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Towson () is an unincorporated community and a census-designated place in Baltimore County, Maryland. The population was 55,197 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat, and the second-most populated unincorporated county seat in the United States (after Ellicott City, the seat in nearby Howard County, southwest of Baltimore).
The first inhabitants of the future Towson and central Baltimore County region were the Susquehannock people who hunted in the area. Their region included all of Baltimore County, though their primary settlement was farther northeast along the Susquehanna River.
Towson was settled in 1752 when Pennsylvania brothers, William and Thomas Towson, began farming an area of Sater's Hill, northeast of the present-day York and Joppa Roads. William's son, Ezekiel, opened the Towson Hotel to serve the increasing traffic of farmers bringing their produce and livestock to the port of Baltimore. He built the hotel at current-day Shealy Avenue and York Road, near the area's main crossroads. The village became known as "Towsontown". The property in West Towson came from two land grants: 400 acre Gott's Hope in 1719, and Gunner's Range in 1706.
In 1790, businessman Capt. Charles Ridgely completed the magnificent Hampton Mansion just north of Towsontown, the largest private house in America at the time. The Ridgelys lived there for six generations, until 1948. It is now preserved as the Hampton National Historic Site and open to the public.
Dr. Grafton Marsh, a surgeon during the war of 1812, and his brother Dr. Josiah Marsh settled their families in a collection of early houses known as Gott's Hope that was part of a group along Joppa Road. They consolidated four of the structures into a larger dwelling that they called "Marshmont". The brothers went into business together as medical practitioners. Neither had any heirs but were joined in practice later by their nephew, Dr. Grafton Marsh Bosley, who eventually inherited the medical practice, the Marshmont compound, and a 140-acre farm. The farm extended west of York Road, south of Joppa Road, north of the Sheppard Pratt Hospital, and east of Woodbine Avenut. In 1869, Bosley and his wife Margaret Nicholson then built a new home in an area of the property known as "Highlands" or "Highland Park", which they named "Uplands".
The ratification of the second Maryland Constitution of 1851 provided for the jurisdictional separation of the former Baltimore Town, founded in 1729. Baltimore Town had served as the county seat since 1767, now the City of Baltimore, since its incorporation in 1796–97 by the General Assembly of Maryland. Several tortured sets of negotiations occurred to divide the various assets of the city and the county, such as the downtown courthouse of 1805, the city/county jail of 1801 along the Jones Falls (at East Madison Street) and the almshouse, which was also jointly owned. After a series of elections and referendums, on February 13, 1854, Towson became the choice of the remaining, now mostly rural, eastern, northern and western portions of the county as the new county seat of Baltimore County, by popular vote.
The Baltimore County Courthouse, still in use by 2015, with its various annexes (and the separate county courts and administrative building), was originally designed by the local city architectural firm of Dixon, Balbirnie and Dixon. It was completed within a year, constructed of limestone and marble donated by the well-known Ridgely family of nearby Hampton Mansion, on land donated by Towson doctor Grafton Marsh Bosley. The courthouse was subsequently enlarged in 1910 through additional designs for north and south wings by well-known and regarded city architects, Baldwin & Pennington. Additional expansions later in 1926 and 1958 eventually created an H-shaped plan for the courthouse. An additional modernistic Baltimore County Courts Building, with room for the new charter government since 1956 and administration of a county executive and county council, plus administrative and executive departments, was erected in 1970–71 across a plaza to the west of the older historic courthouse.
The old Baltimore County Jail was built in 1855, and was later replaced by the 1980s by a new modern Baltimore County Detention Center, north of the town on Kenilworth Avenue, with an addition constructed in the 2010s.
From 1850 to 1874, another notable land owner, Amos Matthews, had a farm of 150 acres (0.61 km2) that — with the exception of the 17-acre (69,000 m2) largely natural parcel where the Kelso Home for Girls (currently Towson YMCA), was later erected — was wholly developed into the neighborhoods of West Towson, Southland Hills and other subdivisions, beginning in the middle 1920s.
