Arcadia-Beverly Hills Historic District
The Arcadia-Beverly Hills Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2016, The Gombach Group.
Arcadia-Beverly Hills is a residential community divided into approximately thirty irregularly-shaped blocks in northeast Baltimore, Maryland, four miles from downtown. The neighborhood is located directly north of Herring Run Park, and is bounded by Harford Road, Belair Road, and Moravia Road. The district is a cohesive residential suburb comprised of some 900 buildings, primarily freestanding masonry and frame houses set back from the streets with small front yards. Early twentieth century suburban architectural styles represented in the district include Foursquare, Bungalows, early suburban villas, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Pueblo Revival. There are also a few row house groupings and duplexes along the edges of the community. In addition to the residences, two churches, a 45-acre cemetery, and a variety of commercial buildings along Harford and Belair Roads complete the physical environment of the district. Harford and Belair roads, major traffic arteries, define the northwestern and southeastern boundaries of the neighborhood. Walther Avenue, a four-lane road with a landscaped median, bisects the quiet tree-lined streets in the interior of the community. Moravia Road, a secondary artery, borders the northeastern edge. Herring Run Park provides a wooded park setting for the community at the southwestern boundary. The condition of properties is generally very good.
Most of the quiet tree-lined streets in the interior of the neighborhood are free of thru traffic. A number of the streets end at Herring Run Park, Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, or the surrounding major arteries. Walther Avenue is 100 feet wide from curb to curb with a landscaped median. The residential character of the neighborhood abruptly gives way to Herring Run Park on the southwest and the cemetery on the northeast.
The topography of the neighborhood is fairly hilly, with the highest elevation in the vicinity of Harcourt and Moravia roads. From that location, the land slopes down fairly rapidly to the southeast and to Herring Run. The slopes are gentler in the area west of Walther Avenue. The slope of streets can be clearly seen in typical views of the neighborhood.
The built environment of Arcadia-Beverly Hills consists of a variety of residential building types. The earliest buildings stood along Harford Road and Belair Road, which were early turnpike routes, but the interior of the neighborhood was comprised of large farms specializing in produce and dairy products.
Prior to the suburban development of the area, William H. Weaver built a large Queen Anne house on his farm in 1887. The Weaver house survives at 4319 Arabia Avenue at the corner of Montebello Terrace. It is a large frame house with porches at the ground floor and second floor, sitting on nearly a half acre of land. Distinctive architectural features include Stick style wrap-around porches, verge boards and decorative gables, ornamental brackets, and stained glass windows. This house represents the high quality of design in pre-suburban development in the neighborhood and set the tone for other suburban villas built nearby.
Standing in sharp contrast to the flamboyant Weaver House is a large stone vernacular house at 3906 Parkside Drive, built in 1902 at the southwestern section of the district. It stands on a portion of land from the former Eutaw farm, another early estate. Gottleib Heckel, a cobbler from Gay Street, purchased the land in the late nineteenth century. He built a log cabin in the vicinity of Parkside Drive and Prior Avenues for himself and the nearby stone house for a Dr. Giering. This fieldstone house is five bays wide, with the gable end facing Parkside Drive. It features a central arched entrance and semi-circular attic window. The size of the house and native materials reflect a lone outpost in a wooded area, rather than the community oriented domestic architecture that predominates in the district.
As the population of Baltimore grew and streetcar access to the area improved, the Weaver family sold off some 100' wide tracts of land in the vicinity of Arabia Avenue and Overland Avenue for the construction of suburban villas. The large Queen Anne frame house at 4311 Arabia Avenue features a wide porch, corner conical tower, and gabled ends facing both sides of its corner lot. It is an example of an early expansive house built complimentary to the Weaver House, before the demands for more modest suburban housing dominated in the area. A few doors away at 4303 Arabia Avenue, another early suburban villa was built. This large brick house, with an enclosed front porch, features large gables decorated with patterned black and red slate tiles.
As suburban development increased in the early twentieth century, other houses were built on the Heckel Property, now called Eutaw Heights. Among the larger houses built at Eutaw Heights was 3712 Parkside Drive. The house features a massive wrap-around stone porch at the stone first floor level, siding at the second floor level, and a slate roof punctuated by oversized dormers. The house sits on a large lot facing the formerly wooded ground next to Herring Run.
