Mending a fractured landscape: balancing culture and nature in the vanishing mill town of Daniels, Maryland

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The remnants of historic Daniels Mill provide a fleeting glimpse into the past, to a spot where a community once thrived. The community, which began as the small mill village of Elysville, is representative of the many mills that once flourished in the region during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Located along the Patapsco River, Elysville became one of the earliest railroad communities in the country, as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passed through town on its route west to Point of Rocks, Maryland. The village was renamed Alberton in 1854, and under strong management grew into a model company town reflecting many of the moral and cultural values of the period. By the end of the twentieth century, however, after major demolition, flooding, and fire, little evidence of the village remains. The few town buildings left standing provide little sense of the once thriving mill village and obscure its historic importance. The C.R. Daniels Company, which last owned the town and operated the factory, moved from the site in the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Since that time, the remains of the once cohesive community have been left to deteriorate, and have fractured into three distinct parcels: mill, church, and park. In its effort to extend Patapsco Valley State Park, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources acquired a large portion of the Daniels Mill site, but excluded two parcels containing culturally rich resources. This purchase effectively split the landscape, protecting natural resources to the detriment of cultural resources. In particular, the park parcel contains ruins of company housing and religious structures that have been absorbed into a natural setting under the management of the Department of Natural Resources. Currently valued as a recreational area, the historical values of the site are not acknowledged. The lack of interpretation at Daniels impacts one’s sense of the deep cultural heritage of the site, and leads to a consideration of the possible preservation alternatives for the site. This project examines the fragmented parts of the lost mill town as a cultural landscape, and considers how the conflict between environmental conservation and historic preservation has impacted the site. Additionally, this study explores the existing conditions to determine if management of Daniels Mill, as a cultural landscape or heritage area, would better reconcile the contrasting needs of natural conservation and cultural heritage.


Masters final project submitted to the Faculty of the Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland, College Park, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Historic Preservation. HISP 710/711 final project, May 2012.