During the Civil War, Towson was the scene of two minor engagements. Many local citizens were sympathetic to the Southern Confederate cause, so much so that Ady's Hotel (later named the Towson Hotel) and the current site of the 1920s-era Towson Theatre and currently the Recher Theatre, flew the Southern flag. The Union Army found it necessary to overtake the town by force on June 2, 1861. During the raid, the Union Army seized weapons from citizens at Ady's Hotel. A local paper, in jest, refers to the "strongly fortified and almost impregnable city of Towsontown" and downplays the need for the attack, stating, "the distinguished Straw, with only two hundred and fifty men, has taken a whole city and nearly frightened two old women out of their wits."
The second engagement took place around July 12, 1864, between Union and Confederate forces. On July 10, 1864, a 135-man Confederate cavalry detachment attacked the Northern Central Railway to the north in nearby Cockeysville, under orders from Gen. Bradley T. Johnson, of Frederick, Maryland. The First and Second Maryland Cavalry, led by Baltimore County native and pre-war member of the Towson Horse Guards, Maj. Harry W. Gilmor, of Glen Ellen, attacked strategic targets throughout Baltimore and Harford counties, including cutting telegraph wires along Harford Road, capturing two trains and a Union General, and destroying a railroad bridge in Joppa, Maryland. Following what became known as Gilmor's Raid, the cavalry encamped in Towson overnight at Ady's Hotel, where his men rested and Gilmor met with friends.
The next day, a large federal cavalry unit was dispatched from Baltimore to overtake Gilmor's forces. Though outnumbered by more than two to one, the Confederate cavalry attacked the federal unit, breaking the federal unit and chasing them down York Road to around current-day Woodbourne Avenue, within Baltimore city limits. Gilmor's forces traveled south along York Road as far south as Govans, before heading west to rejoin Gen. Johnson's main force.
Following the war, Gilmor served as the Baltimore City Police Commissioner in the 1870s.
The Towson fire of 1878 destroyed most of the 500 block along the York Turnpike, causing an estimated $38,000 in damage.
During the summer of 1894, the Towson Water Company laid wooden pipes and installed fire hydrants connected to an artesian well near Aigburth Vale. On November 2, 1894, Towson was supplied with electric service through connection with the Mount Washington Electric Light and Power Company.
At the beginning of the century, Towson remained largely a rural community. Land continued to be sold by the acre, rather than as home parcels. Most residences lay within Towson proper: no houses existed west of Central Avenue along Allegheny or Pennsylvania avenues, and there were only three homes along the West Chesapeake Avenue corridor.
In the 1910s, the Maryland State Normal School (now known as Towson University) was relocated to Towson. The Maryland Legislature had established the MSNS in 1865 as Maryland's first teacher-training school, or normal school. The institution officially opened its doors on 15 January 1866, however as time passed enrollment in the school grew exponentially, which rendered the facilities inadequate. In 1910, the General Assembly formed a committee to oversee site selection, budget, and design plans for a new campus, which settled on an 80-acre (320,000 m2) site in Towson. The General Assembly financed the $600,000 move in 1912. Construction then began in 1913 on the Administration Building, now known as Stephens Hall. In September 1915, the new campus, comprising Stephens Hall, Newell Hall, and the power plant, began classes. The college underwent numerous name changes, settling on Towson University in 1997.
As the growth of Baltimore's suburbs became more pronounced after World War II and considerable office development took place in Towson's central core area. Many of the large Victorian and colonial-style residences in the vicinity of the Court House were demolished in the 1980s and 1990s to make way for offices and parking.
In 1839, Epsom Chapel became the first Christian house of worship in Towson, used by various denominations. Due to population growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several churches were built to serve the community, such as Calvary Baptist Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, First Methodist Church, and Towson Presbyterian Church. Epsom Chapel was demolished in 1950 when Goucher College sold a portion of its property for development of the Towson Plaza shopping center, now Towson Town Center. First Methodist Church moved in 1958 to land also acquired from Goucher College, and is now Towson United Methodist Church.
Author Robert Coston, who grew up in the area of Towson now called "Historic East Towson", recalled in an interview the unique African-American history of that area during the mid-century: "I think that the Towson, Maryland area that I am familiar with differs from other parts of Maryland because of the proximity to one of the largest slave plantations in the country. The Ridgely Plantation which owned all of the property from Baltimore County to Baltimore City and other surrounding areas. ...This was a very unique place of which I have never heard of any equal to it. Every African American school age child in Baltimore County had to attend school at some point at Carver in East Towson. ...I realize now that as a youngster the older African Americans avoided talking about slavery or the nearby Ridgely Plantation because they themselves were not too far removed from slavery itself."
