Winters Lane Historic District
Catonsville, Baltimore County
The Winters Lane Historic District in Catonsville is an historically African-American residential community located between Frederick Road and the Baltimore National Pike. The linear historic district runs north-south along Winters Lane with associated historic resources fronting the intersecting streets of Edmonson Avenue, Shipley Avenue, Roberts Avenue, Leewood Avenue, and Old Frederick Road. Winters Lane Historic District is composed mainly of single-family dwellings augmented by a few commercial, social, or religious resources. The historic properties, which developed between 1867 and the mid 1940s, are vernacular in design and workmanship, reflecting the working-class status of the residents. The district contains 155 properties, including 141 residential properties, two former schools, three commercial buildings, three social clubs, and five churches or church-related buildings. The housing fronting Winters Lane was largely speculative development, with single-family freestanding and twin or duplex buildings similarly constructed and detailed. Set close to the road on narrow lots, the residential and social buildings are typically wood frame with solid masonry foundations. The few masonry structures in the district were constructed of rock-faced concrete block or stretcher-bond brick. Cladding materials include wood weatherboard, aluminum siding, vinyl siding, asbestos shingles, and some brick facing. Rooflines, reflecting the fashionable architectural styles of the period during which they were erected, are side gable, front gable, cross gable, hipped, and sloping with minimal applied detailing to the cornice lines. A number of the side-gabled roofs were accented with steeply pitched front gables indicative of the Gothic Revival style. Architectural styles influencing the forms and detailing of the vernacular buildings on Winters Lane include the Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival, Bungalow/Craftsman, Cape Cod, American Foursquare, shotgun, and ranch house. Many of the non-historic dwellings within the district imitate the architectural detailing and forms of their neighbors. The endurance of Winters Lane as a cohesive African American neighborhood predominantly isolated from the larger community of Catonsville is based on the establishment and continued existence of educational, commercial, social, and religious activities. The original use of many of these properties, particularly the educational, social, and religious resources, has evolved, but the buildings remain prominent elements in the neighborhood. These include the original schoolhouse on Edmonson Avenue and Winters Lane, Banneker Public School (now the community center), Grace AME Church, Morning Star Baptist Church, Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, Upper Room Prayer Garden, Temple of Faith Church of God in Christ, and Landmark Lodge No. 40 of the Free and Accepted Masons. These buildings are all purpose-built with meeting space and prominently set on larger lots. Settlement along Winters Lane was greatly aided in 1867 by the construction of the wood-frame school at 100 Edmonson Avenue for African American children. Three bays wide and three deep, on a rubble stone foundation, the one-story school is accented by Gothic Revival detailing. The building currently serves as a church. The Landmark Lodge No. 40 of the Free and Accepted Masons at 48-1/2 Winters Lane is a one-story wood-frame vernacular building that was constructed in 1889 as the Morning Star Baptist Church. A few commercial buildings servicing the community formerly stood at Edmonson Avenue and Winters Lane, but the wood-frame buildings have been razed and replaced in the 20th century.
The Winters Lane Historic District is historically significant for its association with the development of the African-American community in the Catonsville area. It exemplifies a cohesive African-American neighborhood that began to develop immediately following the Civil War, with the settlement of former slaves along the road's northern end and the establishment of a "colored" school on property purchased by the Freedmen's Bureau at the southern end after the Civil War. By 1877, Winters Lane was the most subdivided north-south road in Catonsville, although a number of the lots were not yet developed. Despite its relationship to the growing Baltimore suburb of Catonsville, the African American neighborhood along Winters Lane developed in relative isolation. The linear neighborhood achieved a high level of community involvement with locally owned and operated African-American businesses, churches, and social institutions established in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Winters Lane Historic District, the larges and most intact mid-19th century African American neighborhood in Baltimore County, has continued to maintain a sense of place with descendants of its original settlers residing there today. The neighborhood consists of 155 properties including 141 dwellings, five churches or church-related buildings, three commercial buildings, two former schools, and three social buildings. Of the 155 properties in the Winters Lane Historic District, 135 resources contribute to the significance of the district. Benjamin Winter settled in Catonsville shortly after the War of 1812 and established Winters Lane as the primary road connecting his property to the Frederick Turnpike, then a major thoroughfare connecting Baltimore to the outlying farming regions. Until the 1880s, the community of Catonsville was made up of large estates and summer retreats owned by upper-class residents of Baltimore City. Many of these large estates were bought in the latter part of the 19th century by local developers, who began to subdivide the land into smaller lots. The newly subdivided lots were then improved by smaller dwellings occupied year-round by middle-class residents. Following the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Harris family, formerly enslaved at the Crosby estate, settled an area directly north of Winters Lane, past the Old Frederick Turnpike. This settlement, known as Harristown, along with the establishment of an African American school at the corner of Winters Lane and Edmonson Avenue in 1867 by the Freedmen's Bureau, prompted the growth of an African-American community in this part of Catonsville. Subdivision of Winters Lane began at its northern and southern ends and moved inwards as large estates were slowly redeveloped. By 1910, 75% of African Americans residing in Catonsville lived along Winters Lane, making it one of the most intact mid-19th century African-American neighborhoods in Baltimore County. The African-American community on Winters Lane soon supported a large number of businesses, churches, and fraternal organizations that served to solidify and strengthen the identity of the neighborhood. The oldest remaining African-American church in Catonsville, now known as Grace AME Church, was established in 1868. Local groceries and the Masonic Lodge served as community meeting spaces, reinforcing the cohesiveness of the neighborhood.