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Nice and easy to find, difficult to pinpoint Brooklandville isn't Rockland, or is it?


John "Bud" Hatfield Jr., the genial publican who can be found most days and nights in the venerable Valley Inn, remembers growing up in Brooklandville during the 1920s and 1930s, when the little Green Spring Valley village was nothing more than a tranquil spot on Falls Road.

"I remember when farmers still traveled the Falls Road with horse-drawn hay wagons, and some even still rode in buggies," Hatfield recalled the other day from the inn's dining room.

Hatfield also recalls boyhood visits to the combination country store and post office in Rockland, just south of Brooklandville, at the intersection of Falls and Old Court roads. "It was run by two old-fashioned ladies who wore high-top boots, and I'd go in and buy a couple of Indian Head suckers," he said, laughing.

Hatfield's father, Col. John O. Hatfield Sr., a St. Louis resident who had served with Harry Truman's artillery company during World War I, and his mother, Elizabeth, took over operation of the Valley Inn in 1922.

He remembers Truman, then a senator, driving up to the inn for dinner one Sunday afternoon during the 1940s. He recalls when Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H. L Mencken and Alfred G. Vanderbilt could be seen dining in one of the old-fashioned rooms.

"It was Prohibition and the era of the roadhouse. Vince and Lou Young's jazz band broadcast live from one of the rooms over the radio. The parking lot was jammed with Packards, Chryslers and other fancy cars. It was a high and fun time," said Hatfield, who calls himself the "unofficial historian of Brooklandville."

"In those days, it was a beautiful, quiet valley, but after World War II, they took land and built a high transmission power line. And then the Beltway and the Jones Falls Expressway came along, and they took even more land," Hatfield lamented.

"It's not like it used to be -- too much noise. I wish they'd put it back like it was before the Beltway, but I know that's not possible," Hatfield said.

But where is Brooklandville? It's easy to find, but at times can be difficult to actually pinpoint. The village takes its name from Brookland Wood, the 1793 mansion built by Richard Caton, son-in-law of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

The four-story house of 50 rooms owned by St. Paul's School since 1952, has had only four owners including the Richard Catons, Alexander D. Browns (banking) and Isaac Emersons (Bromo Seltzer).

Its rooms and porches reverberated with society's elite, members of which gathered there in 1894 to watch the first Maryland Hunt Cup -- run over the estate's property.

Rockland, the little mill settlement where Ruxton Road crosses Falls Road and becomes Old Court Road, has been the setting since 1820 of a small cluster of brick-and-frame buildings.

A national historic site since 1972, Rockland underwent a restoration in 1982.

Boundary confusion

But confusion remains as to where Brooklandville begins and Rockland ends. The post office has not helped. For years, the Brooklandville Post Office, a nondelivery station with the ZIP code 21022, was located in Rockland. In 1962, it moved off Falls Road into a one-story building on Old Court Road, where it remained until it was moved several years ago to the Greenspring Station complex at Joppa and Falls roads, where the ZIP code is Lutherville-Timonium, or 21093.

Hatfield laughingly explains that it is nothing more than "those folks in Rockland" trying to cash in on the social cachet of the Brooklandville postal designation.

However, in the minds of most people, Brooklandville and Rockland are one and the same. "It's a ZIP code with no delivery. Residents who want to be identified with Brooklandville use the Greenspring Station Post Office. It's really kind of nonspecific and elusive," says Herbert A. Davis, a Realtor who has operated Herbert Davis Associates in the restored Rockland Mill since 1979.

"But it's really a no-man's-land between Pikesville, Ruxton and Towson. It's a hard area to locate on a map, and most folks haven't heard of it," Davis said.

However, Brooklandville, or Rockland, has remained home to some of Maryland's most historic families including the Garretts, Merrymans and Ridgelys who still live there.

