County Buildings "Next-Door" to the Headquarters
of The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc.

Written February 2005, Last updated February 2010

I. The Historic Board of Education Building

Part of the Central Office of Harford County Board of Education Building, located behind The Headquarters of The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc. (HSHC) on 45 East Gordon Street, Bel Air, was the first brick public school building in Harford County. (1) The closest part of the building to Gordon Street, left below, was the first part of the building, built in 1882. It had four classrooms, no artificial lighting but a very large amount of window space, was two stories tall with a stairs on the front, and had no central heating. It was heated with stoves. A mirror image of four classrooms was added in 1897, and the south wing was added in 1910-1911.

Photograph of  Old Central Office of the Harford County Board of Education
The Old Central Office of the Harford County Board of Education
Photographed in February 2005

Before the Old Board of Education Building was built, students attended a one-room schoolhouse across Main Street from the Headquarters of the HSHC. (2) This wooden building was erected in 1867 at which time nearly all schools in the County were one room with a single teacher. (3) The public school teachers handled students at a variety of ages and levels of education and were only accountable to the Board of Education. As a result, there was little supervision of the teachers because the Board members lacked the time to travel to the many schools. (4)

The Gordon Street Board of Education Building was originally called the "Bel Air Academy and Graded School" due to the fact that the old Bel Air Academy on Pennsylvania Avenue was absorbed into the public school system. (5) Originally, the Old Board of Education Building housed all students above grade 3. In 1907, it and Bel Air Academy on Pennsylvania Avenue became the Bel Air High School. In 1924, it became Bel Air Elementary School. In 1951, it became the Central Office of the Harford County Board of Education. Early in 2006, the Board of Education moved to a new 73,000 square foot A. A. Roberty building at 102 South Hickory Avenue, Bel Air, consolidating the Board of Education staff into a single building. (6)

In November of 2006, the Harford County Board of Education decided unanimously to keep possession of the 0.79-acre parcel of land and demolish the Historic Board of Education Building. (7) This was decided in spite of protests from the community that at least the oldest portion be saved. Members of the Board were: Mark M. Wolkow (Pres.), Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. (Vice Pres.), Ruth R. Rich, Patrick L. Hess, Lee Merrill, John L. Smilko, and Salina M. Williams. The Superintendent of Schools was Jacqueline C. Haas (8). After a meeting with Ms. Haas in January of 2007, the County Executive, David Craig, tentatively proposed saving the building and using it for a small number of troubled and at-risk high school students. (9)

In August 2008, the Harford County Board of Education, the County Executive, David Craig, and Bel Air Commissioner, Robert Preston, signed a memorandum of understanding to preserve the pre-1912 portion of the building. (10,11)

Photograph of  Old Central Office of the Harford County Board of Education
The Old Central Office of the Harford County Board of Education
Photographed in December 2012

II. The Proctor House

The Proctor House, 54 East Gordon Street, has received a lot of attention over many decades. It is on the National Register, and Bel Air Landmark List; and it has been written about in many publications. (12 to 16) According to Marilynn Larew "the Proctor House marks a turning point in Bel Air styles, from quasi-classical to the quasi Victorian . . ." She also claims that the Proctor House ". . . is the first house built to a National style. It is a Gothic Cottage, a style rare in the county and relatively so in the nation."

Photograph of Proctor House
Proctor House, Photographed in February 2005

It was built in 1865 and added onto in 1884. Its interior has been left relatively unchanged and is still in good condition for restoration. In 1965, it was purchased by the Harford County Board of Education and used for offices. In March 2006, the Board Of Education declared it surplus and returned ownership to the County. (17) In February 2008, The Aegis reported it as town property being considered as office space or a bed and breakfast. (18) In January 2010, Kelly Financial Group, LLC received a $100,000 tax credit to convert it into office space to supplement their office next door. The exterior of the Proctor house was not changed. (19, 20)



Citations
  1. Larew, M., Maryland Historic Trust, Inventory Form for State Historic Site Survey, HA-1409, Bel Air Academy and Graded School, Town of Bel Air, August 2, 1979.
  2. The Aegis, page C5, August 1, 1974.
  3. Rigdon, W.O., The Early History of Education in Harford County, Maryland, University of Maryland, 1933.
  4. Rigdon, W.O., The Early History of Education in Harford County, Maryland, University of Maryland, page 46, 1933.
  5. Larew, M., Bel Air, An Architectural and Cultural History, 1782-1945, The Town of Bel Air, Maryland, page 237, 1995.
  6. The Aegis, page A1, March 10, 2006.
  7. Woods, A., Board of Education moves to raze its old Gordon St. HQ , The Aegis, page A3, November 29, 2006.
  8. Web Page: Meet the Board of Education, www.hcps.org/BOE/content/MeetBoard.asp, November 30, 2006.
  9. Woods, A., Big plans on school buildings, The Aegis, pages A1 & A4, January 31, 2007.
  10. Konopacki, R., Bel Air School to be Preserved, The Aegis, page A1, August 29, 2008.
  11. Brenner, A., Parts of Former School HQ to be Saved . . ., The Aegis, page A18, March19, 2008.
  12. Wollen, T.J., The Proctor House, Bel Air, Harford Historical Bulletin, The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc., Bel Air, Maryland, No. 6, Winter, Page 23, 1974.
  13. Weeks, C., An Architectural History of Harford County, Maryland, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, page 54, 1996.
  14. Larew, M., Bel Air, An Architectural and Cultural History, 1782-1945, The Town of Bel Air, Maryland, 1995.
  15. Harford Democrat, April 25, 1873 and April 25, 1884.
  16. Larew, M., Maryland Historic Trust, Inventory Form for State Historic Site Survey, HA-258, Proctor House, Town of Bel Air, February 7, 1979.
  17. The Aegis, page A7, March 10, 2006.
  18. Brenner, A., Future Remains Unclear . . ., The Aegis, page A3, February 10, 2008.
  19. Zumer, B., Historic Proctor House in Bel Air Getting a Facelift, The Aegis, page AA1, January 29, 2010.
  20. Corey, S., Historic Preservation in Harford County, Society News, The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc., Bel Air, MD, page 2, May 2011.
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