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Homeland: Developing acres of beauty

Homeland, the third jewel in Baltimore's triple crown of planned neighborhoods, followed the earlier development of Roland Park and Guilford in the 1920s.

Its rich history has been chronicled by Barbara M. Stevens, who has resided in Homeland most of her life, in a recently published updated edition of her 1976 book, Homeland: History & Heritage.

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Proceeds from sales of the book benefit the Homeland Community Foundation Inc., which supports continued beautification of the neighborhood and preservation of its public areas through landscaping.

Last year, the 391-acre community of nearly 1,000 homes was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.

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"The historic designation officially acknowledges Homeland as a premier example of American suburban development characteristic of the late 19th and early 20th centuries," writes Stevens.

Homeland's beginning dates to the end of the 17th century when a patent was issued to Job Evans in 1694 for "all that tract in Baltimore County woods between the part of the ridge called Little Brittaine containing 100 acres, more or less." After assembling several additional tracts of land, Evans named his estate Job's Addition.

The property was later sold to William Buchanan in 1797. Two years later, he married a widow, Hepzibah Brown Perine, and she and her son from her first marriage, David Maulden Perine, settled at Job's Addition.

After the death of his stepfather, Perine bought the estate and added to it until it reached 391 acres, and renamed it "Homeland." He divided his time between a downtown Baltimore townhouse and his working North Baltimore estate until his death in 1882.

"The estate included a manor house, a caretaker's house, an abundance of outbuildings including stables, a buttery, and a nursery as well as cultivated fields, orchards, woods, grazing areas and all that made up a well maintained and self-supporting plantation," writes Stevens.

According to Stevens, remnants of the original estate are still extant.

"The original main roadbeds throughout the estate have developed into present-day St. Albans Way, St. Dunstans and Springlake Way. Tunbridge Road today follows the path of a narrow roadway that led in from the main entrance and gatehouse at York Road in Govanstowne," she observes.

A public path linking Homeland Avenue and Upnor Road was once a "grape walk," notes Stevens, and a quarry from which fieldstone was cut, a depression now covered by a grassy field, can also be seen.

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Homeland's 1846 Italianate manor house vanished in 1924 when Perine's heirs sold the property to the Roland Park-Homeland Co. for $1 million. But the caretaker's house at Upnor Road and St. Albans Way, circa 1790, lives on as a private residence.

One of the most outstanding characteristics of Homeland is the series of ponds or "ornamental lakes," once spring fed, that Perine had dug in 1843. Their original use was to supply the estate with water as well as ice, which was cut and stored for use in the summer months.

Today, the city helps keep up the ponds, which are alive with fish and supplied with fresh water. Children, not adult anglers, are permitted to fish in the ponds, which are also maintained by the Homeland Association.

Located along St. Dunstans Road and Springlake Way, the ponds have also provided a Christmas Eve venue since 1928. Residents with their families and guests gather there to sing Christmas carols while awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, who hears the last-minute appeals of the excited children.

The transition of Homeland from working plantation to residential neighborhood began after it was acquired by the Roland Park-Homeland Co.

In an advertising brochure for the new development, copy writers sang its many virtues, the first being the retention of its former name that suggested a community of homes.

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"Pre-eminent among its advantages is the location of the property," said the sales brochure. "Lying on one of the more elevated sections of Baltimore, its highest point is more than 400 feet above sea level. Its terrain is rolling and it is exposed to full sunlight and there is always free circulation of air."

Its Christmas garden-like architecture is a wonderful blend of Georgian, Norman, Tudor, French Country, Colonial and early American homes, set on well-landscaped lots along curving lanes and streets. Construction materials included stone, brick, timber and stucco.

The architectural integrity of the community was maintained directly by the offices of the Roland Park-Homeland Co.

"The fact that all plans have to pass a severe test on the part of the Roland Park Company's architectural committee prevents freakish, or even extreme, manifestations of taste, not only in regard to lines but color," said a 1939 story on the community.

Prices for lots ranged from $2,200 to $8,300, not including the larger lots on the west side of Charles Street, according to Stevens.

Landscaping, roads and other physical features were designed by Olmsted Brothers of Boston, the renowned firm of landscape architects whose earlier work gave Roland Park and Guilford a distinctive country feeling in an otherwise urban setting.

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Despite the Depression, the air was filled with the quick crack of workmen's hammers as they pushed the development ahead. Fifty houses were built in 1937 alone, bringing the total by year's end to 545 homes in the new community.

The final stage of Homeland's development was the Broadmoor Road area, near York Road, built on the eve of World War II.

Probably the last houses to rise in Homeland came years later. In 1979, two brick colonials and a Dutch colonial were built on a small lot at the northeast corner of Charles Street and Tunbridge Road, by George L. Schnader Jr. Inc.


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