Rodgers Forge was developed as a “streetcar suburb” of Baltimore City, along the old Number 8 streetcar that connected Towson to downtown Baltimore along York Road.
The neighborhood was built on what used to be called Dumbarton Farm, which earlier in its history belonged to Johns Hopkins.
The original Dumbarton House still stands on Dumbarton Green behind Dumbarton Middle School.
Below is a fifty year old account of the history of Rodgers Forge (Rodgers Forge’s population is no longer 7000. It is closer to 4000 today as household sizes have shrunk considerably in recent decades):
No longer can you “see the flaming forge and hear the bellows roar.” The name a 19-year-old Irish immigrant gave to his blacksmith shop a century and a half ago lives on today as Rodgers Forge. Where once his village smithy stood, now stand the red brick houses, row on row, 1,777 of them. This attractive, established community of colonial grouped homes and two modern schools house 7,000 men, women and children. This is Rodgers Forge today.
But it was not always thus. It was in 1800 that the young Irish immigrant, George Rodgers, bought four acres from the huge grant of Govane Howard. With an eye to the growing horse showing and cartwright trade from the nearby estates and the travelers along the York Turnpike, young Rodgers built his shop, facing on the turnpike at the southeast corner of Stevenson Lane. He soon gave up the cartwright trade and devoted all his time to shoeing horses. The business passed down through four generations of the Rodgers family and outlived the many smithies sprinkled along the turnpike from Govane’s Town (later Govanstown and now just Govans) to York, Pennsylvania.
The original forge was replaced in 1865 by a structure which survived until August 19, 1947 when it was dismantled to make room for a gasoline station. From the original George, the forge passed to his son, George II, and to his son, James, who had four sons, George III, William, Robert and James, and a daughter, Mary. The third and last George operated the forge and his brother, William, ran a post office in the same building for 40 years.
William died in 1931 and because of the inability to find anyone else to serve as “clerk in charge” at $200 a year, the post office was moved to a drugstore in Stoneleigh. George died three years later, in 1934, and the forge passed on to his sister, Mary. There it stood, falling into disrepair for the next 13 years until in 1947 Mary Rodgers – despite the protests of hundreds of residents of Rodgers Forge and other nearby communities- petitioned to have the land re-zoned so a gasoline station could be erected on the historic site. Judge John B. Gontrum upheld the rezoning classification and the old forge was torn down.
Rodgers Forge – the community- meanwhile had been a-building for about 24 years. The original subdivision began in 1923 and 1924 from the southern-most section of the 200-acre Joseph A. Rieman estate which stretched along the west side of York Road opposite the old forge. The three-story houses which stand along Hopkins, Dunkirk, Murdock, Register and Dumbarton were the first to be built by the late James Keelty, Sr. The community remained relatively small (about 500 homes), until the building boom which followed World War II. Under Keelty’s son, James, the rows of houses spread from the original group, which was entirely East of Pinehurst, west to Bellona, then up on The Hill and finally back to York Road for The Estate – that section of Rodgers Forge closest to the old smithy for which the community was named.
The last 25-acre parcel of the Rieman estate – Dumbarton Farm – which by then had passed to Rieman’s daughter, Mrs. Charlotte Mclntosh, was broken up in 1955. The eastern-most portion of this parcel became The Estate section of the community and the remainder, including the 105-year-old mansion house, was sold to Baltimore County Board of Education and became the site of Dumbarton Junior High School. It opened in September, 1956 – three years after the last member of the Rodgers clan, Mary Rodgers, died.
Rodgers Forge Elementary School had been built and had enrolled its first students four years earlier, in 1952. The mansion house, built in 1853 by Robert A. Taylor and sold with most of his land to Rieman, remains standing. Today it is the home of the Baltimore Actors Theatre and Conservatory. The mansion house, plus two gray stone pillars which marked the western entrance to the once sprawling estate (now on Bellona at the west end of the Tot Lot) still stand as reminders of the gracious history of this area.
But perhaps the most significant and historic relic of those bygone days and the 19th Century beginnings of Rodgers Forge is a part of the old forge itself. Known as a “tweer” this heavy metal section of the old forge, consisting of a plate and a cone-shaped protuberance which served as a link between the fire and the bellows, was saved from probable oblivion when the old forge was torn down and the ground cleared. Mrs. Bernice Brouwer, a professor of art at the then Towson State Teachers College, snatched the tweer from the path of the bulldozer as it was about to be buried. In 1956, Mrs. Brouwer presented the relic of the forge to Rodgers Forge Elementary School where it was handsomely mounted and may be seen today.