Roland Park: Most Fashionable and Pretentious Suburb

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Roland Park plan
Roland Park plan

Source: Roland Park

We came across an incredible and fascinating series of articles in the Baltimore Sun this past weekend, printed in 1908. The one we’re featuring here details the history of Roland Park, how it was founded and developed. It was published on Sunday, December 27th, 1908.

a typical Roland Park road
a typical Roland Park road

The most fashionable and, undoubtedly, the most pretentious suburb of Baltimore is Roland Park.

The mad, mad rush to get to Roland Park in the last few years has been appalling. Stand on the new St. Paul Street Boulevard and you can actually almost count the families struggling by, with their family chattels piled in vans, on their way to the suburb, and the wishes of those people who don’t live there and would like to live there whiz by you like Rossetti’s new souls going into heaven.

The development of Roland Park has been phenomenal. Not a generation ago it was a majestic and rather disorderly stretch of orchard forest and meadow land. Now it is a beautiful, tidy, ultra-civilized and altogether attractive residence district.

No doubt the founders of the place and ambitious and hopefully far-reaching schemes, but they could hardly have foreseen, even in their most inspired moments, that these would materialize so delightfully.

They started their project bravely on large capital, borrowed for the most part from foreign sources, and it grew and grew like Jonah’s gourd. Two of the founders have gotten out of the company, with large fortunes safely stowed away. One of the founders remains, the present president of the company.

The article goes on to detail how the Roland Park Company was founded in July 1891 with the sum of $1 million from English capitalists. The first major plot of land purchased was 550 acres from several property owners, including Hiram Woods’ estate of Woodlawn, the Pennington family estate of Oakland, and the Maynadiers estate, Hepburn.

the Roland Park business block
the Roland Park business block

Skipping ahead, here is the section on how Roland Park grew to become a suburb of Baltimore.

The development of the park subsequent to the laying out of plat No. 1 is recent history. Plats 2 and 3 were developed after plat 1 in due order. The Olmsted brothers, of Brookline, Mass., were the landscape architects.

Plats 2 and 3, it may be mentioned, lie wholly west of Roland avenue. Plat 1 is to the east.

The losts in the last two plats were laid out with frontages of 100 feet each, Those in plat 1 were laid out in 50-foot widths, although many of the purchasers bought two or three lots at a time.

“In developing its property the Roland Park Company has expended about $1,000,000. It has planted many trees, hedges and shrubbery. It has laid about 50,000 feet of water mains, constructed about 60,000 feet of sewers, built about 50,000 feet of roadway, constructed about 100,000 feet of gutters and about 100,000 feet of sidewalks. The property owners have accomplished a great deal in beautifying the place by the planting of trees, shrubbery and formal gardens.

“The water supply is from artesian wells, drilled to a depth ranging from 180 feet to 500 feet. In addition to electricity for lighting there is city gas throughout the entire property for cooking and lighting purposes.

“The present population of Roland Park is about 2,000. There are at present about 400 houses, which cost $8,500,000. There is at present invested in homes in Roland Park between $4,500,000 and $5,000,000.

“The company has thrown around the property a few well-chosen restrictions which tend to regulate the use of the property and preserve it for strictly residential purposes. In some sections of the park houses are permitted which cost as low as $2,000 each. In the greater portion of the park, however, no residence is permitted which costs less than $5,000. The plans of all buildings must be approved by the company. A regular building line is also maintained.

“In the newer section of the park no stables are permitted. To provide for this there are apartment stables, in which one may rent single stalls or apartments, which provide space for two horses. In each instance carriage space is provided, as well as storage space for feed, and in the case of apartments sleeping rooms for the coachman.

“There is also a public garage, in which residents may store their automobiles.”

Very interesting that the homes were not permitted to have individual stables or garages. And, can you imaging being a coachman, having to live in a stable’s sleeping room.

the Baltimore country club
the Baltimore country club

If you’d like to read the original article, take a look at this PDF.

For some more interesting Roland Park history, check out this site.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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