Unveiling The Secrets Of Loch Raven Reservoir: Rediscovering The Lost Town Of Warren Beneath Baltimore's Water Supply


Loch Raven Reservoir provides the water supply for Baltimore City, but is located within Baltimore County. (Credit: Van Fisher/ Patch)

BALTIMORE COUNTY - Loch Raven Reservoir is a destination for many Baltimore County residents looking to fish, boat, or enjoy the many walking trails surrounding the manufactured lake. Unknown to many locals, the reservoir hides secrets below its pristine surface.

On May 21, the Historical Society of Baltimore County will present: "Rumor or Fact: A Town Under Loch Raven Reservoir?" At this event, speaker Sally Riley will unpack the history of Warren Village from its founding to its demise beneath the waters of Loch Raven.

The history of Warren Village provides a window into the Baltimore area's past and hints at the herculean efforts required to support a city of 600,000 in a time before widespread electricity and modern water supply systems.

Baltimore's growing needs

In the late 1800s, Baltimore was running out of clean drinking water. At the time, the city sourced its water from the often polluted and sometimes depleted Jones Falls.

City officials recognized the need to expand the water supply to meet the needs of the rapidly growing city. According to the City, from 1850 to 1900, Baltimore's population more than tripled, increasing from 169,000 to 508,957.

In 1881, the city constructed the first Loch Raven dam, forming a small lake to feed the city. Less than three decades later, the original dam was no longer sufficient, leading the city to explore options for an expanded reservoir.

Creation of Loch Raven Reservoir

In 1908, the Baltimore City Council issued Ordinance 141, calling for the construction of the massive 2,400-acre Loch Raven Reservoir. Later that year, the city approved $5 million for the construction of a new 51-foot upper dam named after Luke Raven, one of the first settlers in what is today Baltimore County.

The new dam faced similar issues as the original. Only six years after its construction, the city was once again struggling to keep up with its rising population and growing industrial base.

Plans were proposed in 1914 to raise the dam to its current 240-foot height, but engineers and city planners encountered a new problem: Warren Village, a thriving mill town on the banks of the Gunpowder, would need to be flooded to expand the reservoir further.

Warren Village

Warren Village was once home to more than 900 residents. The small town contained several mills, three churches, a general store, a post office, and a public school. The town was "owned" by the Summerfield Baldwins, whose Warren Manufacturing Company operated a cotton duct and grist mill supporting most of the town's residents.

After several years of debate and legal haggling, the citizens of Warren Village were evacuated in 1922, and the town was dismantled to make way for the new reservoir.

Most of the town has been lost beneath 23 billion gallons of Gunpowder water, but traces of Warren can be seen along Loch Raven's banks and spotted under its clear waters.

Four bungalows once owned by Warren Manufacturing Company management were relocated to Old Bosley Road. They remain there today as an homage to the sunken city. Gravestones, fence posts, and other subtle reminders can also be spotted along the reservoir's edges.

Sally Riley's presentation includes breathtaking (and depressing) photos of the town before its destruction and detailed descriptions of the reservoir's history.

Tickets for the presentation can be found here. Admission is free for HSBC members and $5.99 for non-members.

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