Melvale is a section of north Baltimore City west of Roland Park with its center where Cold Spring Lane (once called Melvale Avenue) passes over the Jones Falls. A water driven flour mill was established in the first half of the 19th Century in Melvale. The mill structure still stands and is today part of the Fleischmann vinegar plant. From 1887 to 1920 the stone building was used by the Melvale Distilling Co., one of the nation’s premiere rye whiskey producers of its time. Prohibition ended the distillery’s successful run.
In 1885 an asylum was established by Dr. William Frederick Steuart in Melvale. Steuart was a surgeon for Robert E. Lee’s troops during the Civil War. His son, Dr. Cecilius Calvert Steuart, took over administration of the Melvale Hospital upon his father’s retirement. The Steuart’s are related to the Calvert family, founders of Maryland.
The Melvale gas holder was built in 1933 for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. The 258 foot tall steel cylinder was constructed by the Bartlett Hayward Co., one of Baltimore’s historic businesses. The gigantic tank sits just off the Jones Falls Expressway next to the Cold Spring Light Rail station. The decommissioned tank once stored gas and later natural gas for nearby Baltimoreans. The Melvale gas holder is targeted for demolition in 2013.
Phase IV of the Jones Falls Trail, a paved biking/hiking path, will run right past the gas holder on its way north to Greenspring Avenue and Cylburn Arboretum. The entire trailhead will eventually connect Baltimore’s Inner Harbor with Lake Roland. Phase IV, running from Woodberry to Cylburn, is scheduled to be completed in December 2012, but appears to be slightly behind schedule.
The boundaries of Melvale are difficult to determine today and the name is rarely used anymore. The old mill building lies within a series of parks starting with Cylburn Arboretum and descending south to Cold Spring Park, Woodberry Woods, Hooper & Rockrose Park and terminating at historic Druid Hill.
A city landfill, which started as a quarry, west of Cold Spring Park is now athletic fields and a parking lot. The city’s “stump dump,” once the sewage filtration plant for the Roland Park neighborhood is also contained within the region of Melvale.
The origin of the Melvale name is not clear to me at this time. Further research of land records and old maps will hopefully shine some light on the subject. I suspect the name is attached to the mill that once turned grain to flour along the west bank of the Jones Falls long before there was a concrete expressway dividing the rolling landscape.