Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Point of Rocks Station Maryland


The elaborate architecture of the Point of Rocks Railroad Station testifies to the significance of the railroad as the dominant institution in post-Civil War America, especially in small towns. Situated at the junction of the B & O's mainline to Baltimore and the branch to Washington, D. C, the station is one of the most picturesque railroad stations in America. Point of Rocks Station dates from 1871 and 1875 and its architectural style is categorized as Victorian-Gothic revival.

Historically, the Point of Rocks Station is located on a significant site. In the 1830s, both the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal were constructinq their respective routes west to the Ohio River. The railroad and the canal both chose a narrow strip of land between the Potomac River and the Catoctin Mountains from Point of Rocks westward. The conflict led to an involved suit in the Maryland Court of Appeals. The issue was resolved by allowing both the canal and the railroad to share the narrow strip of land. The station marks the juncture of the metropolitan branch of the B & 0 which follows the Potomac valley to Washington with the main branch which extends from Baltimore to the Ohio River at Wheeling, West Virginia, and later to St. Louis, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois, in the midwest.

In the mid-1870s, the B & O chose E. Francis Baldwin of Baltimore as the head of the railroad's architectural department. He designed the B & O headquarters building in Baltimore and was most probably responsible for the Point of Rocks Station which was executed at the same time. Baldwin was one of the major 19th-century architects practicing in Baltimore. His office worked directly for the B & O, the Roman Catholic Church, and, at the turn of the century, for the State of Maryland.

The proportion, detailing, and color of the Point of Rocks Railroad Station is unusually sophisticated for its rural setting and ranks with the most outstanding work of the Victorian Gothic Revival. The polychrome effect produced by the combination of brick, granite, and sandstone is reminiscent of earlier work in England by architects like William Butterfield.

Two publications of national scope have illustrated the Point of Rock Station. They are Edward Alexander's Down at the Depot (New York, 1970) and an article on the threat to railroad stations in the December 1971 issue of Architectural Record.