HISTORICAL SOCIETY & MUSEUM, Inc.
4 Center Place, Dundalk, MD 21222 410.284.2331
Norwood and Holabird Avenue, like most of Dundalk’s neighborhoods, started as farmland that converted with the advent of industry and the need for suitable housing. In this case, the community was one of the solutions to the growth of not just Bethlehem Steel, but the nearby General Motors and Fischer Body plants, Western Electric, and Camp Holabird.
Holabird Avenue provides much of the industrial history of Dundalk. Until the early decades of the 20th century it was known as Shell Road because it was paved in oyster shells crushed under the wheels of thousands of wagons and lorries that connected Dundalk to east Baltimore. Just near the entrance of Camp Holabird there was a toll gate, used for years to finance the road that finally was paved in the 1930s, along with Broening Highway, making the area much more useful for growing industries.
On July 1, 1919, a dirigible approaching Dundalk exploded and landed in a fiery ball at nearby St. Helena. The explosion shattered windows and shakes houses throughout the Holabird vicinity.
The GM plant started production of automobiles in March 1935 but showed its versatility by changing with the priorities of WWII. The plant became a part of GM’s Eastern Aircraft Division, where a largely female workforce – the model of Rosie the Riveter – excelled at rear bomber assembly. Following the war, assembly remained a priority and much of the facility became Fischer Body. At the peak of production in 1978 over 7,000 United Auto Workers were employed, and over nine million vehicles came off the line before the plant closed in 2005.
Western Electric on Broening Highway contributed to the area by employing thousands of communications workers, while Camp Holabird provided jobs and spawned supporting businesses serving the military population.
The prosperity led to the need for more housing, and gave prospective homeowners the incomes to settle in the area. Norwood and Graceland Park grew accordingly with both brick row homes and single dwellings located on the tree-lined streets of the new neighborhoods.
The homes remain as reliable as the culture of this residential area, where longtime homeowners participate with Patapsco Neck Norwood Recreation Council, schools and churches. Large ball fields hosting a wide variety of sports programs are throughout the area, and residents are just minutes away from shopping and entertainment.
Norwood and nearby Graceland Park also are locations of numerous historic cemeteries. All along German Hill Road and near Delvale Avenue you’ll find the Hebrew cemetery, Workman’s Circle cemetery, Holy Cross Polish National cemetery, St. Michaels’ Ukrainian Catholic Church
cemetery, Holy Rosary cemetery, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Andrews, and Pussville cemetery.
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