neighborhood where Mayor Kurt Schmoke lived as a teen-ager. It was the one-time residence of Baltimore master builder and former city school board chief Walter Sondheim.

It's been home to poet Lucille Clifton, Judge Milton B. Allen, football Hall of Famer Lenny Moore, department store owner Albert D. Hutzler and marketing analyst Sydney Hollander Jr., whose family has been virtually synonymous with the neighborhood for decades.

There are other Windsor Hills surprises. Author William Styron ("Sophie's Choice" and "The Confessions of Nat Turner") stayed in this neighborhood (Lawina Road) while visiting his mother-in-law, Selma Burgunder.

But simply naming those who lived there makes the place seem like the Beverly Hills of Baltimore, which it is not. The gracious old suburb built atop the Gwynns Falls Valley due west of Mondawmin is more like liberal/intellectual Roland Park. Some of the Talbot Road houses seem larger than Edwardian summer hotels. It's a neighborhood of majestic trees and lush gardens.

One of the things I've noticed about Windsor Hills people, past or present, is how much of an emotional investment they have in the place. Even those who moved away still get a lump in their throats when they talk about their gardens, porches and homesteads, or the No. 35 streetcar or School 87.

"Scarcely 5 miles northwest from the heart of Baltimore, within sight and hearing of the great city, there lies one of the garden spots of Maryland -- a small settlement the comparative few who have discovered that a 30 minute trolley ride enables them to turn their backs upon houses crowding each other in typical city array and to be in a beautiful and primitive wilderness. . ." the Sun noted May 14, 1916 in an early account of the neighborhood.

The book holds little back in the community's century of change. "For a brief time, Windsor Hills was a white, gentile enclave," it notes. By 1910, the first Jewish residents arrived: The Ulmans, Hutzlers, Hamburgers and Hollanders. Some 40 years later, the Jewish population was about equal with the gentile residents.

Nellie Buchanan, an English teacher at Frederick Douglass High School, became the neighborhood's first black resident when she moved to Bateman Avenue in 1955. Other African American educators soon bought homes here.

"House after house went on the market as whites sought to escape from these black neighbors," the book states.

What followed the initial panic selling is the remarkable part of the Windsor Hills story. The community refused to be taken in by block-busters. In time, the neighborhood enthusiastically marketed itself as a racially diverse community.

While there is a lot of social history on these pages, there also is plenty of architectural history. We learn that (reputedly) Baltimore's first California-style ranch house is at 2601 Talbot Road, the long-time home of the Julian Steins, of the Gertrude Stein family. Once again, in Windsor Hills, somebody of note is never too far removed.

The book, written by Martin Dyer, Sara Hartman and Naomi Kellman, is available for $12 postpaid through Windsor Hill Neighbors, Inc., 2600 Talbot Road, Baltimore, 21216.

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