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'Golden Visionaries' brought the Rutherford Heights neighborhood to life

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 23:21:41-04

BALTIMORE COUNTY — Tucked away in Windsor Mill, the community of Rutherford Heights celebrated their first reunion.

The neighborhood holds a lot of history as it brought together people from opposite sides of Baltimore. Many who moved here in the late 1960s and through the 70s were first generation college graduates looking to build a new life for themselves and their children.

So on this day, with food on the grill, good music playing, and enough love to last beyond summer, families celebrated the roots they planted five decades ago.

Joan Sterling, a resident of the neighborhood for over 50 years, recalls feeling the desire for a suburban life.

“Before we even moved in we used to come up and drive around and look at houses and we would say this is where we’re going to live,” said Sterling.

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The first generation of neighborhood kids call their parents the 'Golden Visionaries' because they had a vision and brought it to life.

“You know when you hit the jackpot. This is what I want so this is what we chose to buy,” added Sterling.

The parents we spoke to say education played the biggest role in their move to Windsor Mills, where they celebrate generations of their growing families, but Sterling tells us before then.

“I was born and raised in West Baltimore and I lived there until I was 24,” said Sterling.

Sterling says the goal for her and her husband was to buy a home and to many, that idea seemed far-fetched. 

“We were both young and no one thought that we could afford a house but we both worked hard and told them we could afford this house and we moved here and we have been here since and I love it,” Sterling explained.

We also spoke to Patricia Chisolm. She told us her family's decision to move was because of the need to adjust to a surprise new addition.

“We had decided we were going to buy a new car, but we got a new son." This shifted their focus to finding a neighborhood and home with more space. "When we walked through, the layout was just absolutely perfect for our family,” said Chisolm.

In the 1960’s, the country was just passing laws desegregating schools, and invalidating laws prohibiting interracial marriages. For the Chisholm family, they found this little corner of Baltimore County a place they could make a new life for themselves.

“I like the fact that the neighborhood accepted us. We came in. The kids played together. They went to school together. They grew up together,” Chisolm added.

Many of the residents can recall their parents moving them from the city into this suburban neighborhood when they were children.

"For me, coming from the city and being real active with so much to do, but then coming to a rural area. I was like wait a minute," said Le'Nard Chisolm, member of the community.

Chisolm moved to the community when he was only 10 and is touted as the "big brother" or the "community organizer" by other members.

Lisha Solomon Evans, another community member, describes the area as "wholesome."

"It was very wholesome. Everybody parented each other's children. I mean, it just in general, it was Mayberry. Urban stuff," said Evans.

Living in this neighborhood taught everyone how to get along with each other without being disrespectful, a quality that Chisolm says is a major descriptor of the community.

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"I mean, we couldn't believe when we first started, it was, Okay, let's try this. Let's try that. And everybody was very instrumental of what they brought as a community member to the tape, you know, and that really helped," Chisolm explained.

Now, the people in the area continue to build on the legacy their parents left for them.

"So the legacy that our parents just kind of created, I'm thinking now we're able to propel that energy within our own families and neighborhoods, and which has been a blessing to be able to come back here," said Chisolm.