On March 28, 1914 the Arcadia development was created when R. Stanley Carswell acquired 41 acres remaining from the former Eutaw estate and subdivided it into smaller lots for suburban development. The Foursquare style house 3506 Parkside Drive is one of the more substantial houses in the original Arcadia development. It is built of ornamental block with a large wrap-around porch. It features classical columns supporting the porch, overhanging eaves, and wide dormers which add living space to the third level. More highly styled than some of the smaller houses in the area, it conforms to neighboring houses in its setback from the street. Although most of the houses in the district are frame or brick, the district includes many ornamental block houses. This material was popular for a brief time in the early twentieth century, due to its advantages of strength and low maintenance.
These earlier larger houses in the neighborhood reflect the individual tastes of their homeowners. They command some of the better views in the neighborhood and set the tone for the picturesque community that would grow around them. The wide porches, front lawns, and quality design would be imitated in more modest houses constructed primarily between the world wars.
Iona Terrace, one block from Herring Run Park, is representative of the types of houses built throughout Arcadia-Beverly Hills. House styles vary, including Foursquare, bungalow, and Shingle style. Built on 50' wide lots and set back from the street, the houses feature front porches and small front lawns.
Bungalows are the most common house type in the neighborhood. Oversized central gable dormers characterize this housing type. These wood frame houses are covered in a variety of materials, including wood siding; shingles; asbestos siding; and later, vinyl and aluminum siding. As is typical in other housing types within the district, the houses feature wide front porches, although some have been enclosed. There are also a few atypical bungalows built of concrete block, as well as some with stucco and brick veneers.
Along streetscapes in the district, it is not unusual to see many building types within the same block. Foursquares stand next to bungalows, ornamental concrete block houses next to frame or brick houses, and larger 2-1/2 story houses next to the small low lying 1-1/2 story houses. In the 3100 block of Beverly Road, a rare 1-1/2 story ornamental concrete block house with an enclosed porch, topped by a hip roof with central dormer, stands next to more conventional brick and frame bungalows.
There are also a few revival style houses scattered throughout the neighborhood. At the bend of Harcourt Road and Weaver Avenue, there are three Pueblo Revival houses. All feature white stucco walls, box-like massing, arched entrances, and vigas protruding through exterior walls. A few simple Colonial Revival houses can also be found in the neighborhood. 3111 Grindon Avenue, an example of this style, is a small brick house with a slate roof and dormers.
Tudor Revival houses within the district are built of brick and stucco. They feature decorative half-timber exposed framing near rooflines. Many duplexes feature this type of design in the vicinity of Moravia Avenue. A few individual brick houses with stone trim, peaked gables, and pronounced chimneys are seemingly inspired by medieval architecture.
There are also a handful of row house groupings on the edges of the neighborhood. One major grouping is located in the vicinity of Harford Road and Overland Avenue, and another grouping can be found at Belair Road and Eierman Avenue. Two stories in height, most row houses feature porch fronts surmounted by second floor bay windows. The yellow brick rows on Eierman Avenue are less decorative, but account for a large number of buildings, as nearly eighty of these houses were built along several blocks. In total, row housing accounts for nearly 20% of all buildings within the district, but their visual impact is lessened due to their isolation on the edges of the district and the small amount of land they occupy.
The inclusion of rows is important to the district because in many ways, the typical Arcadia-Beverly Hills suburban style house was built in reaction to the row housing that previously dominated architecture within Baltimore City. Whereas most row houses emphasize density, uniformity, and enclosure of streets, the suburban domestic architecture of Arcadia-Beverly Hills emphasize spaciousness, individuality, and garden-like appearance. While row houses continued along major arteries into the edges of the neighborhood, the suburban ideal was maintained within the heart of the district. Residents could benefit from proximity to jobs, shopping, services, and entertainment available in a dense urban center, while living in a community of varied housing styles with expansive front porches facing grassy front lawns on quiet tree-lined streets.
The quality of early twentieth century craftsmanship in homebuilding is evident throughout Arcadia-Beverly Hills. Many houses have stained and leaded glass accent windows, entrance transoms and/or sidelights. Classical columns often support open porches, while enclosed porches feature fan light transoms and multi-paned wood windows. Most houses retain original wood double-hung windows in a variety of styles and configurations. Distinctive bowed windows and dormers are common. Other significant architectural details include decorative shingles, slate and tile roofs, and prominent chimneys.
The houses of Arcadia-Beverly Hills are well maintained and there are few vacant or boarded houses within the community. While some buildings have been modified, most retain their historic architectural integrity. The most common modifications include replacement windows, artificial siding, and, rarely, formstone.
