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Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park

Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park constitutes one of the largest municipal tracts in the United States and is a distinctive natural environment within a highly urban setting. Originally conceived as a stream valley park by the Olmsted Brothers in their 1904 Plan for the City of Baltimore, it was suggested that by associating the larger Gwynns Falls watershed with the stream valley that the entire area could be protected from the pressures of future development.

There is a high probability of use by the Susquehannock Indians with an established trail that was later used by colonial militia to connect to Ft. Garrison. The Gwynns Falls and the Dead Run streams that are located within the park originally powered mills that produced grain, paper and textiles. It was along this corridor that the city was able to acquire a significant parcel of land for the establishment of the Gwynns Falls Park in 1908.

The area included an old mill race that was later filled to create a path through the wooded gorge. The Crimea Estate, the summer home of 19th century industrialist Thomas Winans, is now included within the boundaries of Leakin Park. Set in a natural rolling woodlands with a large oak grove, the estate had many interesting structures that still stand today. The Italianate stone mansion Orianda House is currently used by Outward Bound Chesapeake Bay Baltimore and for park offices and recreational programs, but the stone stable/carriage house, gothic chapel, caretaker's house, water wheel, and “mock” fort are still available for visitors to study.

Gas was produced on-site to illuminate the mansion and the other outbuildings. The estate remained in the Winans family until 1945, when descendants of Thomas Winans sold 300 acres of the estate (originally 1 ,000 acres) to the City of Baltimore in two separate parcels, the funds of which were provided by the estate of John Wilson Leakin. 

Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park is one of the few large tracts of land in Baltimore to retain its original collection of structures—in relationship to its well-preserved natural landscape. This integrity of setting contributes to the estate's architectural significance as a rural picturesque environment that was essential to the concept of a country estate in the mid-l9th century. The two lion statues that once guarded the mansion are now located in the Baltimore Zoo.

The park has suffered from many controversies over the years. Initially, some of the funds for the park came from the estate of John Wilson Leakin, who donated five properties along Howard and Fayette streets, the proceeds of which were to be dedicated for the purchase of park land. Later, plans were developed to place Interstate 1-70 through the Gwynns Falls Park in front of the mansion, which would have required the demolition of the carriage house. Fortunately, the 1-70 project was stopped. 

The park is situated on the fall line of the Piedmont plateau where streams cut ravines to drop to the coastal plain and the Chesapeake Bay. Located in West Baltimore, Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park is bounded to the north by Windsor Mill Road and to the south by Wilkens Avenue. As a greenway it is projected that the new Gwynns Falls Trail initiated in 1997 will connect to the Middle Branch Park along the Patapsco River, totaling 4 miles in length for recreational use. 

On both the east and west boundaries of the park, Gwynns Falls/Leakin is flanked by several neighborhoods, including Edmondson Village, Windsor Hills, Rognel Heights, and Franklintown. Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park is supported by the Gwynns Falls Trail Council, Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park, and the Gwynns Falls Watershed Association.

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