Blandair’s North side to be a nature park

The north side (Part 2) UPDATED

Blandair Regional Park comprises three hundred acres straddling MD-175 in the middle of Columbia. The two hundred acres on the north side consists of open meadows, forests and wetlands, as well as a large manor house, barns, and several smaller outbuildings, including a former slave quarters. This land will become accessible to the public once an interchange is constructed connecting the two sides.

This post (with lots of images) describes the upcoming phases to be constructed in the Park, and what it will mean to open up the north side.

Blandair Regional Park

Capital Project N3102 PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE September 11, 2008

The majority of the land is preserved to protect sensitive environmental features such as small streams, ponds, wetlands, forest stands, hedgerows and meadows that will provide quiet places for nature study and contemplation, as well as including approximately five miles of trails and pathways. The pathways will connect with the existing pathway network.

from the Master Plan, Blandair Regional Park (Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR VIEW OF ENTIRE PARK

A small nature center will concentrate on backyard and meadow wildlife, with an observation deck and nature activity room. A Children’s Garden will provide three to four acres of creative child-level and hands-on flower and garden experiences.

from the Master Plan, Blandair Regional Park (Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR VIEW OF ENTIRE PARK

The historic Blandair Mansion will be renovated to provide rooms for meetings, social gatherings and classes, in addition to displaying historic information about the evolution of the agrarian lifestyle of Howard County. The garden/orchard area behind the mansion will be restored as a place to stroll or be seated outdoors.

from the Master Plan, Blandair Regional Park (Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR VIEW OF ENTIRE PARK

The farm’s outbuildings, including a smokehouse, slave cabin, springhouse, tenant houses, three barns, and several small sheds — all clustered in the central farmstead area — will provide actual examples of a working farm’s structures, and an authentic background for historic re-enactments.

from the Master Plan, Blandair Regional Park (Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR VIEW OF ENTIRE PARK

Children’s Garden

Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks has not yet begun planning the Children’s Garden but hopes to begin construction in FY2022.  I think of a Children’s Garden as a different kind of  playground, designed to engage a child’s imagination by exposing them to the wonders of nature.

Herb Schaal of EDAW,  who designed the world-famous Hershey Children’s Garden in Cleveland, developed a concept plan for the Children’s Nature Adventure at Blandair using a slightly different configuration than the Blandair Master Plan.  Thunder Hill Park Alliance, a nonprofit organization, organized Schaal’s four day visit here with funding by The Horizon Foundation.

Conceptual drawing, Children’s Nature Adventure, Blandair Regional Park (Thunder Hill Park Alliance) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR BETTER DETAIL

History of Blandair [Abridged]

by Preservation Howard County

Blandair is an exciting property in many ways, not the least of which relates to the many discoveries still to be made about the history of the home, its outbuildings, occupants, owners and the land itself. Because Blandair has only recently come under the stewardship of Howard County, reclaiming its history from the past is a relatively new undertaking, one that is in process and yielding exciting findings even in its earliest stages.

previous state, Blandair Manor House (from Smugmug)


Blandair Manor House today (by Harry Schwarz)

The earliest record of the site can be found in 1757, when Blandair was part of a larger tract of land that was transferred as the patented “Talbott’s Resolution Manor.” . . . Many of Blandair’s occupants and owners have served in elected political positions and appointments, and thus gained prominence or an historical footnote. They were present at meetings of historical significance and their names were signed on documents that set law and policy for hundreds of years to come.

Theodorick Bland (from Wikipedia)
Manor House, Blandair Regional Park (by Harry Schwarz)

Theodorick Bland, acquired it in 1836. Theodorick Bland served in a number of private and public positions throughout his career, advancing rapidly in Maryland politics. . . . At the top of his profession by 1824, Bland became the Chancellor of Maryland, the highest paying judicial post in Maryland at that time, and one he would occupy under ten Governors, resigning just shortly before his death in 1846. The current manor house, which was extensively repaired after a fire, thought to have occurred in the early 19th Century, is believed to date to the years during which Bland served as Chancellor.

badly deteriorating Seed Barn, Blandair Regional Park (by Harry Schwarz)
badly deteriorating Seed Barn, Blandair Regional Park (by Harry Schwarz)

In the second half of the 19th Century, Blandair . . .[became] a working dairy farm under the ownership of Henry & Emma Stern Brossene . . . . The final private purchasers of Blandair were Mr. and Mrs. Henry Smith, who lived on the farm with their daughter Elizabeth, known to many as Nancy. Miss Smith remained at Blandair throughout her life, not marrying.

