Though Glyndon, Md., has more new homes than old, the town is mindful of its history. Graced with a number of stately Victorian homes and an old railroad station restored as a post office, its historic district retains a 19th-century charm. For the most part, however, the town is learning to blend the new with the old.
Founded in 1879 as a rural getaway for Baltimoreans escaping the summer heat, Glyndon, a town of 1,200 residents just north of the city, has evolved into a busy suburban enclave, complete with its own shopping center. But just off the town’s well-traveled main street lies a neighborhood—a hamlet really—seemingly untouched by modern life.
Emory Grove is a summer community captured in time, where a walk down narrow tree-lined lanes recalls a less complicated world. Originating in 1870 as a 200-acre Methodist camp meeting site—pre-dating Glyndon by nine years—Emory Grove drew hundreds of Methodists from across the region. They came by horse, by streetcar (from Baltimore), or by way of the Western Maryland Railroad—then set up tents, or stayed in one of the grove’s hotels for two weeks of worship and fellowship.
“The people came and lived in tents. Some started to build cottages on the land where their tent was. I think 1905 is our earliest,” says Robert J. Jones, president of the Emory Grove Association and author of A History of Emory Grove, 1868-1998.
During camp meetings, the schedule at the outdoor Tabernacle included prayers at daybreak and preaching and other activities into the evening. When the church ended its relationship with the hamlet in 1882, the Emory Grove Association of Baltimore took over, retaining the original religious mission.
By the 1930s, the wooded grove held a neatly laid out cottage village where folks came to enjoy the solitude. “People started living there longer periods of time, in anticipation of the camp meeting, and I guess relaxation after the camp meeting period,” Jones says. “Eventually it became a whole spring and summer thing.”
Today, 46 cottages, the Tabernacle, and a hotel remain on 60 acres, loved by generations of families and friends who have maintained Emory Grove as a slice of life from another century. And inside each unique, clapboard cottage is a story.
Marjorie Hardwick Jones came to the grove as a child in 1921. “Our families came and stayed through September because it was so hot in Baltimore. You wouldn’t believe how cool it gets here at night. My father and most of the men worked in Baltimore, so they would walk to Glyndon station in the morning and go to work and come back on the train,” she says.
Marjorie’s cousin, Carrie Elizabeth Sandlass Clifford, the cottager with the most longevity, first came in 1918. “I’m 83, and I’ve been here for 83 years. I thought Emory Grove was heaven on earth. I used to cry when I had to go home,” she says with a smile.
Mary Hedeman has spent 70 summers at Emory Grove. “It’s quiet and peaceful, that’s what I like about it. Going to sleep at night with all the night sounds, waking up with the birds,” she says.
While most of the cottagers are now seniors, new blood has come to Emory Grove. Many hope young family members and newcomers will keep Emory Grove alive, keep it from becoming just a relic of another time, like faded photographs from its lively, vigorous past.
Over the years, the association and its members have worked hard to keep the grove from fading. Roads were resurfaced in 1976, a new water system was installed in 1989, and the 124-year-old Emory Grove Hotel is intact, open for occasional tours and before Sunday services.
“Emory Grove is like a static spot in history, something that has an unchanging feeling,” Robert Jones says. “It’s (out of place) in this day and age. And even though we don’t have a lot of people using their cottages the whole summer, there’s never been any difficulty in having people support the place.
“In that sense,” he says, “it’s invulnerable.”