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In a Word: Glyndonites Ponder Their Sesquicentennial

Photo by David Stuck

In 1871, the Civil War was a fresh memory. Ulysses S. Grant was president, and the first professional league baseball game was played in Indiana. That year, Dr. Charles A. Leas founded Glyndon on a 166-acre farm between Reisterstown and Worthington Valley on the Western Maryland Rail Road.

Glyndon marks these 150 years in Baltimore County in September with a three-day celebration. Events include a torch relay, a 5K, trolley rides, walking tours, a scavenger hunt, a parade, a gala, sidewalk sales, food, music and more.

Reams of historical documents, photos and artifacts have been compiled about the Victorian-era village, its many architectural gems, its growth and longevity linked to the railroad, its Methodist camp meetings, generations of families and dedicated preservation efforts throughout time. But can Glyndon be described in a word?

“Wow,” says Arnold Honkofsky—his first impression upon wandering in from his Owings Mills home 35 years ago. Now he and his buddies regularly hike up Central and Railroad avenues to enjoy favorites like the Glyndon Grill, Santoni’s Marketplace and the people who they agree are “friendly” and their town “genteel” and “eclectic.” Then he snuck in an extra descriptor—“something special,” he says with a wide smile.

Everyone seems to agree that Glyndon, indeed, is something special and well worth celebrating.

One of Glyndon’s unusual Victorian homes, the “Loop House,” on Waugh Avenue near Emory Grove, was built circa 1888, with wrap-around porches added in 1895. | Photo by David Stuck

Why Celebrate?

A few years ago, Historic Glyndon, Inc. (HGI) and the Glyndon Community Association joined forces as the Glyndon 150th Committee to plan the Sept. 10-12 sesquicentennial festivities.

On a breezy summer evening, committee heads Diane Flayhart, Kathy Ziese, Sue Benson and Patty Szparaga gathered in Szparaga’s immaculate historic 1890 home on Chatsworth Avenue to discuss the importance of commemorating the sesquicentennial and why they treasure their hometown.

Flayhart moved to Glyndon 22 years ago seeking someplace with as much history as her family’s Fells Point neighborhood. They scoured Catonsville, Pikesville and midtown Baltimore.

“The house we found in Glyndon was the one we fell in love with,” she said. Her 1889 home came with its original telephone switchboard. She joined HGI and got involved “to be part of the community” she describes as “unique.”

Ziese, retired teacher and 20-year resident, was “instantly welcomed to the neighborhood.” Her involvement, she says, “started with a glass of lemonade on a neighbor’s porch,” echoing the 1898 beginnings of the Glyndon Woman’s Club, originally dubbed the Glyndon Porch Class. Their clubhouse on Butler Road, the former two-room Glyndon School, will be part of the 150th celebration walking tour, led by longtime resident Nan Kaestner.

Ziese laughed when she recalled her first encounter with Glyndon’s Fourth of July parade. As her family sat alone on the parade route, they realized that most of the townspeople were in the parade—illustrating the level of community involvement in a place she sums up simply as “home.”

The tradition will continue at the 150th parade to include the Glyndon Volunteer Fire Department, founded in 1904, one year after the 1895 train station burned down. The original one-bay firehouse still stands at 41 Railroad Ave. The current firehouse on Butler Road includes three bays and five fire and rescue vehicles. In addition to the parade, the fire company will host a train exhibit and a 20th anniversary commemoration of 9/11.

Chief Daniel Bollinger says the firehouse is involved with Glyndon’s community groups “because we’re in this together. And as our future proceeds, we need their support, and they need ours.”

Sue Benson and her family moved from nearby “rural” Arcadia and now revel in the closeness and walkability of Glyndon. “It was delightful from day one, being able to walk to the post office (the community-owned renovated 1904 train station), to restaurants and to Santoni’s—just sitting on your front porch seeing people walk by. In the
country, in a way, we were more isolated.”

Her word? “Love. People love their homes; they love their neighbors. You know, we love our town.”

Szparaga says the Victorian homes, one of Glyndon’s big attractions, keep the community close. She loved her home at first sight. Now, neighbors share contractors and renovation ideas. “It’s really neat when you have projects. Everybody is truly excited about what you’re doing to your home.”

“My big word is serendipity,” she adds. “By chance—I think that’s the whole story of Glyndon.”

Serendipity

From plans diverting the rail route from Reisterstown to Glyndon, to Dr. Leas deciding to turn his farm into a town, and even the town’s name itself (“Glyn” was picked from a hat), Glyndon’s history continues to be influenced by serendipity itself.

Glyndon Lord Baltimore Cleaners is family-owned since the 1940s. Co-owner John Garman is shown. | Photo by David Stuck

At Glyndon Lord Baltimore Cleaners, founded in the 1920s and under current ownership since the 1940s, a chance encounter at the adjacent Glyndon Swim Club (a social hub celebrating 91 years) led to the descendants now running the business. It’s no surprise that office manager Eve Schneer chose “family” to describe the community and loyal Glyndon customers.