Blandair Regional Park (by Harry Schwarz)
Blandair Regional Park (by Harry Schwarz)

When she died in testate in 1996, the property transferred to her two surviving and non-local relatives, both of whom chose to sell Blandair. The most recent and final transfer of the property was to Howard County, Maryland, which purchased the property from the heirs of Elizabeth C. Smith.

Many more pictures of the buildings:

More pictures of the land:

Slave Quarters

by Thomas Reinhart (Maryland Historical Trust), June 2004 [Excerpt]

Documentation suggests 1845 as a date for the quarter’s construction. When Bland was negotiating the purchase of the property in 1844, he noted the necessity “of putting upon the land such new edifices as would be indispensably necessary, of which there are none, that is a Negro quarter, stables, etc.” He had a team of carpenters working on the dependencies after closing the sale.

Blandair Slave Quarters (Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress)

The quarter is an excellent example of mid-19th century slave housing and reflects the “reforms” in design and construction implemented by plantation owners who wished to protect their investment in their slave labor force. During this period, planters began to allocate more money, time, and materials to building slave quarters in order to improve the living conditions.

interior, Blandair Slave Quarters (Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress)

The double-pen quarter measures approximately 12-feet by-32-feet, with a gable roof and a large central brick chimney. . . .  The first floor is divided into two rooms by the central chimney stack with passage on either side. Each room has an exterior door, two windows, and a fireplace. A stairway from each room leads up to a separate room on the second floor, but only the south stairway survives.

Blandair Slave Quarters drawing (Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR ENLARGED VIEW

From Heritage Matters, National Park Service:

Phasing Plan, Blandair Regional Park

An interchange is planned for construction FY 2020 – 2021 that will connect the two sides and open the north side to the public. According to the plan, Oakland Mills Road will then be closed on the west side of the park.

Overall Site Plan, Phase J, Blandair Regional Park (Howard County Dept. of Public Works) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR ENLARGED VIEW


Rendering of Blandair overpass at MD-175 (Howard County Dept. of Public Works)

The Blandair Park Phasing Plan shows Phase 1 and 2 complete, with Phase 3 now under construction. Efforts to rehab the Manor House and stabilize the other historic structures (Phase H) are already underway. Subject to funding, the Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks hopes to begin construction in FY 2022 of Phase 4 on the north side, consisting of basic infrastructure, landscaping the festival lawn, and developing a Children’s Garden. Phase 6 on the south side, consisting of indoor courts and a skate park, may also be constructed at this time.

Phasing Plan, Blandair Regional Park (Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks). CLICK ON IMAGE FOR ENLARGED VIEW


To see the south side (Part 1):



The future of the Columbia Flier Building is uncertain

The Columbia Flier Building is iconic in Columbia, for its unique design by architect Bob Moon, and as the home of the Columbia Flier and Howard County Times for 33 years. Located on Little Patuxent Parkway just down from Howard Community College, the building went on sale in 2012.

With its open floor plans and zoned work areas, some considered it a perfect site for the Howard County Nonprofit Center being planned at the time. Instead, Howard County purchased the building in 2014 during the Ulman administration for the future home of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, an initiative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

County Executive Kittleman nixed the plan shortly after he was elected in 2015, finding that renovations would cost approximately $7.2 million, almost three times the purchase price. The property has now been identified as a potential site for construction of affordable housing.

Here’s a close-up look at the building, and a glimpse at its history.

