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The Patapsco Forest Reserve: Establishing a "City Park" for Baltimore, 1907-1941

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Buckley, Geoffrey L.; Bailey, Robert F.; Grove, J. Morgan

Year Published



Historical Geography. 34: 87-108.


In 1897, a contributor to the editorial pages of the Baltimore News informed readers that Baltimore had "but one great park." Rather than lavish praise on Druid Hill Park, however, the editorialist chose to draw attention to the "undeveloped condition" of the city's other parks. After taking the mayor to task for ignoring the problem and accusing the city of "wastefulness, neglect and bad management," the writer concluded: "The parks of our city should be for the people - all the people - not for a particular class, or for those living in a particular district. Park pleasures and benefits should be available to all, and when a city grows as large as Baltimore now is it is self-evident that one park will not do for all. We should have a series of parks adequate to the wants of the people." Over the next ten years, conservationists, civic organizations, and government officials would see to it that improvements were made to the city's parks. In 1902 the city took a critical step when it hired the landscape architecture firm, Olmsted Brothers, to conduct a survey of park resources and to identify potential park expansion sites. In addition to promoting park development within Baltimore City, the firm proposed that the city government purchase "a belt of outlying property" in order to ensure that "the inevitable growth into the suburbs might be properly directed" and that "certain tracts of land in the path of this expansion might be retained for parks." Included in this belt was the Patapsco River Valley (Figure 1). Located in the surrounding counties beyond the city's limits, the Patapsco Valley presented proponents of the Olmsted plan with a unique challenge. To preserve this area would require a successful appeal to a broad spectrum of potential constituencies and cooperation from multiple layers of government.


Buckley, Geoffrey L.; Bailey, Robert F.; Grove, J. Morgan. 2006. The Patapsco Forest Reserve: Establishing a "City Park" for Baltimore, 1907-1941. Historical Geography. 34:87-108.

Last updated on: August 26, 2015