Historical Society of Baltimore County
Logo of The Historical Society of Baltimore County
|Purpose||Collect, preserve, and interpret the history of Baltimore County, Maryland|
|Services||Weekly operating hours: Fridays: noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free for members; $5.00 for visitors. Free assistance for on site research. Fee-based research for off site inquiries.|
|Kathleen M. Barry, PhD|
President, Board of Directors
Vice-President, Board of Directors
|H. David Delluomo|
The Historical Society of Baltimore County (HSBC) was founded in 1959 with the goal of preserving, interpreting, and illustrating the history of Baltimore County for the benefit of present and future generations of Marylanders, allowing individuals to find local and family history resources. As the HSBC describes it, they "continually accomplish" their mission "through the production of presentations, lectures, workshops, entertaining educational publications, historical tours, and exhibits." Centrally located in Cockeysville, Maryland, the Society operates out of the Agriculture Building, the former Baltimore County Almshouse, which was built in 1872 and used to house the poor and mentally ill of Baltimore County until 1958.
A nonprofit organization, the Society maintains a library and research facility. Since 1966, the Society has published History Trails, a county history journal which the Society defines as "semi-academic" and a "popular history publication."
For fiscal years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, HSBC received a $12,000 operating grant from the Baltimore County Executive and Baltimore County Council, which are awarded to "organizations whose programs demonstrate significant impact on the quality of life of Baltimore County residents." In 2018, an African American Heritage Preservation Program Grant workshop, for the Maryland Historical Trust, was held at the HSBC.
The Almshouse Farm Site
Located on Baltimore’s County Home Property, the Historical Society’s campus comprises several buildings of various ages and states of repair. Chief of these is the Almshouse which houses the offices and library. Other buildings are the Pest house, Smokehouse, and Barn.
Constructed of local limestone in 1872, the Almshouse was damaged by a fire in 1919 after which it was rebuilt. The building has been used in several different capacities since 1958 when modern methods of caring for the indigent dictated its closing as a poorhouse. The Historical Society and various county agencies have been located in the Almshouse since 1959. During the Cold War, the Almshouse was used as a fallout shelter; emergency supplies from that era still reside in the basement. The Almshouse was designated a Baltimore County Landmark in 1980.
The Pest House
The Pest House (referring to pestilence) was used to quarantine residents who were ill. The two story building with a slate roof was built shortly after the Almshouse. The exterior is in reasonable condition, but the interior suffers from decades of non-use and vandalism. In 2012, Preservation Maryland placed the Pest House on its list of threatened historic properties. The same year, the Baltimore Sun reported that the 1872 Cockeysville building, "built to house poor people who had communicable diseases" was a "boarded-up structure" but Preservation Maryland was the subject an effort to "preserve it as a center for county African-American history."
The Barn is a modern structure, built on the foundation of a 19th-century barn destroyed by fire in the 1970s. It now house a farm museum, named in honor of Baltimore County Veterinarian Dickinson Gorsuch (1878-1970) whose bequest enabled the establishment of the museum in 1993 .
Objects from the museum collection of 9,000-10,000 items, some of which are not on general display but can sometimes be seen in special exhibitions. There are also hundreds of archival collections.
The Society's library contains 4,000 volumes.
More than 8,000 historic photographs reside in the Society's files.
The Society maintains 9,000 surname files, most of which can be found on-site, which often contain only one spelling of the surname. Also, for genealogists, maps which show the names of landowners and where they homes are located are available. Additionally, on the first Thursday of each month, the HSBC has free Genealogy classes and there are some inscriptions of gravestones.
Part of the 33,000 records are available in a searchable database which has a "Keyword Search", "Advanced Search" and "Random Images button" along with other catalog searches.
The society's over 1900 vertical files on varied topics, library holdings, and photograph collection, are indexed online. Those who visit the society have to pay an entrance fee of $5.00 per visit for those who are non-members, with photocopies being 25 cents a page and a $5.00 fee for capturing images using a digital device or phone.
The HSBC has been a recipient of an award, in 2014, from the Costume Society of America and hosting, in 2009, the friends of Friends of Texas, Maryland. They also held joint events with the Baltimore City Historical Society on [police history and Baltimore's water history. Apart from this, its volunteers have researched a "progressive little town called Warren" submerged under the "waters of Loch Raven Reservoir" and doing genealogical talks.
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- Edward C. Papenfuse, "Water, Water, Everywhere, but is it safe to drink?", Reflections by a Maryland Archivist, Feb 5, 2014.