Former Columbia Flier Building for Sale [Excerpt]

by Sara Toth (Columbia Flier), July 13, 2012

Main Entrance, Columbia Flier Building (Cushman & Wakefield)

The building, which housed the Columbia Flier and its parent company, Patuxent Publishing, until 2011, opened in 1978 after two years of planning and construction. The Baltimore Sun Co. which is now owned by Tribune Co., purchased Patuxent and the Flier building in 1997. The building has been vacant since February 2011, when the Columbia Flier and its sister publication, the Howard County Times, moved to a suite of offices on Sterrett Place, in Columbia.

Earlier this week, Columbia architect Bob Moon, husband of the newspaper’s then-managing editor Jean Moon, said he designed the iconic building with a vision of youth. Continue reading The future of the Columbia Flier Building is uncertain

Get to know some of the Unite the Right rally participants and sympathizers

As a society, racism and the belief in white supremacy is deep in our DNA. It can be said that Christopher Columbus was the father of white supremacy in the Americas. The Civil War hardly extinguished this feature of the American psyche. Most of the monuments to the confederacy were erected in the early 1900s and following passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As in the Civil War, the alt-right are our brothers and sisters, fellow Americans. THEY watch the same movies, participate in the same sporting events, go to the same restaurants as WE. They’re part of us.

And President Trump has given legitimacy to their platform. If the main-stream press is fake news, then the reports here must be what the President believes. We can only be a better country if we understand something about this illness that afflicts our body politic.  Here is a glimpse of some of the supporters of the Unite The Right Rally in Charlottsville, Va. on Saturday, August 12th; and an organization at the forefront of monitoring some 1,600 hate and extremist groups operating in this country.

Battle of Charlottesville: A Firsthand Account

by Lee Rogers (Daily Stormer),  August 13, 2017 [ABRIDGED]

I wanted to give everyone my first hand account of what I saw while everything is still fresh. The one thing I will say is that everything I’m seeing reported in the Jewish media about what happened yesterday is a lie. There’s nobody giving an accurate account. All I’ve seen is an endless parade of non-Whites and Jews spewing nonsense. I’ve yet to see a single person on any of the big cable news channels interview a single person from our side.

Here’s what really happened. At around 9 AM many of us began assembling at McIntire Park which is a short distance away from Lee Park. As we walked to [Lee Park] we were confronted by all sorts of degenerates. Continue reading Get to know some of the Unite the Right rally participants and sympathizers

You know these Baltimore sites — in postcards from about 1912

I’ve collected postcards since I was a kid. Friends and family gave me postcards, I scrutinized every card , then organized them in myriad ways.  They were a glimpse at a world beyond my own.

On a rainy day, it’s a wonderful pastime to explore the world in my postcards. Today they show history.  Here are some cards of familiar Baltimore sites, from a souvenir portfolio from Union News Company.

Continue reading You know these Baltimore sites — in postcards from about 1912

Our car-centric culture endangers people and our planet

We allocate an awful lot of space to accommodate the automobile and they are a major cause of global warming. To create a sustainable future, we will need to lessen our dependence on cars and develop alternative means of transport. 

Howard County is beginning to build this future with consideration of  public transportation, development of bike trails, and implementing shared usage of roads. Columbia is grappling with the same issue as we plan for downtown development and rejuvenation of our village centers.

The United States had a very different infrastructure about 100 years ago, until cars took over the roads. How we became a car-centric nation, and what it might look like to share our roads and encourage alternatives to the car are the subject of these articles.

Howard County Complete Streets Policy (DRAFT – October 2016)

Vision: “To ensure that Howard County is a place for individuals of all backgrounds to live and travel freely, safely, and comfortably, public and private roadways in Howard County shall be safe and convenient for residents of all ages and abilities who travel by foot, bicycle, public transportation or automobile, ensuring sustainable communities Countywide.” – Allan H. Kittleman, Howard County Executive, Council Resolution 35-2016.

Scope:  The County shall approach every transportation improvement and project phase as an opportunity to create safer, more accessible streets for all users of all ages and abilities, including people who walk, bike, take the bus, and drive cars and trucks. These phases include, but are not limited to: planning, programming, design, right-of-way acquisition, subdivision and land development, new construction, construction engineering, reconstruction, operation, repair, and maintenance. This applies to both new and retrofit projects.

