The news of this extraordinary park finally becoming a reality is one of the best Christmas gifts ever. On Falls Road, just south of our Harper House condo in Cross Keys, the 20-acre park will expand the green spaces that defined the original Roland Park and Cross Keys plans.
Had the bidding for the space gone a different direction—the hillside would have become a massive housing development. The purchase of the park is the result of our local community group’s coming together to purchase the site from the historic Baltimore Country Club (BCC).
Here’s the announcement from the Roland Park Community Foundation:
The park will include athletic courts for tennis, pickleball, and basketball. And a playground, a community garden, walking trails, large athletic fields for soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and softball, a pavilion, an amphitheater and parking lot are to be developed. It will be designed in the style of Frederick Law Olmsted by Morgan State University graduate landscape architect students.
“Hillside Park is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance green space in Baltimore City and protect it as a place to be experienced and enjoyed by the public from across the city forever,” said Mary Page Michel, Chair of the Roland Park Community Foundation (RPCF). “For many years we have worked toward realizing our vision. The pandemic has shown all of us the value of public green spaces and access to nature. By the scope of its fundraising and the perseverance of a dedicated core, this was a collective effort that had all the attributes of a mission.” Most of the large public parks created in Baltimore date to the late 1880s.
Michel added, “When BCC decided to sell the land, I asked if the community could be included. Marty Brunk, the club president, said they would welcome a bid from us, and he kept his word, which we really appreciated. My hope is that this land sale begins a new chapter between the club and the community going forward.”
Sharon Green Middleton, District 6 Councilwoman says, “This outcome is really what I had hoped for in terms of enhancing public access to green space and recreational opportunities in Baltimore City. I applaud the community’s leadership and commitment to this project, and I am truly excited for the future of Hillside Park.”
Hillside Park will be designed in the style of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture and famously known for creating New York City’s Central Park. Making park space welcoming to everyone was a major tenet of Olmsted’s designs. In addition to extensive consulting on park spaces in Baltimore in the early 1900s, the Olmsted Brothers firm was instrumental in the layout and development of the neighborhood surrounding the current area to be known as Hillside Park.
The Village of Cross Keys is a privately owned area of Baltimore, Maryland. It is located off Maryland Route 25 (Falls Road) between Northern Parkway and Cold Spring Lane, and is home to luxury condos and upscale small shops known as The Village.
Baltimore financier and mall developer James Rouse, founder of The Rouse Company, purchased the Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.-designed Baltimore Country Club Golf Course near his Roland Park home for $1,700,000 in 1963. The 5,000-person village was built on the historic property in 1965. Michael D. Spear was the development director, later becoming CEO of the Rouse Company.
Roland Park is a community located in nothern Baltimore City. It was developed between 1890 and 1920 as an upper-class streetcar suburb. The early phases of the neighborhood were designed by Edward Bouton and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.