Towson is located at 39°23′35″N 76°36′34″W (39.392980, −76.609562).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 14.2 square miles (37 km2), of which, 14.0 square miles (36 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) (1.06%) is water.
The community is located immediately north of Baltimore City, inside the Beltway (I-695), east of I-83 and along York Road. Its census boundaries include Pikesville to the west, Lutherville and Hampton to the north, Parkville to the east, and Baltimore to the south.
Major neighborhoods in Towson include Anneslie, Idlewylde, Greenbriar, Southland Hills, Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh, Wiltondale, Towson Manor Village, Hunt Crest Estates, Knollwood-Donnybrook, East Towson, Loch Raven Village and West Towson. Ruxton, which lies to the west, is sometimes considered a part of Towson. Eudowood is a Towson neighborhood named after Eudocia, the wife of Dr. John T. Stansbury, on whose former estate it is situated.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system Towson has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. High temperatures throughout the year vary between the low 90s in July and August and in the high 30s/low 40s in January; the lows are usually between ten and twenty-five degrees lower depending on the season, with a greater daily variation during the summer.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is headquartered at Suite 1000 at 300 East Joppa Road in the Towson CDP.
As of the census of 2000, there were 51,793 people, 21,063 households, and 11,331 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 3,688.7 people per square mile (1,424.3/km²). There were 21,997 housing units at an average density of 1,566.6 per square mile (604.9/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 86.9% White, 7.53% African American, 0.10% Native American, 3.7% Asian, and 1.9% Hispanic.
There were 21,063 households out of which 23.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.2% were non-families. 36.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the CDP, the population was spread out with 17.4% under the age of 18, 17.5% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 20.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.8 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $53,775, and the median income for a family was $75,832 (these figures had risen to $64,313 and $98,744 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $49,554 versus $38,172 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $32,502. About 2.5% of families and 7.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.8% of those under age 18 and 4.7% of those age 65 or over.
Major roads in Towson include:
The Towson area has several bus lines operated by the Maryland Transit Administration. These include:
Towson also has light rail service to downtown Baltimore and BWI Airport along its periphery via the Lutherville and Falls Road stops, though there are no stops actually in Towson.
Towson University and Goucher College also operate bus services for their students, and the Collegetown Shuttle has several stops in the area.
The Towson Bike Beltway was scheduled to open in June 2014. It will include the addition of bicycle lanes on several major streets encircling the downtown area. The main loop includes Bosley Avenue (which is part of Maryland Route 45 Bypass), Fairmount Avenue, and Goucher Boulevard; these three roads will receive full bike lanes. The rest of the loop, utilizing Hillen Road and Towsontown Boulevard, will receive signage alerting motorists to expect an increase in bicycle traffic on those roads. After this initial construction, several spurs are envisioned to branch from the main loop, with several reaching as far south as the Baltimore city line.
Railroad service began to Towson on April 17, 1882, with construction of the Baltimore & Delta Railway Company, soon renamed the Baltimore & Lehigh Railroad, and later reorganized as the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad. The "Ma and Pa", as it was affectionately known locally, formerly operated between Baltimore and York, Pennsylvania, through Towson. Its passenger station was located just west of York Road on Susquehanna Avenue. Passenger service was discontinued on August 31, 1954, and the railroad line through Towson was finally abandoned altogether on June 11, 1958, leaving only the stone abutments where the tracks crossed York Road on a steel girder bridge. One passenger on the last passenger train recalled that many riders came from as far away as Boston and Washington, D.C., to participate in the historic event, along with members of the National Railway Historical Society. Historic Towson, a local group of history buffs, installed a bronze plaque on the west abutment in 1999, commemorating the defunct railroad's place in Towson's history.
Towson features some of Baltimore County's largest shopping centers as well as other popular venues of interest. These include:
Hampton National Historic Site is operated by the U.S. National Park Service. The home and grounds were formerly the core of the vast Ridgely estate. The site includes the Ridgely's 18th-century Georgian manor house, gardens, grounds, and the original stone slave quarters. The National Park Service offers free admission and guided tours.
