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The 'Roots' of Emmit Gardens

Ed Houck, Jr.

As World War II was drawing to an end, a group of Emmitsburg business & civic leaders got together and knew there would be a need for additional housing for the returning servicemen. The group knew they should have available lots on which to build new homes so that the families could stay in Emmitsburg. So, this group organized the Emmit Gardens Corporation with that object in mind.

The original group consisted of James Hays, Sam Hays, Leona Franklin, Louis Cooper, and my dad, J. E. Houck, Sr. and many more members that slip my mind at this time. They met and decided to purchase three large fields on the east end of town, just across Flat Run bridge and on the southside of the Taneytown Road. Sam Hays was appointed Manager of the project and Leona Franklin was installed as secretary/treasurer. I donít recall who served a the first President of the Corporation Stock was then sold in the project.

They began by laying out lots in the first field closest to Flat Run. They then started to sell lots as they worked to put in the needed streets, water and sewer lines. This project took quite a long time due to applying for the needed clearance from the State of Maryland, Frederick County and the Town of Emmitsburg. By this time the project was in the mid to late 1940ís and the building of homes began on the Emmit Garden site. Over the next few years new homes would appear but at a rather slow and even pace.

As the project moved into the early 1950ís, the Corporation had lots laid out on fields #2 and #3. No construction was done on these fields yet as they were leased out for farming until the time came to begin to open them for homes. This became a problem as the State of Maryland was doing a study on a Route 15 by-pass of Emmitsburg. This slowed any progress on construction until the State decided where they were to build the new road.

By this time my dad had died and I became involved in the meetings of the Corporation and later became President for a term. It was in the late 50ís and early 60ís that the field #l of Emmit Gardens was sold out and we had to pressure the State to find out where we could expect the road to be placed. They would not give the Corporation a direct answer saying that it was still in the planning stages.

Sam Hays as manager and I as president met to form a plan to force the issue and Sam came up with just the right thing. He asked that I meet him at 7am on the following Friday morning down at field #2. We parked our cars and set up a table with our plans on it and Sam arrived then with his large bulldozer. We laid out the first street with pegs and ribbons and he began to construct the road bed. Within the next few hours, we had what started to resemble a beginning of the project.

By 10 am, just as Sam had predicted, a State of Maryland car pulled up and told us we could not begin construction on this site. After an active discussion with the State representative, he pulled out the plans for the new by-pass and it ran directly through the center of our phase 2 of Emmit Gardens.

The Corporation then went to court to sell the laid out lots to the State at the going lot prices but lost in court and had to sell the property at field price. This essentially put an end to the dream of a large subdivision of Emmit Gardens, with the by-pass splitting the property down the middle. I moved from Emmitsburg in the early 1960ís and think of the project that could have been each time I visit and ride by and through the "Gardens".

Read other stories by Ed Houck

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