Johns Hopkins opens records of early suburban developer Roland Park Co.

Image caption: The Roland Park Co. kept scrapbooks of its own advertising and sales listings, as well as related real estate news, from 1892 to 1959.

Image credit: COURTESY OF THE SHERIDAN LIBRARIES

The university's Sheridan Libraries have completed processing the Roland Park Co. records, which returned to Johns Hopkins from Cornell University in spring 2010. The records will provide scholars and local residents a "window on the suburbs" and offer an insider's view of the development of north Baltimore. "This collection is a true Baltimore treasure," says Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums. "We are excited for scholars and the general public to explore the materials, and we are extremely grateful to the Council on Library and Information Resources, which provided essential support for the processing of the collection."

An early suburban development, Roland Park was established in 1891 with the goal of providing affordable housing that sat both physically and financially between the row houses of Baltimore City and the estates of Baltimore County. Under the leadership of Edward Bouton, the company's first and longest-serving president, the Roland Park Co. charted new territory in the planning, building, and maintaining of suburban developments in northern Baltimore.

Mary Ryan, the John Martin Vincent Professor of History at Johns Hopkins, says, "The announcement that the Roland Park Co. records are now available to researchers will entice urban historians, students of architecture and planning, and everyone interested in the growth and welfare of American cities. These voluminous and varied records open up a wide window on how cities and suburbs were shaped and reshaped over the course of the 20th century."

The records document the development of not only the local neighborhoods of Roland Park, Guilford, Homeland, and Northwood but other communities in the United States as well.

Bouton referred to his company as "a manufacturing plant in that it takes the raw material of country estates and converts it into the finished product of residential building sites." Every detail of this process—from acquiring land, challenging zoning, and laying out streets to selecting drain pipes, marketing properties, and maintaining the finished neighborhoods—is thoroughly doc­umented in the more than 350 cubic feet of letters, ledgers, reports, scrapbooks, and photographs. From celebrated innovations in landscape and street design to the notorious establishment of restrictive covenants designed to exclude homeownership on the basis of race, religion, and social status, the leaders of the Roland Park Co. helped shape the concept of the suburb. 

Access to the materials is by appointment. Interested individuals can see the finding aid at http://bit.ly/RolandParkCo and can contact the Department of Special Collections at Archives@lists.johnshopkins.edu.

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