Castle Thunder, the original home of Mary “Polly” Carroll, daughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence), and her husband Richard Caton, was built in 1787 along the Frederick Turnpike. The land belonged to Charles Carroll who had commissioned his son-in-law to develop a plot of land along the Frederick Turnpike just east of the colonial period “rolling road”.
Catonsville was established during the 1830s-1840s on the high ridge between Baltimore and Ellicott City. The main portion of the town faced the Turnpike and became a convenient stopping point for teamster’s wagons and stagecoaches after making the long uphill climb out of the Patapsco Valley from Ellicott City on their way to Baltimore.
By the 1860s the community had a well-developed business district along the Turnpike. The Turnpike became Frederick Road which in turn became a part of the National Road. At the same time, because of the town’s location on the high ridge, the cool breezes during the summer became a large attraction to wealthy Baltimoreans. Large country estates and summer homes soon surrounded the business district. Many of these mansions can still be seen today nestled among newer housing developments built on old estate grounds.
In 1884, the Catonsville Short Line Railroad was completed to carry passengers from the City to their summer homes. In 1895, the Frederick Road Horse Car Line (Number 8), was electrified and the Catonsville Short Line passenger service was overshadowed by the new trolley transportation system. The Short Line Railroad however stayed operational hauling freight until Hurricane Agnes wiped out parts of its trackbed in 1972. Catonsville Rails-To-Trails (CRRT) is currently creating a hiking/biking path system along the old Numbers 8 and 9 Trolley lines and the Catonsville Short Line Railroad right of way.
- Winters Lane Historic District in Catonsville, is a historically African-American community located between Frederick Road and the Baltimore National Pike. Its endurance 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.
- Hilton Mansion, one of Catonsville’s original estates, was recently remade into a student center off Campus Drive at the Community College of Baltimore County. Built between 1828 and 1835, the mansion took its current form after George Knapp, director of the National Enameling and Stamping Co., purchased it in 1917 and hired Baltimore architect Edward Palmer to renovate it in the Georgian Revival style. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places
- Lurman Woodland Theatre is an outdoor community amphitheater located in Catonsville that hosts free concerts every weekend in June, July and August within a beautiful, naturally wooded setting.
- Spring Grove was founded in 1797 and is the second oldest continuously operating psychiatric hospital in the United States. Located on a scenic 200-acre campus in Catonsville, the center is owned and operated by the State of Maryland.
- Victor Bloede, a graduate of Cooper Institute and resident of Catonsville, was best known for inventing and patenting the glue used on postage stamps. He also owned the Caton Spring Company, the Patapsco Light Company (powered by the Bloede Dam on the Patapsco River), and the Edmondson Avenue Catonsville & Ellicott City Electric Railway. His home, Arden, was built in 1898. It was located in Eden Terrace, a community developed in the late 1890s by Eden Construction Company, which was owned by Bloede. It burned in 1922.
Ilchester… a nearby site of note
The milltown of Ilchester and the Thistle Manufacturing Company were located along the east bank of the Patapsco River between Ellicott City and Catonsville. The Thistle Factory and its surrounding milltown were founded by George and William Morris brothers from Scotland. Unlike nearby textile manufacturers, the Company wove a cotton fabric. The cotton duck was perfect for making sails needed in the Baltimore shipyards. In the 1920s, the Company shifted production to weaving treads for automobile tires. In 1928, the facility was acquired by a paper manufacturer. Simkins Mill took over the facility in 1957. Fires in 2003 and 2009 severely damaged the mill and in 2013 remnants were demolished and removed. The vacant site is visible along the Baltimore County bank of the Patapsco River at the bridge in Ilchester.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) was built through through Ilchester in 1830. George Ellicott, Jr. (grandson of Andrew) built a tavern and shop along the railroad. Ilchester did not however become a major stop for the B&O due to its steep grades and the tavern was unsuccessful. In 1842, mail service was started with the station name “Illchester Mills”.
Ellicott sold his tavern and 110 acres of land to a Redemptorist church order in 1866. The church used the Ellicott estate to start a college, initially called Mount Saint Clemens when it opened in 1868. Several additions to the original building were made, and a chapel was constructed. In 1882 it was renamed Saint Mary’s College. In 1893 the chapel was established as a parish church dedicated to “Our Lady of Perpetual Help”. The parish moved the church to a new facility in 1958. Enrollment at the college declined, and the college was closed in 1972. The State of Maryland purchased a portion of the campus in 1987 and added the land to adjacent Patapsco Valley State Park.
Additional informational resources:
- Catonsville 1880 to 1940, From Village to Suburb by Joseph Arnold and Ed Orser
- Catonsville – Images of America by Marsha Wight Wise.
- Catonsville Historical Society
- Catonsville Rails to Trails
- Catonsville at the Turn of the Century Baltimore County Public Library-Digital Maryland
- It All Started on Winters Lane by Louis Diggs
Preserve. Protect. Interpret. Restore.
The Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Inc. is dedicated to preserving, protecting, interpreting and restoring the environment, history and culture of the Patapsco Valley between Daniels and Elkridge, Maryland.
Natural processes, natural beauty, and history combine to create a unique opportunity for neighboring residents and visitors from across the state and beyond, to understand and enjoy Maryland’s most dramatic river valley. Through the efforts of many partners, the public appreciates the significance of the valley’s heritage, understands its history, and enjoys the experience it has to offer.