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We live in what used to be a distinct small town outside of Baltimore. In the 18th century Richard Caton, the son-in-law of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the longest-living signer of the Declaration of Independence, was commissioned to develop a tract of land along an old Indian trail that became a major road to the West, to the town of Frederick. At first, this Frederick Road offered only a rest stop for travelers, but the rest stop attracted other businesses and became known as Catonsville.

The location was a beautiful hilly, wooded area near the Patapsco River that attracted wealthy Baltimore families who built large, handsome summer homes to escape the city heat. As transportation between Catonsville and Baltimore improved, with a train, then trolley cars, and so on, the summer homes became year-round homes. More businesses were created to serve these new permanent residents and the workers they employed. For a mile or so, Frederick Road became the Main Street of Catonsville, and Catonsville, with its variety of residents, businesses, churches, fire department, and schools, became a small town in the 19th century.

Today Catonsville is indistinguishable from Baltimore City. It has been absorbed into the city. But the small town quality remains, with many stately homes on large properties still occupied and a thriving Main Street along Frederick Road.

For 61 years Catonsville has held a Fourth of July celebration–a day full of family activities, a major parade in the afternoon, and fireworks in the evening. This event draws large crowds. More than a week before the parade, people who live along Frederick Road, the parade route, stake their claims to viewing sites. For a mile or more along the road, in the residential section just beyond the commercial area, people put out lawn chairs as place-holders. Sometimes there are a dozen or more plastic chairs in a row. Some people stretch ropes between poles to indicate their claim, and others put out trash cans or spread plastic tarpaulins and other articles to hold their area. Those items sit along Frederick Road until after the parade, and apparently there are no thefts!

As we rode home from the restaurant at 8:00 last night, I shot this view of one family’s reserved viewing site for the big parade a week from now, next Friday.

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