Rick (left) and Lou Santoni continue their 90-year-old family business, Santoni’s Marketplace & Catering, which was started in their grandparents’ home in Baltimore. | Photo by David Stuck

“Family” is also how Santoni’s Marketplace & Catering co-owner Lou Santoni described Glyndon. He and his brother Rick are third-generation owners of the business founded 90 years ago by their grandparents in their East Baltimore home. Celebrating 35 years in Glyndon, the market is a busy, integral hub of the “community”—Rick’s word for the tight-knit neighborhood and its residents. Santoni’s will be catering the Emory Grove gala and supplying post-parade refreshments for the sesquicentennial celebration. “It’s been a real relationship with Santoni’s and the community,” he says. “We’re just so grateful. We could be a lot of places, but this is where the good Lord planted us, and we’re just happy we are here.”

Longtime Glyndon business owner Sandi Kroh of Boxwood Collection. | Photo by David Stuck

Sandi Kroh happened upon Glyndon as a location for her shop when a colleague found a space in the majestic 1875 boarding house at the corner of Butler Road and Railroad Avenue. She opened The Boxwood Collection there in 2008 and expanded to 15 Railroad Ave., around the corner, in 2014. Her business survived the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic because of—in a few words—her “special,” “supportive” customers who are the “spirit” of Glyndon.

Susan Seaman of Black Eyed Susan: Coffee, Candy, Cream & More | Provided photo

Next door, Black Eyed Susan owner Susan Seaman chose the Railroad Avenue location because the historic post office, the former rail station, happened to be right across the street from the shop where she ships her Maryland-themed baskets across the country. “To be a member of such an established community, rich in history for 150 years is truly an honor. Generations of families live and vacation (in Emory Grove) here, which makes Glyndon extra special. It’s like living in a postcard!”

Truly, it’s “charming.”

Across town, tucked in the woods at the end of Waugh Avenue, sits Emory Grove, a Methodist camp meeting site chartered the same year Glyndon was founded. Today, 150 years later, it’s one of Baltimore County’s best-kept secrets. Temporary tent cabins were replaced by cabins in the early 1900s, many of which still stand as tiny, peaceful getaways from the modern world bustling an actual stone’s throw away. The stately 1887 Emory Grove Hotel, perched at the entrance to the site, will host a gala on Saturday evening, Sept. 11.

Longtime Glyndon resident Elise Armacost is looking forward to the dance at the hotel, which is only occasionally open to visitors. “Glyndon has a colorful past, and I’m sure the 150th will highlight that,” Armacost says. “But I think this celebration is more important for the way it brings us together as a community and strengthens that bond for future generations.”

Past and Future

Eleanor Taylor and her daughter Nan on the porch of the family’s reconstructed 18th-century home. Taylor, 98, was born in Glyndon. | Photo by David Stuck

At 98, Glyndon native Eleanor Taylor can boast knowing many generations of Glyndonites—after all, she has lived here for almost two-thirds of its 150 years. A former News American reporter, Taylor later penned columns in the former Community Times for four decades that detailed her life and affection for her hometown.

At the end of winding tree-lined Worthington Hill Drive sits Taylor’s historic home. Surprise! It’s not a Victorian; it’s older.

“The Elms,” a 1760 Revolutionary- era home of Francis Scott Key Jr., was saved from decay and the filling of Liberty Reservoir. The Taylor family reconstructed it in 1958. But Taylor was born in one of the grand Victorians on Central Avenue in 1922. She remembers attending the two-room schoolhouse (now the Woman’s Club), especially the candy shop next door. The town blacksmith operated on Railroad Avenue, and Timmy the horse transported the milkman and his wagon. She stakes claim as the first person in the Glyndon pool—enjoying the neighborhood oasis every year since it opened 91 years ago.

Taylor was an integral part of the historic research, planning and organization that culminated in Glyndon’s designation as Baltimore County’s first Historic District in 1981. It made the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

She is a member of the 150th walking tour committee, headed by daughter Nan Kaestner, who will be leading the tour that will include the town’s significant architecture, history and costumed townspeople offering a true “living history” of Glyndon’s colorful past.

“We’ll have actual ‘Glyndon residents’ of days gone by,” Kaestner says. Look for the blacksmith, ladies of the Porch Class and even someone playing the original T. Rowe Price, who was an early Glyndon resident.

For Taylor, her hometown is the “ideal” place for families “and for children to grow up.” She and her five generations of family members are proof of this legacy. “I never wanted to move away. I was very happy here.”

“It’s a really nice multigenerational community,” Kaestner says. “That’s one thing I love about Glyndon.”

But as much as Glyndon embraces its storied past, it also looks to the future. Kaestner is engaging youngsters with activities like a kids scavenger hunt through Glyndon via a geocaching app.

For 11-year-old Matthew Wrzesien, growing up in Glyndon is fun because of its “kind” residents. His favorite spots include Emory Grove, the Glyndon pool, Sunset Slush and Santoni’s. “It takes you back,” his mother Karen says. “It’s very tranquil.”

If you’ve never stopped to explore Glyndon as you whiz down Butler Road, the elegant Victorians a colorful blur, perhaps the occasion of its sesquicentennial will prompt you to slow down and stay awhile. You may even get a small sense of why Glyndonites consider themselves “lucky” to call it “home.”

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