Mountain Lake Park was established in 1881 as a mountain Chautauqua and summer resort made possible by the extension of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad into the mountains of western Maryland. It is the best preserved of the numerous resort communities built along the B&O on a high plateau known as “The Glades.” Mountain Lake Park was laid out by landscape architect Augustus Faul, perhaps best known for his role in the development of Druid Hill Park in Baltimore. Faul was a civil engineer well-versed in park planning trends who served for decades as the general superintendent for the Baltimore Park Commission.
The plan for Mountain Lake Park encompasses a grid of streets intersected by curvilinear roads and carriage drives that conforms to the contours of the land and to a man-made lake that sits at its center. The resulting picturesque scheme was used to accentuate the impression of peaceful rural seclusion. Although no longer functioning as a Chautauqua, the current community includes over 200 former cottages and associated structures. Indicative of the resort architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most of these buildings are of the Queen Anne and Gothic Revival styles.
The community was founded by five Methodist ministers from Wheeling, West Virginia, who sought to create a blending of religious revivalism and cultural and educational activities perpetuated by mountain air and idealism. In so doing, they imposed a strict code of conduct based on Methodist doctrine, forbidding drinking, dancing, and card playing. For nearly sixty years, Mountain Lake Park hosted an annual summer Chautauqua, establishing itself as one of most important centers of religious and cultural activity in the state. The community’s heyday extended from the 1880s through World War I, tapering off in the 1920s. The last Chautauqua occurred in 1941, after which time Mountain Lake Park became purely residential. The shutdown prompted many of the older houses to be winterized for year-round use, while many others were torn down and some of the protective zoning regulations were rescinded.
Although many of the structures associated with the Chautauqua have been lost, still extant are the tabernacle, a rustic-style ovoid ticket office, and the tennis clubhouse. Mountain Lake Park also retains a significant number of cottages, former boardinghouses, and two small hotels. The majority of the structures are wood frame and reflect the rural Queen Anne and “Country Gothic” styles. The Queen Anne cottages exhibit elements such as irregular massing, wraparound porches, towers with bell-cast roofs, and a combination of clapboard and fish-scale shingle siding. There are numerous excellent examples of more vernacular Gothic Revival including elements such as jig-sawn trim, wraparound porches, board-and-batten siding, towers, cross-gables, dormer windows, bargeboards, diamond-headed windows with matching shutters, and tall lancet windows. Of the old hotels, only the Washington and Braethorn are still standing. The latter is in the Second Empire style with a mansard roof and wraparound porch. Also included are some later house styles, most notably a few more traditional Colonial Revival houses and simple cottage bungalows.
Among the best examples of the houses built during the Chautauqua era is the Queen Anne house on G Street, west of the B&O tracks, which is a two-story, irregularly massed house with polygonal bays, a square tower with bell-cast roof, and half-timbering in a checkerboard pattern. Another house, at the corner of Baltimore and G streets, mixes board-and-batten and wood shingle siding and includes polygonal bays and a wraparound porch. Good examples of the many Gothic Revival houses include the one at the northeast corner of Cedar and I streets, an L-shaped dwelling with tall, diamond-headed windows with matching shutters, a wraparound porch, tower, and cross-gable roof; the Vandiver Cottage at the corner of Youghiogheny Drive and M Street features tall lancet windows, picket fence gables, and a three-story tower; and a board-and-batten example is located on the southeast corner of Oak and G streets, a two-and-a-half-story house with multiple steeply pitched roofs and a porch with crucked posts.
Baldwin Cottage on N Street is an example of a smaller cottage with an outstanding jig-sawn trim porch, while the Carr Cottage at the south end of E Street features a multiple cross-gable roof, polygonal bay, and jig-sawn-trim porch. An exceptional example of the Shingle Style is 19 Deer Park Road, a two-story structure with wide overhanging eaves and horizontal band of twelve-over-twelve sash windows. A notable Colonial Revival house is located on the east side of G Street between Cedar and Oak streets, which features a symmetrical plan and a porch supported by Doric columns. A representative sampling of smaller, eclectic cottages can be found at the corner of Baltimore and K streets.
The neighborhood was designated a historic district in 1983.
Henry, Geoffrey B., “Mountain Lake Park (Mountain Lake Park Historic District),” Garrett County, Maryland. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1983. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Rieser, Andrew Chamberlin. The Chautauqua Movement: Protestants, Progressives and the Culture of Modernism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.