villa nova history
There is no specific history of Villa Nova. The following is compiled from “A History of Lochern,” by Arthur Mormann,” “Olmstead’s Sudbrook,” by Beryl Frank and from personal recollections of various Villa Nova residents including Carl Jewell, Margaret Koppleman, Joan Alston and Bob Landau.
In the 1850’s Liberty Road, a two lane dirt pike, was the main road for farmers and tradesmen as far away as Libertytown to bring their produce to and from Baltimore City. There was a gunpowder mill on the Gwynns Falls Run at about what is now Essex Road.
During the Civil War, in order to protect the gunpowder mill and the U.S. arsenal in Pikesville (now the MD State Police Barracks) from Confederate raiders, the U.S. Army set up a camp in the fields near Liberty Road. The road leading to this camp became known as Campfield Road. After the Civil War ended, a number of horse drawn railroads sprang into existence, one of which the Baltimore and Randallstown Horse Railroad ran from Garrison out Liberty Road to the 6 Mile House where Buckingham Road meets Liberty Road today.
In the late 1880’s, Sudbrook Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. – founder of landscape architecture in America and designer of New York’s Central Park, was developed primarily as a summer resort, “suburban village,” for Baltimore’s social set.
By 1910, it was necessary to pave Liberty Road because of the increased traffic and in 1922, a trackless trolley was instituted from Gwynn Oaks Junction to Randallstown (Milford Mill Road), a distance of 6.3 miles. The fare was seven cents. This line was replaced by gas-engine buses in 1932.
In 1910, the Richard Cook Co. (Walter and Richard Cook) purchased a large tract of land, named it Villa Nova, and in 1920, started selling lots capitalizing on their large size on which impressive homes could be built at low prices – lots 62 x 250 were sold for $750. He showed lots of 50 x 125 selling for $1,000 to $5,000. 3900 Buckingham Road was one of the first homes built. During that time, only the “social set” could afford the transportation cost from the city and Villa Nova was set to become the next Sudbrook Park.
In 1933, Villa Nova had about 20 houses. The nearest food shopping was at Liberty Road and Garrison Blvd. or in Pikesville. The only gas station on Liberty Road was at Patterson Avenue. If you needed a prescription filled, you either went to Gwynn Oaks Junction or Fields in Pikesville which closed its doors in 2012. There was a hog farm at Essex and Liberty Roads. Most residents kept chickens to eat their garbage as there was no trash service. Water was from wells and there was a horse trough at Buckingham and Rockridge Roads (Rockridge was only paved from Essex to Bedford Roads.) During a drought one summer, all the wells ran dry. Carl Jewell, who had lived in Villa Nova since 1933, paid to have his well dynamited which cracked a stone in the well resulting in a gusher that supplied the whole neighborhood. By 1940, there were about 42 residents in Villa Nova.
Before World War II, growth was slow. After the war, public water supply and sewage service was installed and the area expanded rapidly. Liberty Road was paved all the way to Frederick, Maryland.
In 1948, Milford Mill High School opened; in 1953, Campfield Elementary School was built; in 1958, Sudbrook Middle School opened; in 1960, Randallstown Public Library opened; in 1962, Bedford Elementary School opened and to accommodate the new school and ease traffic, Campfield Road was extended from Campfield Place to Sudbrook Road.
In 1972, Hurricane Agnes struck, flooding the whole Gwynns Falls streambed. The water was so high on lower Buckingham Road that one family, which had retreated to the attic to escape the rising waters, had to be rescued by cutting through their roof. The famous burlesque entertainer, Blaze Starr’s house was completely under water and boats were going over her chimney. For years after, people used metal detectors to the area looking for her jewelry that had been lost in the flood. (She kept her furs in the washing machine for safety).
There was a long clean up period after the flood waters receded. Constant attention had to be paid to the activities of Baltimore County at this time. Finally, the county government realizing that they should never have allowed building on the flood plain and that it would be enormously expensive to attempt to protect the area from future flooding, foresightedly decided to offer the homeowners the option of either moving their existing homes to higher ground or buying them. The area was named the Villa Nova Park of the Gwynns Falls Trail (Queen Anne Road from Essex Road to Villa Nova and Prince George Road from Villa Nova Road to Buckingham Road).
A temporary bridge was put in place after Hurricane Agnes had destroyed the original one. This bridge was the victim of an overloaded bus and Buckingham Road was closed to traffic for several years.
In 1994, the Villa Nova Citizens on Patrol was formed and the 4200 block of Buckingham and Bedford Roads were added to the Villa Nova community.
After much community political pressure, the Buckingham Road bridge was reopened in 1995. In the next two years, the park area around Prince George and Buckingham Roads was developed as a community meeting place. The Park was enhanced with the installation of plantings, a park bench, a memorial plaque honoring veterans and the flagpole.
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