Early families

The first inhabitant of Rockland was Richard Gist, who acquired Turkey Cock Hall and the first 200 acres in 1706, eventually expanding his holdings to include some 2,000 acres. He later sold to Edward Riston (also spelled Reeston or Reaston) the property including Turkey Cock Hall, which still stands east of Falls Road.

His daughter, Anne Riston, married Thomas Johnson in the mid-1750s. That began the Johnson family's interest and ownership of property there. Turkey Cock Hall is still owned by Johnson descendants.

"Turkey Cock Hall has survived for two centuries and more, yet it has retained its Colonial facade. A rise of ground and dense vegetation divides it from Falls Road, and this separation from signs of contemporary life has enabled it to retain its looks of antiquity," writes author Dawn F. Thomas in "The Green Spring Valley -- Its History and Heritage," published in 1978.

Industrial development of the upper Jones Falls Valley began in 1806 when the Falls Road Turnpike Co. was chartered, and the road quickly became one of the major commercial arteries between Baltimore and Pennsylvania. Its dominance lasted until the coming of the railroad in 1832.

On June 14, 1832, the first horse-drawn passenger trains of the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad traveled over the railroad's Green Spring Valley branch, which diverted from the main line at the base of Lake Roland. The first stop was the Brooklandville House, today's Valley Inn.

Horse-drawn trains were displaced in 1833 as the sound of the steam whistle sounded across the valley for the first time. The railroad, which later became the Northern Central and later the Pennsylvania Railroad, maintained passenger service there until 1933. Freight service lasted until 1960.

The Rockland Grist Mill, adjacent to where Slaughterhouse Run ducks under Falls Road, dates to at least 1810 when its purpose was to grind flour. Later, it was used by a French textile operator to manufacture calico and, after that failed, it became a cotton spinning plant. Burning in 1857, the mill was rebuilt within the same walls and began flour production again.

In 1927, the historic structure was purchased by William Fell Johnson and once again was adapted to a variety of light industrial production, including wooden toys and artificial silk during World War II.

Perhaps its most famous occupant was actress Dorothy Lamour, who during the late 1950s and early 1960s operated Lifetime Inc., manufacturers of a food preservation additive, with her husband William Ross Howard. She also operated Dorothy Lamour Enterprises Ltd. Products, which produced Dorothy Lamour Bread and a jewelry-cleaning solution from the mill.

Other colorful occupants of the area included Sumner and Grace Parker, who designed and built the Cloisters at Brooklandville on land that was previously known as Bad Road to Midnight.

Construction began in 1930 and was completed in 1932 on the structure known for its high Gothic gables, leaded glass windows and French Gothic interiors. Sumner Parker died in 1946, and Grace Parker lived at the estate until a year before her death in 1972.

The Children's Museum, which was in the Cloisters until it recently moved to the Brokerage, is owned by the city and can be rented for social occasions.

It's been said that Brooklandville seeks change every 100 years or so, and big changes were in the offing when the Rouse Co. in 1971 proposed building a low-density village of 600 units with industrial parkland and housing reminiscent of Cross Keys. The rezoning plan failed when neighbors protested.

What did come in the later 1970s, however, was Rockland, a development of upscale housing set on spacious lots off Old Court Road near Park School. In 1980, the Risteau at Rockland condominiums went up in a field across the street from the housing development.

David Wright, an architect with the Baltimore firm of Grieves Worrall Wright & O'Hatnick, has lived there since the early-1980s restoration was completed. "I love it because it really is a wonderful place in the country and has lots of rural character," Wright said the other day.

"But I like the convenience of Rockland, being a little more than 10 minutes from town," Wright said. "I also enjoy the mix of professional people and young marrieds who live in the village."


Population: 648

Commuting time to Baltimore: 15 minutes

Public Schools: Pinewood Elementary; Ridgely Middle, and Dulaney High

Shopping: Green Spring Station, Graul's market in Ruxton

ZIP code: 21022

Average price of a single family home: $320,000*

* Based on seven sales in the past 12 months by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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