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Then and Now: The First Lutherville Elementary School

A weekly post featuring historic places in Lutherville-Timonium and how they've stood the test of time.

Lutherville’s first public school is for sale. It’s going for $199,500.

It doesn’t come with desks anymore. From the looks of its listing on Long and Foster’s website, it comes with a lot of knotty pine paneling and built-in shelves, all of which look country-cottage and none of which look scholastic.

It’s been a private residence for about one hundred years now, and for more than the last 50, it’s been lived in and cared for by the Bowie family.

Washington “Wash” Bowie V and his wife, Mary “Macky” Bowie, married in 1946 and raised their three children in the home at 1508 Bellona Ave, before the busy and now dangerous side street was anything more than a sleepy country through-way.

Wash passed away in 2001, and Macky in 2009.

Their daughter, Jane Allan, was too emotional over selling the home to speak to Patch, but Ken Maher, the realtor who is handling the sale, said that Jane tried to give him a little information.

“The house was added onto in the back, two different additions," Maher said. "She thinks the second one was in the 40s, and the first one must have been earlier in this century. That's really all we have. I wish I had more.”

Patch did a little digging, and came up with a discrepancy.

According to the Baltimore County Public Library’s Legacy Web site, the schoolhouse was built in 1877.

According to the real estate listing, and the Maryland Historical Trust’s Inventory of Historical Properties website it was built in 1887, and according to Maryland’s Department of Assessment and Taxation it was built in 1889.

According to the 1967 memoirs of Lydia Berry, the great-granddaughter of Lutherville’s founder, John Morris, it was built in 1883.

That’s a 12-year span of time that remains a mystery.

Berry wrote in her memoir that the schoolhouse “had 70 pupils and two teachers.” The school changed locations in the very early 1900s when, in 1901, the new, two-story schoolhouse was built at the corner of Melancthon, Division and Bellona avenues.

That building today, directly across from the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Department, is now a privately-owned apartment building. But when it was the new school, according to Berry’s memoirs, “there were no lavatories in this building until the early 1920s when the cloak rooms were taken over for this purpose.”

There are plenty of people walking around today who remember going to school in that building, since it was the schoolhouse until the 1950s. However, no one, anywhere, remembers the first schoolhouse and anyone who might have is long gone.

We are left with nothing but documents. Only the walls of the house itself might retain any memories of its long history. The house, shielded from the breakneck pace of Bellona Avenue by large shrubbery and dark screening on its front porch, appears to recede from the street, as it recedes in Lutherville’s memory.

Here’s what Rodd Wheaton wrote in January 1972, when the house was being entered in Maryland’s Inventory of Historical properties:

“A rather typical structure of the schoolhouse genre, the first public school in Lutherville, now extensively remodeled, appears to have been three bays long with two windows flanking a central doorway at the front, low, gabled façade, which has a shed, roofed, one story porch supported on round section Tuscan columns. The addition of modern siding, porch screening and chimney provide a thin veneer over the older structure. The interiors are subdivided for modern residential use, though the high ceilings recall the earlier use.”

Wheaton called it a “rather typical structure of the schoolhouse genere,” while Maher, when writing up his listing June, called it an “unusual two-three bedroom cottage.”

One man’s typical is another man’s unusual? Perhaps that’s the difference between the perceptions of the 1970s and today.

However, both agree on the ceilings. Wheaton wrote that “the high ceilings recall the earlier use,” and Maher wrote that, “very high ceilings and extra large windows remind one of school days.”

susan mink July 24, 2011 at 08:07 PM
A lovely old Lutherville family. Mr. Bowie was usually referred to as Sonny by the adults an I can actually still hear both of them calling me Susu. Mr. Bowie was very involved with the Sunday School at the chapel. He was delightful.

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