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Discovering Eaglehead, Part 4

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September 23rd, 2014 No Comments

“A New Town is Born”

by Charissa Roberson

It was 1965. Thirty-one professionals had gathered in Washington, D.C., ranging from well-known architects and engineers, to an assorted collection of experts including a psychiatrist, a social worker, a historian, a judge, a zoologist, a philosopher, and a clergyman. What had brought so many different people together? A question. The national community had called for the best and brightest to bring their knowledge to the table, in the hope that an answer could be found. There wouldn’t be a unanimous answer, or even a right answer. After all, the issue being raised was a new one, and no one was experienced in handling it. They were uncertain, but everyone was eager. The question being asked at the conference was this: How do you build with the environment? It was the very first National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) Interdisciplinary Conference on Environmental Design.

“Hey, Bill!” James McSherry said. “How would you like to build a new town?”

Bill barely glanced up from his work. “You’re crazy, Jim.” It was 1964. Bill Brosius and his brother Lou had been busy over the past few years, collecting new ideas and implementing them in home design. Brosius Homes was continuing to build. But a new town? Neither of the Brosius brothers had ever considered a project that large-scale.

“Come to my office,” James insisted. “I want you to see something.”

Bill was introduced to Joe Urie, a real estate agent, who showed him a 300-acre stretch of farmland available for sale. Brosius Homes could use it for the start of a new development. Bill cast a polite eye over the plans, but he wasn’t really interested. There was nothing unique or inspiring about the land, though it was beautiful. As he was wont, Bill looked over a topographic map of the area, just to be sure he had thoroughly considered the proposal. Then something caught his eye. The way the land flowed…the winding Linganore Creek running through the center…Bill’s imagination flared into life. It was the perfect set-up for a water-oriented living environment. The land was simply made for lakes.

bill and lou field

Bill and Lou eagerly began working to secure the 300-acre parcel and the land surrounding it, with Joe Urie drawing up contracts, and James McSherry, a Frederick attorney, attending to the legalities. After some time, they had gained possession of approximately 4000 acres of land. But to start building, they needed the county’s approval.

Having previously served on the first planning and zoning commission for Frederick, Bill had put in countless hours to get the land use intensity and planned unit development concepts into county law. Now, his hard work rewarded him. With the benefits afforded by these ordinances, Bill was able to put his plans into motion.

But what exactly were Bill’s plans?

He wanted to create a new kind of living environment, where people could live in comfort while keeping in touch with nature and the country way of life. He dreamed of a place where city commuters could return home each evening to a haven of beauty and peace—a “7 Day Weekend.” He hoped to see a community outstanding for its environment-friendly design. All of the houses would be settled into the land, the roads would follow the natural curve of the hills, and the planned seven lakes would be a source of beauty and fun for every resident. The homes would be set back from the streets in a way that provided privacy and gave the neighborhood the look of an “English manor garden,” as Bill was fond of describing it. There would also be green space throughout the development that would be unavailable to buyers, instead being kept open for common use. The same applied to sections of forest, stream valleys, rock outcroppings, and trails that would be preserved from being built upon. Bill planned for his community to be a “time-less” land, with covenants in place to ensure the protection of the property for generations to come.

This community would be the crowning achievement of the Brosius brothers’ career, incorporating everything they loved and believed about homebuilding: “That all people should live, and will demand to live, in environments which make life most meaningful and which stimulate each person to be as good as he might be…That we have the skill and dynamics and we must acquire the wisdom to succeed by enlisting the talents and energies of many others….That in creating better environments lies the enlightened self-interest of the industry (Brosius Creed).”

Bill and Lou’s children, all now grown, knew that their fathers had a project in the works. But the full scope of their plans had not yet been revealed. Then one day, Bill said with a smile,

“Let’s go for a ride. There’s something I want to show you.” Bill and Lou took their whole family along.

The ride was on horseback, into a beautiful expanse of flowery meadows and peaceful woodlands. They passed beneath the lush shade of the trees, along quiet dirt trails that wound their way through the forest, until at last they emerged onto the banks of Linganore Creek.

Bill pointed across the smooth water. “Look there.” A bare tree trunk growing from the opposite bank had been cut off at the top, and painted blue all up its length. The long reflection shimmered on the surface of the creek.

