Greg Alexander

Solid as a Rock

Mason-Dixon Arrive, May 2006

In celebration of its 300th anniversary, a walking tour of historic Rockland Village in Baltimore County will be held on May 20 as part of the Maryland Home and Garden Pilgrimage. Rockland Village – the oldest continuously inhabited mill village in America – was first inhabited by the Susquehannock Indians and was surveyed in 1660. In 1706, Richard Gist had 200 acres surveyed and patented as “Turkey Cock Hall,” which remains today. The tour will include the Rockland Grist Mill, Stone Row (a group of eight four-story stone houses built between 1820-1830), several historic homes along Falls Road and Stone Mill Road and the Rockland Tavern, which in 1950 was converted into a single residence and is now the home of Thomas Bruggman and his wife, Julie. Bruggman, a 26-year resident of Rockland Village, is co-chairperson for the Rockland Village tour.

“My first memory of Rockland Village was riding in a 1957 banana-colored Ford station wagon with my mother on the way to school,” says Bruggman. “I saw Rockland Village, and it looked like a place where the pilgrims still lived,” he laughs. “Years later, my dancing instructor – who knew the Johnson family, owners of the Rockland Tavern since 1710 – told me about the Tavern and that it may be available for me to buy,” says Bruggman, who bought the Tavern in 1979. The Rockland Tavern originally served as two separate residences for the village, and the two structures were first connected by an open courtyard that was enclosed in the 1930s by William Fell Johnson and used as the great room of the community tavern. Bruggman renovated the Tavern in 1994, built a log cabin behind the house and a small stone fish pond and achieved National Landmark status for the house, as well as the blacksmith shop across the street that he bought and renovated. Bruggman says that while his 15-month-old son is the youngest inhabitant of his house, the oldest is a ghost named Oscar.

“As the second owner of the Rockland Tavern, I do feel a sense of responsibility to the Johnson family and the village,” says Bruggman, whose sister also lives in Rockland Village.

Another highlight of the tour is the Valley Inn, where tour attendees can enjoy lunch. Located on the grounds that served as the finish line for the 1897 Maryland Hunt Cup, the Valley Inn was built in 1830 and was the first railroad passenger depot in America. Celebrities such as Clark Gable, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Alfred G. Vanderbilt dined at the Valley Inn. Rockland Village has seen its share of notables, including Marilyn Monroe and three presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Bruggman says that proceeds from the Rockland Village tour will go toward restoring the neighborhood’s spring-fed, Art Deco swimming pool built in the 1920s by H. L. Mencken’s brother.

“The tour will allow people to see the village in a way that you might not see otherwise,” Bruggman says. “We hope to use Rockland Village as a tool to help support the preservation of all historic properties.”

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