The neighborhood includes a few examples of commercial architecture along Harford and Belair roads. Many commercial uses are housed in former rows that have been altered with storefront additions. A few appear to have been designed for a mix of residential and commercial use, such as the brick corner building at Harford Road and Montebello Terrace. Commercial uses include an older c. 1940s service station, as well as recent intrusions, such as a Safeway supermarket and Pep Boys auto parts store. A small strip shopping center stands on Belair Road south of the cemetery.
The Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery takes up a large section of the eastern portion of the district. Developed in 1880, the 45-acre cemetery contributes to the pastoral feeling of the residential suburb, its expanse of closely-spaced memorial stones punctuated by the occasional tree. The site features a domed stone chapel and statuary at many of the lots. The edges of the cemetery form a sharp dividing line at the southern end of the district. It is significant that the property lines of the cemetery are identical to one of the early land tracts identified in the 1877 Hopkins Atlas of Baltimore City.
There are also two churches located back-to-back at the western edge of the district. Fronting at the corner of Iona Terrace and Harford Road is the massive Sheppards Community Baptist Church - a stone Gothic church with a corner tower. Facing Parkside Drive and Herring Run Park is the Ray of Hope Church, a Georgian-influenced brick structure featuring a gable-front facade and surmounted by a spire.
The built environment of Arcadia-Beverly Hills primarily dates from the early twentieth century and is comparable to other Baltimore historic districts of that era, most notably Northwood and Lauraville. The Lauraville Historic District adjoins Arcadia-Beverly Hills on the northwest side of Harford Road.
Two early turnpike routes leading from Baltimore City to the northeast were created along Harford Road and Belair Road in the early nineteenth century. By the mid-to-late nineteenth century, a sufficient amount of scattered development took place along these turnpikes, north of Herring Run, to establish post offices at Lauraville and Gardenville. Dairy and produce farms in the vicinity of these settlements had direct access to the old Belair Market within Baltimore City near the present day Old Town Mall.
The 1877 Hopkins Atlas of Baltimore County identifies three large land tracts that make up most of present day Arcadia-Beverly Hills. William Hall's Eutaw estate was roughly bounded by the Herring Run, Harford and Belair roads, and the location of today's Weaver Avenue. The Weaver family owned the land from Weaver Avenue, roughly between Harford Road and Harcourt Road, to present day Moravia Road. Thomas Burgan's property north of the Eutaw estate and east of the Weaver farm became the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery.
William H. Weaver was born in Germany in 1827 and moved to the United States with his parents in 1834. He became a butcher, lived on Light Street in South Baltimore, and began buying property along Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore as early as 1858, probably in conjunction with his meat market stall in Hanover Market. Within a decade of becoming a partner in a brick manufacturing company, he turned over his butcher stall in Hanover Market to his son and built a farmhouse on his property in 1887. The Weaver House still stands at 4319 Arcadia Avenue. It is representative of pre-suburban development in the district.
Roughly in the same time period when Weaver built his house, Gottleib Heckel, a cobbler on Gay Street, purchased a 19-acre portion of the Eutaw farm. He built a log cabin for his family, but soon began selling off property to build houses for others in the area he called Eutaw Heights. The fieldstone house at 3906 Parkside Drive, built in 1902, is one of the earliest surviving houses in the southern section of the district. Between 1898 and 1914, 49 single and duplex homes were built in Eutaw Heights.
Near the Weaver House, two other suburban villas were built at the turn of the century, both on large 100-foot wide lots, but the surroundings remained open. Land to the southeast of these early villas would soon undergo major suburban development. On March 28, 1914, R. Stanley Carswell acquired 41 acres remaining from the former Eutaw estate and began a new development, calling it Arcadia.
The name derives from a mountainous region in Greece of picturesque villages, but a March 1921 description sounded anything but picturesque - "open ditches cut through the woods for roads, no pavements or sidewalks, no mail boxes, water piped over ground, ... mosquito breeding swamps in lowlands, and open sewer running through development carrying drainage from cesspools."
The Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, established in 1880, developed and grew along with the residential neighborhood. Its open space aspect is an amenity to the community and contributes to the suburban character.
By 1923, enough homeowners lived in the area to form the Arcadia Improvement Association to push for the completion of improvements and the basic infrastructure necessary for a quality suburb. Streets had to be laid out, paved, and graded; water and sewer pipes had to be extended into the new development; and the area lacked sidewalks.
An early project of the association was securing adequate storm water and sanitary sewers for the community from the City of Baltimore. The City was undergoing growing pains trying to keep up with the needs of the 1918 annexation that tripled the land area of Baltimore. It took the new residents of Baltimore City to push through these needed improvements. The association also raised $500 to plant trees along sidewalks. They fought for the removal of trolley poles from the center of the Herring Run Bridge, a traffic hazard for the community. There was also a major zoning battle over the development of Eastwood Drive along the edge of Herring Run Park.