Towson Town Center is Baltimore County's largest indoor mall, with four stories of shops and a parking garage. Nearby is Allegheny Avenue, the main street of downtown Towson, with a variety of eateries and stores.
A new outdoor mall, Towson Square, was under construction in 2013. After quick construction, the Square opened in October 2014.
The Shops at Kenilworth, formerly known as Kenilworth Park and also as Kenilworth Bazaar, is a small indoor mall located on Kenilworth Drive.
Towson Place is a major shopping area near Joppa Road, Goucher Boulevard, and Putty Hill Avenue. Built on the site of the Eudowood Sanatarium, the original Eudowood Plaza shopping center was an open mall anchored by Montgomery Ward. Renovated in the early 1980s to an indoor mall and renamed Towson Marketplace, the location was then redeveloped in 1998 as an open-air collection of big box stores and other stores and restaurants, including a Walmart, Target, Marshall's and Bed Bath & Beyond. Towson Place is next to Calvert Hall College High School, a Roman Catholic Lasallian Christian Brothers secondary school which moved in 1960 to its suburban location from its original site, founded 1845 in the city's Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood on Cathedral Street at West Mulberry Street.
Towson University's arena Towson Center and stadium Johnny Unitas Stadium are both main venues for Towson Tiger athletics and other events. SECU Arena, which opened in Spring 2013, now hosts the Towson Tiger Men's and Women's Basketball teams, Women's Gymnastics and Women's Volleyball teams.
Towson University is a public school in southern Towson. Its student population is greater than 20,000, making it the second largest institution in the University System of Maryland. TU is home to the largest business school in the state, with 2,500 students. It was founded in 1866 as the Maryland State Normal School for the training of teachers. Originally the school was located at several sites in the city. It underwent several name changes before moving in 1915 to an expansive campus just south of Towson on the west side of York Road. The administration and classroom structure, later named Stephens Hall, has a cupola in red brick with limestone trim in English Tudor/Elizabethan/Jacobethan architecture style, and was by several other similar campus buildings to the northeast in similar style.
North of downtown Towson is Goucher College, a small private liberal arts school, which was founded in 1885 on St. Paul Street in what was then named Peabody Heights, now Charles Village neighborhood. Originally called The Women's College of Baltimore, it was sponsored by the old Methodist Episcopal Church and its adjacent oldest congregation with pastor John Goucher.
Towson is served by the Baltimore County Public Schools district, and the Baltimore County Board of Education headquarters is located there as well. There are three high schools. Towson High School, founded in 1873, was the first secondary school provided. It is the second oldest in the school system, and Towson's largest, with its most recent stone structure constructed in 1949. Loch Raven High School dates from 1972. The Carver Center for Arts and Technology is a local magnet school and vocational-technical secondary school in a newly constructed building. It was established in 1992 and known as the Central Technical High School. It was renamed for the African-American scientist George Washington Carver (1864-1943), and to remember the previous Carver High School in Towson. That school had served black residents of the county for several decades in the previously racially segregated public school system before the early 1960s, when the suburban county lagged behind fully integrating after the 1954 landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Towson is served by seven public elementary schools of the school district.: Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh, Riderwood, Hampton, West Towson, Pleasant Plains and Cromwell Valley Regional Magnet School of Technology, which serves students from all over Baltimore County.
Towson is served by two public middle schools, Dumbarton Middle School and Loch Raven Technical Academy. Some students are also zoned to attend Ridgely Middle School in Lutherville further north.
Also located in Towson is Ridge Ruxton School, a special education school serving the central area of Baltimore County, including Reisterstown, Owings Mills, Parkville, Cockeysville, and Hunt Valley. The school describes itself as offering "programs for students from three to twenty-one years of age who have been identified as developmentally delayed, intellectually limited, autistic-like, and/or multi-handicapped".
The Towson area has a number of long-established private schools at the secondary school level, including Calvert Hall College High School, Loyola Blakefield, Concordia Preparatory School, and Notre Dame Preparatory School.
In the 1990s Towson was the center of the Towson Glen Arm music and art collective.
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