Lawyers Hill Historic District
Elkridge, Howard County
The architecture in the Lawyers Hill Historic District encompasses a broad array of styles ranging from 1738 Georgian Colonial to 1941 Georgian Revival. The collection of Victorian domestic architecture (c. 1841 to 1880) clustered around the Lawyers Hill Road and old Lawyers Hill Road area is unparalleled in the county. While the houses are similar in terms of mass, proportion and materials, no two are exactly alike. As a result the Lawyers Hill landscape reads like a chronology of American architectural history, with each house reflecting the style of the time and expressing the individuality of its builder. There are variations of the American Gothic Revival form, (including an unusual example of a castellated Gothic estate), Italianate, Queen Anne, and Shingle-style structures. There is also a range of Colonial Revival houses, from craftsman era rustic cottages to more formal Georgian, and mass-produced Dutch Colonial models from the early 20th century. While the inhabitants of the Hill, by 19th century standards, were considered wealthy, their homes did not reflect ostentatious lifestyles. Houses were often architect designed and usually included room for servants quarters, but in general the scale remained in keeping with the rural landscape. Some of the later cottages, especially those designed by Philadelphia architect Brognard Okie, more closely resemble rustic camping lodges then country estates. Typically, the mid-19th century houses were built in the traditional Gothic tri-gable L form with an eaves-front orientation. Construction is predominantly wood, both post and beam and balloon frame, with wood siding, usually clapboard, shingles, or board and batten. Roof materials included wood shingles, metal, or slate. Some of the houses feature decorative Queen Anne shingle patterns. All of the pre-1900 buildings have random fieldstone foundations. Most of the tri-gabled buildings have a traditional arrangement of corbeled chimneys; two interior brick chimneys at the either end of the roof ridge and a third chimney at the rear of the wing. Craftsman-era houses have large stone end chimneys typical of the Colonial revival movement.
The Lawyers Hill Historic District is significant for its diverse collection of Victorian-era architecture and for its role as a 19th century summer community and early commuter suburb for prominent Baltimoreans. Although the area historically known as Lawyers Hill was divided into two sections by I-95 in the 1960s, there have been virtually no other adverse impacts on either section and the area as a whole has retained its historic character. The architecture on the Hill reflects the dramatic series of social and economic changes occurring in the nation between 1730, the earliest of the properties which became Lawyers Hill, and 1941. But the Hill's unique character is based on its concentration of 19th century domestic dwellings located in the center of the community along Lawyers Hill and Old Lawyers Hill roads. The structures represent a range of 19th century residential architectural styles. While the buildings vary in style, they are closely related in setting, scale, and materials. Lawyers Hill is also significant for its landscape architecture and community planning. Houses were built to fit the contours of the hillside and blend with the natural landscape. Most of the buildings are set back at least 100 yards from the narrow and winding roads, evoking the spirit of the pre-auto era. The natural and man-made landscape has been allowed to mature, shrouding the houses in foliage and creating thick canopies over the roads. With the opening of the Thomas Viaduct in 1836, the Patapsco Valley south of the river was easily accessible to Baltimoreans. Many of the first residents were respected lawyers and doctors active in many of the professional and cultural organizations still vital in the state today. During the 1840s, as railroad service improved, Lawyers Hill residents began commuting to Baltimore on a daily and weekly basis, establishing the community as the state's first railroad commuter suburb.