The developer of Arcadia had advertised that the development was strictly for single family cottages, but he later attempted to have the land on Eastwood Drive re-zoned for brick row houses. An Arcadia Improvement Association publication called the effort "fighting this major menace to the community." After several hearings and two court victories at a cost of $1,100, they were successful in preventing the row house construction, although duplexes were later built on the property, as zoning only required at least one side yard.
Within its first fifteen years, the Arcadia Improvement Association worked to have Walther Avenue opened, fought against the creation of a liquor establishment of Heckle Avenue, supported the installation of a traffic signal at Parkside Drive and Walther Avenue, obtained sidewalks at vacant lots to provide a continuous walkway through the community, and held many social events to raise funds for its activities. The activist nature of this improvement association is indicative of the role that residents played in the early twentieth century in shaping their environment. The appearance of their community did not merely rely on the actions of builders, architects, and public officials. Residents utilized zoning as a tool to preserve desirable characteristics of Arcadia. By working with government officials, they influenced park development, traffic safety, and sanitary conditions in their neighborhood. The growth and success of the improvement association allowed residents to be partners with developers and city officials in the building of their neighborhood.
As development in Arcadia was taking off in the mid-1920s, development was just beginning in Beverly Hills on the former Weaver property. There is very little distinction between the two neighborhoods (hence the inclusion of both in this historic district nomination). The Beverly Hills Community Association was established in 1926 and worked alongside the Arcadia Improvement Association on issues that affected both neighborhoods, such as the installation of the traffic signal at Parkside Drive and Walther Avenue and the removal of trolley poles on the Herring Run Bridge.
Most of Arcadia was complete by 1928, except for Eastwood Avenue, where the zoning controversy took place. The brick duplexes facing Herring Run Park were not completed until after 1940. The Beverly Hills portion of the community (roughly north of Weaver Avenue) was less than 40% complete by 1928, but by World War II, houses were built on most of the lots. A few post-1950 infill houses were built on open lots within Arcadia.
Buildings within Arcadia-Beverly Hills are representative uniformly of a diverse architecture in type, style and materials, yet the neighborhood retains its cohesiveness based upon its suburban setting and the placement of buildings set back from the street upon landscaped lots. Unifying characteristics include front porches and a human scale. Although typical suburban style houses built on individual lots and set back from the street is the norm for Arcadia-Beverly Hills, one original farmhouse and several early suburban villas recall the pre-suburban development of the community. The presence of row houses on the fringes of the neighborhood is also significant, as the suburban architecture of the community was a reaction against the dense, urban quality of this housing type that previously dominated in Baltimore City. The presence of these houses was considered a real threat to community stability and the ideals of an early suburb.
The styles of houses reflect the popularity of both revival and early twentieth century American movements: Foursquare, Bungalows, Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Pueblo Revival. Because developers of Arcadia-Beverly Hills did not design and build every structure within the community or construct block after block of identical houses, there is a variety of building styles within individual blocks. Developers sold individual lots or small groups of lots to both contractors and individual homeowners. Contractors would build small groups of houses, being careful to vary styles to meet the needs of buyers. Individual property owners hired their own contractors or built houses from mail order kits or plans.
The houses also reflect materials and architectural details that were mass-produced in the early twentieth century. Many houses have entrance stained glass or leaded windows and porches with classic wood or stone columns. The many examples of ornamental concrete block houses reflect the popularity of this material in the early twentieth century. More durable than frame and less expensive than brick, concrete block provided an alternative to the most commonly used materials for residential design. Houses built of the material often appeared fortress-like and although concrete block survived as a material for foundations and basic construction, it was more often faced with brick or other materials to present a more domestic appearance in a residential setting.
Arcadia-Beverly Hills, similar to the adjacent Lauraville National Register Historic District, is a superb example of early twentieth century suburban design and domestic architecture. The building types, styles of architecture, materials used, and placement of houses along the street reflect the suburban ideal of spaciousness, individuality, and garden-like appearance. This character survives relatively intact, with only minor alterations and intrusions to the integrity of the historic district: artificial siding and vinyl windows are found on some houses; later infill housing and newer commercial businesses are found along Harford and Belair roads, including a recently built supermarket and auto parts store.
† Fred B. Shoken, Preservation Consultant, Arcadia-Beverly Hills Historic District, Baltimore, MD, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.