History of Edgewood

Indigenous People

For hundreds of years before the arrival of European settlers, the area from the northern Chesapeake Bay up to New York was home to the aggressive Susquehannock tribes. In 1600 the population was estimated as high as 7,000. By 1700 war (mostly among other warring tribes), disease and tribe disbursement had devastated the population to a few hundred. The last remaining Susquehannock people were killed in a 1763 massacre.

English Discovery and Settlement

In 1608 Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) left the settlement at Jamestown, VA to explore the Chesapeake Bay. Exploring the many tributaries of the bay, he discovered several rivers such as the Elk, Susquehanna, North East and Sassafras Rivers. He named the Willoughby River after his birthplace in England (noted as Willowbyes Flu), now known as the Bush River. The Bush River is a 19 mile long tributary to the Chesapeake Bay that traverses the Gunpowder Neck and Bush Neck peninsulas.

In 1624 the English King James I granted land area to Lord Baltimore. This area included present day Delaware, Maryland, parts of Pennsylvania and northern Virginia. The area was divided into large counties; Baltimore county occupied what is now Kent, Cecil, Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties. By the mid 1600s early colonists settled along the water ways and tributaries. The Spesutie Island off Aberdeen was settled in 1658, the mainland in 1661. Additional settlers followed including Captain John Watterson, Colonel James Maxwell, Robert Gorsuch, John Collett, Captain James Gouldsmith, James Presbury and Colonel Charles Sewell or Sowell.

In 1659 the area of Old Baltimore on the Bush River became the de facto county seat of Baltimore. In 1674 a formal authorization declared Old Baltimore (part of present day APG) as the county seat and a court house was built. In 1687 the Old Post Road was built, now known as Route 7 or Philadelphia Rd. With improved land transportation the county seat was moved to the Gunpowder River fork in Joppa. By 1709 Joppatowne, with a population of 300, became the county seat. In 1773 Harford County was formed by splitting Baltimore County, and the Baltimore County seat was moved to Baltimore City and Harford’s county seat was established in Bush, aka Harford Town.

Harford Town

The Bush Declaration was signed in 1775, setting a precedent for the 1776 Declaration of Independence. By 1782 the Harford County seat was moved to Bel Air. The historic Pooles Island Lighthouse was built in 1825 on Pooles Island at the mouth of the Gunpowder and Bush rivers (now part of Aberdeen Proving Ground).

A rail line was built through the area in 1835 (now Amtrak) which improved commerce for the local agricultural economy. A small village was built around the Edgewood train station consisting of small shops and houses. The nearby rail bridge crossing the Gunpowder River in Edgewood-Magnolia was burned during the Civil War in 1864 by the Confederate Major Harry Gilmor, a Baltimore native. The crossing was later rebuilt.

Modern History, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Edgewood Arsenal

Edgewood and Aberdeen were primarily rural agricultural areas until the early 20th century. World War I brought an urgent need for chemical warfare research, testing and manufacturing, and a suitable location was immediately sought. With an act of congress on October 20, 1917, the U.S. Government took possession of the Gunpower Neck and Bush Neck peninsula areas now known as Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG).

Edgewood Post Office circa 1943

Around 1939-1940 Route 40 (Pulaski Hwy) was built through Edgewood. This brought about new development centered around the interstate highway. Restaurants, 1964 Army Housing hotels and commercial interests sprung up. The new 4-lane highway, coupled with the huge war effort during WWII, helped make the Aberdeen Proving Ground base a major center of research & development and troop training. Many dwellings and housing developments were built for the influx of military personnel, some of which are still in use today. The post-WW2 years brought continued development and growth.

The growing population needed quality schools for their children. Many of Edgewood’s schools were built during the 1950’s to 1960’s, which made Edgewood a prime area for large residential developments and shopping areas. In 1963 Interstate 95 opened up just north of Edgewood and Emmorton, creating a new explosion of suburban development. Today much of the land area has been or is being developed into residential neighborhoods, shopping centers, industrial centers and business parks. With little regard given to historical preservation, the few remaining historical sites are concentrated on Old Edgewood Road with a scattering in other areas including APG.

