Arden on the Severn: A Brief History

Crownsville is located in Maryland, in the northern portion of Anne Arundel County. Arden on the Severn is a planned community set in the woodlands that border the Severn River, located within the confines of the town of Crownsville.

Before the 1920's, the Crownsville area was mostly farmland, but over the course of that period, four very large planned communities were developed; Epping Forest, Sherwood Forest, Herald Harbor and Arden on the Severn (Arden).  Up until that time, Arden was mostly known for its mining operations, but all that would change over the course of the next two decades.

After the Civil War, Arden became the center of a somewhat famous, local mining enterprise. The sand being mined, which was as white and soft as flour, was extracted from the hills of Arden by a stripping and/or tunneling process. To most people who have either visited or live in the community, the thought of the quiet, modern neighborhood being a central supply hub for the most sought after glassmaking sand in the country seems a little far-fetched.  However, the sugary white material found below the houses in Arden was a special grade of sand, said to be the finest glass sand in the country!

A quick check of a Hopkins 1878 map of the Arden area will show a note indicating the glass sand between Plum and Valentine Creeks, but the history of the sand mining operations is much richer. At first, the mining operation involved strip mining at Halfway Point, which is now known as Beach Four, located off of Valentine View (Section Four). Later, caves were tunneled into the hillsides off of Whitney's Landing Drive. In 1885, the Annapolis Glass Works opened on Horn Point in Annapolis. Sand was dug from shoreline pits (on both sides of the Severn River) by companies that included the Brenan Sand Company at Forked Creek and the Liberty Sand and Gravel Company at Stevens Creek. The mines provided labor for about 20 or so men from the local area. They wheel barrowed the sand out of the caves dumping it into cars which in turn spilled it into cleansing bins. These bins, equipped with a steam driven worm and filled with water, filtered out the clay and oozed the baking soda like sand into the waiting barges. These barges then took the material down river to the Chesapeake where it could be delivered to glass works. Operations at Forked Creek closed in 1938 and by 1976 almost all operations ceased to exist.

The mining operation produced intricate tunnels dug into the banks of the Severn River, especially in the Arden area. These 'caves' were literally, "caves" and not mine shafts since no shoring materials were used. They were hollowed out cathedral fashion, providing their own natural support. However picturesque this may have been, it was a very wasteful form of mining which left half the usable sand in the hillside. Also, it wasn't the safest passable way of doing things. According to one story, some sand thieves got their comeuppance in the caves one night. They came up the river by schooner in the darkness and began to shear sand from the walls of the cave. Disturbing the natural structure, they were flattened by a wedge of cool, heavy, white sand and were eventually found by the employed day-miners. Around 1910, the mining operation was abandoned by the companies that operated here, but it was another 30 years or so before the caves were abandoned by the people of this area. Cold and dark, they became a favorite adventure spot for young explorers, and for not very different reasons, a retreat for young lovers. For everyone's safety, and for parents' peace af mind, the caves were closed by authorities in the late 1930's and with them a reminder of Arden on Severn's industrial past.

Between 1910 and 1920, the mining operation in and around Arden was abandoned, and the original settlement of Arden on the Severn was created shortly thereafter. Although it is not officially known how Arden was named, the area was surveyed in 1911 and, given the connective history between Anne Arundel County and its strong British roots, it is thought that Arden shares its name with the ancient Arden forest in England. The settlement of Arden contained about 600 acres, and extended from Whitney's Landing Road along the Severn River to Plum Creek Drive. Originally, Arden did not include Sections Four and Five. Most of section Two was then privately owned.

For many years, only two homes (located on the Omar Road extension) existed in Arden. At that time, Beach Shores, Incorporated bought the surrounding land, cut roads, surveyed lots, and started an advertising campaign for a new beach community called Sunrise Beach. At that time, they envisioned a community of summer cottages, with perhaps a few year round residents. Many of the early residents here felt the same way and built summer cottages (most of which were later converted for full-time occupancy) although a few predictors of things to come built year round homes to begin with.

By 1955, approximately 30 families were living in the five sections of Sunrise Beach. All of the streets were gravel topped, and to go from one house to another, you needed a flashlight to see the way. Realizing that many improvements were necessary in order to make this a really desirable area in which to live, some of the original settlers got together and formed the Civic Association of Sunrise Beach. This group was then incorporated under the laws of Maryland as a non-profit organization. Charter members of the Association included almost all the families living here at the time. Learning that the area was formerly known as Arden, the members of the first civic association adopted the name of "Arden-on-the-Severn" to create an aura of permanence for the community.

An unofficial census taken in 1990 showed that Arden has grown to a community of approximately 900 families, spread over five individual sections. Teachers, technicians, craftsmen, and military and government personnel, live together in a spirit of harmony and independence. Like you, they are people who came to stay.

Sunrise Beach is the official name on the land plat, but the sharing of joy and sadness, the cooperation of independent community members, and the spirit which greets you now is...


(Some data was gathered independently, and some was taken from the Arden on the Severn Directory 1995.)

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