In 1848, Gustav W. Lurman, Sr., a German immigrant, whose fortune came from commercial activities in Baltimore, purchased the estate and restored its original name “Farmlands”. The stuccoe brick house contained nine bedrooms, four bathrooms, and fourteen other large rooms. After purchasing the estate Mr. Lurman proceeded to make the grounds a Maryland Showplace. Bringing many rare trees and shrubs to the property, it was one of only two formal English Gardens in the state. His wife, the former Frances L. Donnell, was a descendant of Lady Godiva. They had three sons and four daughters, although there is some mystery surrounding one of the sons, where some records only refer to two sons not three. In the late 1800’s after Gustav’s death and harsh times, most of the property was sold to a cousin.
Now known as The Lurman Woodland Theatre is an outdoor community amphitheater. Bringing free concerts every weekend in June, July and August to this beautiful, naturally wooded setting year after year since 1992. They take pride in producing a program that includes many musical styles, from Big Band to Bluegrass, Rock to Reggae, Country to Cajun, and more!
It began in 1958 when the first vision of an outdoor amphitheater was realized during a meeting of the Board of Educators. The Board of educators along with many citizens and community organizations began a fund raising effort to survey for, and plan the theater. A master plan was developed and a 2,080-seat theater and arts center was designed, complete with covered stage, dressing rooms, bathrooms and parking lots. An estimated $75,000 was sought through Federal grants and donations to complete this project, but was never acquired. A modest concrete stage, the current stage, was erected around 1964.
On June 27, 1965, the U.S. Army Field Band performed at the dedication ceremony. The Summer Concert Series held concerts and other performances every summer on Monday evenings through 1969. The theater fell to neglect during the 1970’s. A few attempts to revitalize it during the 80’s never met with ongoing success. Then in 1992, a renewed community effort began what has become the most successful annual program of the theater’s history.
With increased awareness and support of the Lurman Woodland Theatre comes the opportunity for goals to be realized. Already many improvements have been made to the theater, such as electrical and lighting, improved drainage, railings and bench work, planters and a permanent bathroom facility. This state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly “comfort station” provides men and women bathrooms, and storage space for the theater program.
They will continue to make improvements as long as they continue to receive the support through donations, grants, sponsorship, the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Commission on Arts and Sciences, Baltimore County and their guests.
The committee’s plan is to have an architect revise the original design from the early 60’s to provide an up to date, comprehensive layout for the theater, including a cover for the stage, improved seating area and better access. Money can then be raised to improve the theater in sections, yet remain unified. Further plans are to identify and enhance the wide variety of rare shrubs, trees and plant life, which were originally part of Gustav Lurman’s estate, into the theater’s historical charm and appeal.
All of this can be accomplished with the continued support that Lurman Woodland Theatre has been experiencing over the last sixteen years. Plan a family Friday or Saturday outing this summer and be sure to “Share The Secret of The Lurman Woodland Theatre”.
The history of Lurman Woodland Theatre is as rich and varied as the entertainment it provides each year.
Visit www.lurman.com to learn more, and for the current summer schedule of entertainers.
References: Catonsville 1880-1940 – Edward Orser and Joseph Arnold, University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The Lurman Theatre Blog page, www.lurman.wordpress.com