This is a question that has been posed by several Arbutus Patch readers in various ways. One reader wrote:
I'm just a bit curious as to how Rita's is a door or two away from "Sorrento's Of Arbutus" but Rita's is in Halethorpe? East Drive is the main artery of Arbutus and I don't know how it can be considered Halethorpe. The Rita's address for the AVFD fundraiser is listed as Halethorpe. I've lived in Arbutus for 35 years and never thought any portion of East Drive was Halethorpe. As I said, I'm just curious and I am quite possibly wrong about what is Halethorpe and what is Arbutus.
Another reader asked more pointedly,“Why there is a Welcome to Arbutus sign in Halethorpe?”
I’m treading into this against my better judgment. Neither a native nor a professional historian, I’m sure there are people around who are much more knowledgeable about local history. But I spent a little time nosing around and asking questions and near as I can gather, here’s how things went down:
Why is East Drive considered Halethorpe? Because the post office that serves Arbutus is located in Halethorpe. That association has become so deeply ingrained in various postal and telephone databases, and now GPS, that the entire southwest corner of Baltimore County is unfairly painted with the broad brush of Halethorpe.
So where does Arbutus end and Halethorpe begin? Sulphur Spring Road? The I-95 bridge over Oregon Drive?
Arbutus doesn’t exist on an 1877 map of the area that I found at the Arbutus Branch Library. There’s Sulphur Spring Station on Sulphur Spring Road, surrounded by land divided into large tracts. Mrs. Linthicum owned a parcel on Sulphur Spring. The property that became Halethorpe was owned by Dr. and Mrs. W.H.D. Hall and their neighbor Asa Smith.
According to the Baltimore Sun’s estimable Fred Rasmussen, Halethorpe was conceived in 1890 by B&O executive C. R. Varley Myers, who began developing the hilly land with Oregon E. Benson, James Rittenhouse and several others.
“The new community was bounded by the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad (later the Pennsylvania Railroad), Sulphur Spring Road and the mainline tracks of the B&O,” Rasmussen wrote. “Several years later, after Francis Avenue was cut through to Rolling Road, ‘West’ Halethorpe blossomed as a commercial hub with the opening of a grocery store, barbershop, drugstore and cobbler.”
Several familiar streets can be picked out of the 1898 map at the Arbutus Branch Library: Leeds, Linden and Selma Avenue. A row of homes line Linden.
Halethorpe is a comparatively large development of streets between the train tracks and Washington Boulevard. Arbutus is mainly to the west of the tracks, and Halethorpe is mainly to the east.
By 1918, the map looks much different. An electric streetcar line runs down the route that became East Drive. Arbutus has spread much further east of the tracks, and Halethorpe is much more developed as well, including Oak Park and well into Lansdowne.
One thing that is interesting is that the area South of Sulphur Spring Road and West of the train tracks--largely considered Arbutus today--is not labeled on the maps as Arbutus or Halethorpe, but Cowdensville.
Old maps are cool. Spend some time perusing them, as well as other fascinating material on local history, at Arbutus Branch Library.
The "Welcome to Arbutus" sign is located practically in the middle of everything, so that is arguably a reasonable spot. Many people seem to consider the I-95 bridge over Oregon a visual dividing line. Others say Francis Avenue.