Photo credit: E. Beale , 04/1992

Property Name: Lower Deer Creek Valley Historic District
Date Listed: 11/3/1993
Inventory No.: HA-1551
Location: Harford County

Description: The Lower Deer Creek Valley Historic District comprises approximately 15, 20 acres in north central Harford County. The primary building material used in the valley is stone taken from local quarries composed of gneiss and granite. Houses, mills, schoolhouses, and churches (the primary buildings in the district) were all constructed in these native stones as were many dependencies including springhouses, stables, tenant houses, meathouses, ice houses, and barns. The district's contributing standing structures date from the mid 18th century to the 1940s. They are mostly built in vernacular styles by anonymous craftsmen but are the steady prosperity and generally high level of sophistication of the district's residents has resulted in a superior level of workmanship and a notable attention to detail. In addition, the names of one highly skilled artisan (English-born emigree stone mason David Hopkins, f. c. 1790-1820) and several distinguished 19th- and 20th-century architects (e.g., J. Crawford Neilson of Baltimore and Harford County and Theopholis Chandler, FAIA, Walter Cope, FAIA, and the firm Mellor & Meigs of Philadelphia) secured and executed many important commissions in the Deer Creek Valley. Anglo-American activity has been continuous and economically successful in the district resulting in a virtual catalog of domestic building styles, from simple 1740s structures to full-blown Queen Anne piles to colonial (largely vernacular) revival country retreats. Since colonial times the valley has attracted a sizeable Quaker population who, in turn, made the area a haven for free blacks; the district contains a sizeable free black community at Kalmia, the site of a documented stop on the Underground Railroad, and several other sites important to black history. Of the industrial complexes, four mills and one mill village still stand. Four parks lie wholly or partially in the district. The district also takes in the ancient crossroads hamlets of Lapidum and Glenville as well as the market town of Darlington. All three communities are and have always been intimately connected to the valley.

Significance: The Lower Deer Creek Valley Historic District represents a 250-year evolution of all aspects of rural development--residential, agricultural, industrial, religious. The district is beautifully preserved as a discreet entity, easily distinguished from those sections of Harford County which abut it. The hundreds of inventoried sites in the district have historical, architectural, and familial links with each other that span several generations. The valley contains approximately 350 separate historic properties, many consisting of more than one structure, and probably represents the greatest and best-preserved concentration of significant sites in Harford County. The district as a district has been much studied for generations, at least as far back as August 14, 1858, when the Harford County weekly The AEgis praised "that romantic and classical portion of our county through which courses the magnificent Deer Creek, whose banks are adorned by"specimens of the most tasty architecture." Then in 1879-80 Dr. F. Stump Forwood, first president of the Historical Society of Harford County, wrote a series of pieces for The AEgis called "Homes on Deer Creek;" of the 37 structures Dr. Forwood described a remarkable 36 are still standing, in virtually unchanged condition. In 1979 the Maryland Department of Natural Resources declared the lower Deer Creek valley a "Wild and Scenic River" because of its "outstanding scenic...historic...[, and] cultural...values."


Boundary Map

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