When city streets were a public space

By Nov. 4, 2015

Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side
Hester Street, 1914 Manhattan, Lower East Side

It’s strange to imagine now, but prior to the 1920s, city streets looked dramatically different than they do today. They were considered to be a public space: a place for pedestrians, pushcart vendors, horse-drawn vehicles, streetcars, and children at play.

“Pedestrians were walking in the streets anywhere they wanted, whenever they wanted, usually without looking,” Norton says [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City]. During the 1910s there were few crosswalks painted on the street, and they were generally ignored by pedestrians.

As cars began to spread widely during the 1920s, the consequence of this was predictable: death. Over the first few decades of the century, the number of people killed by cars skyrocketed.

As deaths mounted, anti-car activists sought to slow them down. In 1920, Illustrated World wrote, “Every car should be equipped with a device that would hold the speed down to whatever number of miles stipulated for the city in which its owner lived.”

The November 23, 1924, cover of the New York Times shows a common representation of cars during the era — as killing machines. (New York Times)

The turning point came in 1923, says Norton, when 42,000 Cincinnati residents signed a petition for a ballot initiative that would require all cars to have a governor limiting them to 25 miles per hour. Local auto dealers were terrified, and sprang into action, sending letters to every car owner in the city and taking out advertisements against the measure.

Most notably, auto industry groups took control of a series of meetings convened by Herbert Hoover (then secretary of commerce) to create a model traffic law that could be used by cities across the country. Due to their influence, the product of those meetings — the 1928 Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance — was largely based off traffic law in Los Angeles, which had enacted strict pedestrian controls in 1925.

Ultimately, both the word jaywalking and the concept that pedestrians shouldn’t walk freely on streets became so deeply entrenched that few people know this history. “The campaign was extremely successful,” Norton says. “It totally changed the message about what streets are for.”

[For more on the auto industry’s campaign to assure that cars had primary use of roads, read the whole article at the link below.]

Murder Machines: Why cars will kill 30,000 Americans this year

by Hunter Oatman-Stanford (Collectors Weekly), March 10, 2014

“If a kid is hit in a street in 2014, I think our first reaction would be to ask, ‘What parent is so neglectful that they let their child play in the street?,’” says Norton [Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City].  In 1914, it was pretty much the opposite. It was more like, ‘What evil bastard would drive their speeding car where a kid might be playing?’ That tells us how much our outlook on the public street has changed—blaming the driver was really automatic then.”

1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)
1909 Cartoon (Library of Congress)

As cities attempt to undo years of car-oriented development by rebuilding streets that better incorporate public transit, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian needs, the existing bias towards automobiles is making the fight to transform streets just as intense as when cars first arrived in the urban landscape.

“The fact that changes like redesigning streets for bike lanes set off such strong reactions today is a great analogy to what was going on in the ’20s,” says Fried. “There’s a huge status-quo bias that’s inherent in human nature. While I think the changes today are much more beneficial than what was done 80 years ago, the fact that they’re jarring to people comes from the same place. People are very comfortable with things the way they are.”

The U.S. Ended Up Much More Car-Dependent Than Europe

Between the 1920s and 1960s, policies adapting cities to car travel in the United States served as a role model for much of Western Europe. But by the late 1960s, many European cities started refocusing their policies to curb car use by promoting walking, cycling, and public transportation. For the last two decades, in the face of car-dependence, suburban sprawl, and an increasingly unsustainable transportation system, U.S. planners have been looking to Western Europe.

The numbers show the need for change. In 2010, Americans drove for 85 percent of their daily trips, compared to car trip shares of 50 to 65 percent in Europe. Longer trip distances only partially explain the difference. Roughly 30 percent of daily trips are shorter than a mile on either side of the Atlantic. But of those under one-mile trips, Americans drove almost 70 percent of the time, while Europeans made 70 percent of their short trips by bicycle, foot, or public transportation.

How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths

by Mark Wagenbuur, who blogs at BicycleDutch

[The Dutch became a car-centric nation similar to the United States, but then they chose a different road.]. 

Featured image at top of post

From Greater Aukland (2014) –