Additional resources: Harford Historical Society, Wikipedia and Google

Known Edgewood historic sites include:

Hotel (site) 2129 Old Edgewood Rd HA-1671 ?
Old Edgewood Post Office 2125 Old Edgewood Rd HA-1672 1930
Store 106 Old Edgewood Rd HA-1673 ???
Tavern (site) 2122 Old Edgewood Rd HA-1674 ?
House 2120 Old Edgewood Rd HA-1675 1942
Store (site) 2118 Old Edgewood Rd HA-1676 ?
Restaurant/Tavern 2131 Old Edgewood Rd 1920
Edgewood Interlocking Tower Amtrak Rail
Hanson Farmhouse 1416 Trimble Rd HA-185 ?
Victorian Lady (Myers, Irene) 710 Edgewood Rd 1830
Bonnie Brae Diner 1301 Pulaski Hwy 1950
Edgewood Diner Rt. 40 and Edgewood ?
White Star Restaurant 2207 Pulaski Hwy 1946

Click map for larger view:
Old Edgewood Road

Edgewood Interlocking Tower

Click for larger view:

Edgewood Interlocking Tower

El Dorado Motel

Pulaski Highway, Edgewood

“All Rooms Luxuriously Furnished in Modern Furniture, BeautyRest Mattresses and with rooms Completely Furnished by Modern House of Baltimore. Fire-Proof Construction with tile showers, Large rooms, cross ventilated. Finest anywhere!”

The motel was built in 1950. While the El Dorado Motel has long been closed, some of the buildings exist to this day. The north building is now the site of Giovanni’s Restaurant Bruno’s Land and Sea Restaurant. The center building, which appears mostly as it did when it was built, is offices and a hair salon, and the south building is a liquor store (BBX Brothers Beverage Exchange).

Motel Edgewood

Rt 40 just north of Edgewood Road

According to county records the Motel Edgewood was built in 1953, 8,536 sq ft on 1.61 acre property. It is still standing and in use today.

Chase Manor Motel

Rt. 40 north of Edgewood Maryland

Just across from the Home Depot, just north of Edgewood (was) the Motel Chase Manor. County records list it being built in 1950, 7,806 sq ft on 1.82 acre property. The motel is closed and demolished, only an empty lot remains.

(Reprinted with permission from Arthur K. Stuempfle, Author)

Edgewood, Maryland encompasses about 18 square miles in the southern part of Harford County. Although Edgewood is home to about 28,000 people (about 11 percent of the County’s entire population), the history of this unincorporated area had not been a subject of much research until the authors of “one of Harford County’s better kept secrets” took on the job of capturing and preserving the heritage of his vibrant community. Over the past 9 years, the authors researched and wrote numerous articles on various aspects of life in Edgewood. These articles have appeared in the Edgewood Community Council Newsletters, the now defunct Southern County Magazine and the Harford Heart Magazine. The authors also wrote the 2012 Images of America book entitled “Edgewood.” This new book traces the history of Edgewood from its earliest days to the present and is filled with interesting highlights. Here are just a few tidbits.

  • The origins of the Methodist Church in America can be traced there.
  • The village of Edgewood grew up around the railroad station quietly created by Isaac Ridgeway Trimble, the Superintendent of Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad, near his summer home. He went on to become one of the famous Confederate Generals of the Civil War.
  • Rich and famous men (such as Grover Cleveland and Daniel Webster) used to come to the area to enjoy its fabulous hunt clubs.
  • Edgewood Arsenal became the epicenter for chemical warfare researching, testing and manufacturing and brought a giant wave of military and civilian personnel from all over the United States to Edgewood. The community developed a unique and rich diversity of cultural and ethnic backgrounds which continues to be one of its major strengths.
  • In 1942, Raymond Lowey, now known as the “Father of Industrial Design” and his firm were hired to design a new train station; its sleek modern distinctive design won praise from Time magazine and Architectural Forum.
  • Edgewood was once the home of the nationally recognized motorcycle raceway.
  • Edgewood has outstanding natural resources including some of the best soil in the County, the largest tract of coastal plain forested wetlands, and habitat for numerous birds and waterfowl.
  • Harford County’s first public park, Flying Point Park, is located in Edgewood.

The authors have put together a historical perspective on virtually all aspects of Edgewood. This book presents in one place historical information about Edgewood’s forefathers, hunt clubs, agricultural and canning history, train station, post office, library, the Southern Precinct of the County Sheriff’s Office, multiple fire companies serving the community, its rather unique siren system, schools, churches, civic organizations, land and wildlife preservation efforts, bird sightings, recreation activities and past pleasurable pastimes, off-post military housing, and other historical topics that don’t fit nicely into broad categories. During their research, the authors interacted with a myriad of people. Many of these people shared their personal stories and memories. The book presents 18 of these personal stories and memories. This book also includes appendices that show (1) the contributions of 64 individuals selected for Edgewood High School’s Hall of Fame as well as other well known people with ties to Edgewood, and (2) an album of old and recent photographs showing businesses in Edgewood. The warm feeling for Edgewood was displayed by the many people who supplied information and photographs for which the authors are most grateful. In short, if you are interested in the terrific community of Edgewood, this is a “MUST HAVE” book for you!