James T. Wollon, Jr.
Green Spring Valley Historic District
Owings Mills/Lutherville, Baltimore County
From its initial settlement in the 18th century, the Green Spring Valley has been primarily a rural area. Although land in the valley was originally purely agricultural, since the mid 19th century the number of working farms has steadily decreased as the area became popular as a setting for the country houses of prosperous city residents. Today the character of the land might be compared to an extended landscaped park. The oldest standing structure in the district is St. Thomas’ Church, built of Flemish bond brick in 1743. The remaining 18th century structures are mainly late 18th century parts of large, mainly 19th century houses. Although the area has many historic structures, there is not a large inventory of 18th and early 19th century farmhouses and outbuildings. There are some from all periods, but their major alterations and the majority of the area’s historic structures date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of these country seats are in the various styles of antiquity: the English medieval and Georgian and the American Georgian predominating. Many houses are sited on hills with carefully cultivated views and vistas, often of spectacular quality. The village of Stevenson developed at the crossing of an important local road and the railroad; it was the site of one of the district’s railroad stations, one of two still standing, in good repair. The historic right-of-way is clearly visible here as it is its entire length through the district. A collection of small, simple, late 19th century frame houses and a small shopping center comprise the village. Chattolanee is a black community within the district, neatly laid out in several streets in a miniature grid-iron pattern. Large lots and many trees make the village setting a rural one, hardly an urban one. With all the pressures of development surrounding the district, the floor of the valley itself remains rural. Several areas of the district, primarily in its northwesterly area, have seen many houses added since World War II, but these have not detracted substantially from the rural character of the area.
The Green Spring Valley Historic District is a suburban area of Baltimore that acquires significance from the collection of 18th, 19th, and early 20th century buildings and for its park-like setting that retains a late 19th-early 20th century atmosphere. The buildings, primarily houses set among rolling hills, forested highlands, and tree-lined drives and roads, embody the distinctive design characteristics of the major architectural styles popular in the United States from the Neoclassical of the 1700s to the Georgian and other revivals of the pre-1930 period. The buildings also range from modest to elaborate in size and exhibit varying degrees of craftsmanship as well as a record of changes in construction techniques; particularly apparent when contrasting the 18th century masonry houses with the early 20th century bungalow. As an affluent suburban residential region near Baltimore, the Green Spring Valley Historic District is also important historically for its association with typical patterns of suburban development in the early 20th century.