“That,” Bill said, with a hint of pride in his voice, “is how high the lake will be when it is filled.”

napkin logos

“Lake Linganore”—Bill’s planned development—had been named after the original creek, but it was only after a visit to the natural haven of Indian Cave Park that he came up with the second part of the name. Standing beneath the great rock overhang, looking up, he saw the shape of a vast winged eagle in the stone—a proud head, peering down on the creek and woods below. When the first wooden sign appeared at the entrance, the community’s complete title was Lake Linganore at Eaglehead (LLE).

“By August 1968, we were ready to start selling,” writes Bill, “and did so with a team of land salesmen we brought aboard, selling lots in a development not yet started, when all we had to show were word pictures.” Bill’s plans for this remote piece of low-yield farmland were extensive: he intended his new community to be revolutionary, recognized across the nation—if not across the world. Seeking the creative expertise of some of the best in the business, Bill “went to Harmon O’Donnell and Genninger in Denver for the initial master planning, to West Palm Beach for William Mitchell to design the golf course, to E. Fay Jones in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for architectural design, and to Oehme van Sweden in Baltimore for the landscape architecture.”

With a master plan devised and revised, Bill and Lou took the next step to starting the development. In January, 1970, Brosius Homes acquired a land development loan from First Mortgage Investors (FMI). William H. Leach, senior vice president of the First Mortgage Advisory Corporation, said: “We’ve had many community projects submitted to us for financing, but we’ve approved only six of them. Lake Linganore is the finest one we have seen.”

bill at desk

Ready to begin construction, Bill and Lou Brosius left behind the Carrollton Drive office that had been their center of business for nearly fourteen years and relocated to their new headquarters at Linganore—a 190-year-old bank barn which had been remodeled by California architect Barry Berkus. Bill’s office was now tucked beneath the rafters at the apex of the renovated barn. A huge triangular window looked out over the countryside. On the ground floor of the barn, the office receptionist worked at a desk cut from a solid granite slab. From the balconies of each level, one could look all the way down to the century-old stone floor below, as well as up to where 12-inch square wooden beams formed the roof. On the bottom level, two theaters would tell Lake Linganore’s story to visitors through slides and a short film. A spiral staircase inside the silo, built of thick wooden steps and lit by sunlight filtering through the glass roof, led up to the second floor. There, maps and plans would be on display for viewers to study—plans of the Brosius’ dream for Linganore.

barn office

Bill hoped to see a diverse population in Linganore, living in equally diverse homes—houses, condos, villas, and towers. Potential buyers who were hindered by financial restrictions had the option to pay 10% down, and gradually pay off the remaining 90%. Although some of the buyers were only looking for lots on which to build vacation homes, the vast majority planned to live in Linganore year round. It was a small wonder. Lew Sichelman, a Daily News editor who traveled the nation viewing developments, stated: “I’ve never seen anything like it. Lake Linganore is really going to be some place to live.” As development progressed, more and more people became interested in buying; some neighborhoods even sold out.

By September, 1970, construction on two dams was underway. A new flyer went out to the public—“The Great Lakes Are Coming.” For months, work crews labored diligently, pouring concrete and hauling rocks to the building sites. Fourteen-acre Lake Merle, named after Bill’s beautiful wife, was the first lake to be filled, its dam finished in 1971. In September of 1972, the Lake Linganore dam was completed. The magnificent structure was seven-stories tall, 700-feet long, and ringed by naturally pressurized fountains that sprayed glistening water into the air. The 23 fountains would provide eight million gallons of ventilated water to the Frederick filtration plant. Huge boulders dug from Linganore Creek were set into the dam’s spillway to break up the powerful water flow and aerate it for better quality.

bill and lou at dam

The massive dam was also designed as a water playground. A collection pool at the base of the dam was to be used for wading. Shimmery curtains of water would cascade into a 9-foot deep pool below, where swimmers could splash and play. Ducking underneath the “falls” revealed a hidden grotto waiting to be explored. The more adventurous could have the excitement of sliding down one of the two built-in water-chutes: a short, speedy slope that ended in the dam’s swimming pool, as well as a 100-foot waterslide that twisted and turned, zooming down to splash into the lagoon.

