Population (2000) 19,000
Location: 16 miles Northwest of Baltimore 39.4 deg N, 76.8 deg W.
County: Baltimore County
Nearby towns: Glyndon, Finksburg and Owings Mills
Reisterstown, which is the hometown of my youth, was founded in 1758 by John Reister who settled the area with his family after emmigrating from Germany in 1738. He started life in America in York, Pennsylvania and after marrying in 1746 he moved to Fredrick County, Maryland, where he carved a farm out of the wilderness there. His travels took him to where the road leading northwest out of Baltimore to Hanover forks off toward Westminster, only 16 miles from Baltimore. He surveyed the lay of the land, liked what he saw, and purchased 20 acres of land there. He moved his wife and 6 kids and built an inn and farm there. 20 acres proved to be inadequate for a farm, so he purchased an additional 83 acres, and was off and running. The inn prospered, and soon other settlers started moving in. In 1764 he purchased a parcel on the Indian trail to the Patapsco River called Church Hill, and started the first school there, known as Franklin Academy. In 1824, they replaced the original log church with a permanant brick building. Today the original brick building has been preserved as a branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, and across the street and next door to the library are Franklin Middle School, and Franklin Elementary School.
Today, Reisterstown is a suburb of Baltimore, and has seen rapid growth since the end of World War 2. Its borders with Owings Mills and Glyndon are indistinct, as the towns have grown into each other forming a huge suburban blob. Due to restrictive zoning laws, Reisterstown tails off quickly north of the MD 30 - I-795 - Butler Road intersection. Reisterstown is primarily a bedroom community, but there are a couple of major longstanding businesses. At the north end of town is Reisterstown Lumber, located on a spur of the Western Maryland Railroad, which is now part of CSX. Reisterstown Lumber has operated there for almost 100 years, and despite its ramshackle appearance has survived the onslaughts of chain stores such as Home Depot by providing custom trusswork and the like for local builders. Another old business in town is the Maryland China Company. Besides these businesses, there are a couple of small industrial parks catering to light industry, but most of the commercial activity is centered on Main Street, and 3 major shopping centers. Main Street is the home of many of the area's real estate offices, as well as offices for dentists, doctors, accountants, and lawyers, who have occupied many of the older homes along Main Street. Also very common along Main Street are antique stores, restaurants, and even a head shop. The three shopping centers in town cater to the everyday shopping needs of the residents, and are typical suburban shopping centers.
Like other towns in Baltimore County, Reisterstown is unincorporated. This means that most local services, such as snow removal, schools, and police and fire protection are provided by the County. This works out fairly well, and allows for efficient and flexible deployment of regional resources, but at a cost of reduced say-so at the local level.
Regrettably there is a big ugly sore right in the center of town, at the site of the original settlement. Back in the 1960's, an Acme supermarket occupied a fairly large tract of land in the center of town. When the supermarket closed, a company that made electronic circuit boards occupied the building
for several years. After the company closed, it was discovered that the company had been dumping all sorts of noxious chemicals out back. The EPA turned the tract into a Superfund site. The building was leveled, wells were drilled, and a 10 foot barbed wire fence was put around the site. Finally, a gas station was built on the edge of this open sore a few years ago, and a supermarket opened well behind the old Acme building. The fence is gone now, but the open sore remains, and no one has yet stepped forward to redevelop the land as even a parking lot, despite the booming real estate market all around.