On October 26, 1972, the Brosius brothers honored their father through the dedication of the “Brosius Dam” and erected a rock monument in his memory. The engraved inscription commemorated their father’s “imagination, professional building ability, sense of responsibility and self-reliance,” qualities that fostered in his sons “the spirit which infuses Lake Linganore at Eaglehead.” In attendance at the ceremony were State Senator Edward Thomas, United States Senator J. Glenn Beal (R. MD.), and even the Frederick High School Band, which provided music for the occasion.

Bill and lou dam dedication

The largest and most central lake, Lake Linganore, began filling in December, 1972. It would cover 220 acres, with 13 miles of shoreline, and stretch for 3 ½ miles—the largest private recreational lake in the state. A woodland trail was created around Lake Linganore for all residents to use, the land at the water’s edge remaining common property, and not part of the waterfront lots. In the spring of 1973, the water crested the top of the dam, and the bare, dry concrete came alive. Surges of rushing water swirled down through the dam’s spillway, crashing on the rocks and tossing plumes of foamy water into the air. A brochure described the place as “a watery fantasy of motion and spray.” The Environment Monthly magazine even ventured to say that the dam was “the splashiest, gushiest, bubbliest, foamiest, gurgliest water show ever seen in Frederick County.”

Even while still under construction, the dam won three prestigious awards. The Consulting Engineers Council recognized the dam’s creators with the presentation of both its Maryland and National honor awards. “The dams were voted as being beyond the normal standard experienced in major construction works, ‘demonstrating the highest degree of merit and ingenuity and providing a major contribution to technical, economic and social advancement.’” The Environment Monthly awarded Lake Linganore’s dam with their award for Excellence in Architecture and Engineering. “An important award-winning point has been made at Lake Linganore,” the citation said. “Any structure, no matter how prosaic, can be upgraded by an imaginative developer into a community asset of esthetic, recreational and environmental value.” Or, in less formal words, the dam is “an object lesson in how to transform an inert lump of engineering blah into a splendid, multi-use facility.”

Another example of Bill’s knack for designing structures that put “the ‘fun’ in ‘functional,’” was Lake Linganore’s esplanade—a picturesque walkway along the lake. Unapparent was the fact that the esplanade also held and concealed a long section of sewer pipes. In order to place the sewer lines into the ground, a good portion of the hillside would have had to be excavated. “Our residents would have been unjustifiably denied the year ‘round delight of being able to walk in the woods overlooking this treasured area,” Bill said. Most homebuilders would have taken the direct, and less expensive, route—dig out the hillside, install the pipes. But Bill wanted to preserve as much of the original land as possible. So once again, his inventive mind went to work, and his construction team found themselves creating the concrete bridge that would win Linganore an award from NAHB for “Building Excellence Through Innovation.” One hundred-seventy-one pieces of concrete, cast at the on-site casting plant, were used to make the esplanade: 15-ton “U-shaped flumes, connecting joints, and flat slab decks.” Lou Brosius kept watch over the entire project; as always, he helped to realize Bill’s idea to its highest potential.

esplanade

At Indian Cave Park, Bill and Lou had the ditches for sewer pipes dug by hand, so that the beautiful topography would remain unaltered. The pipes were imported from Germany, a new flexible design that could be worked in around the trees. Bill and Lou also insisted that telephone, electric, and cable lines be buried underground, keeping the skyline free from unsightly wires.

Professionals hailed Lake Linganore as the start of a community bound for greatness. “Lake Linganore is emerging as the newest model of environmental planning,” said an American Land article. “Bill Brosius’ project near Frederick is a good bet for the king of environmental acclaim accorded to Sea Pines Plantation, Sun River and Sea Ranch.” Aaron Levitsky, from the Washington Star, said, “It shows a lot of thinking and planning…with a lot more in mind than just selling lots. It’s been planned for the living of the people.” And says John B. Willmann in The Washington Post: “Even before it was fashionable to be an environmentalist and/or an ecologist, Brosius was expounding a respect for natural surroundings. That dedication and concern have surfaced in his planning and development of the lakes that are Linganore’s.”

While the national community was working to define environmental design, Bill and Lou Brosius had already put it into action. “Lake Linganore at Eaglehead…has literally written the book on environmental responsibility.” ~The Environment Monthly


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