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Sparks, Maryland is an unincorporated community in northern Baltimore County, Maryland. It is located approximately 20 miles north of the City of Baltimore and it is considered to be a suburb of Baltimore. Sparks' claims to fame include the fact that it is the location of the world headquarters of McCormick Spices. It is also the location of the Milton Inn, a well-known dining establishment that had been a boarding school, known as the Milton Academy, in the 19th Century. (One of its students was John Wilkes Booth.) Wallace Warfield Simpson, better known as the Duchess of Windsor, and the Princess of Jordan graduated from the nearby Oldfields School, a private boarding school for young women. The popular North Central Railroad ("NCR") Hike-Bike Trail runs through Sparks, along the basin of the Gunpowder Falls. The history of Sparks, taken from a commemorative plaque along the NCR trail is as follows:

In 1835, the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad constructed a track through Baltimore County which included a siding and switch near a large tract of land owned by the Sparks family. Railroad officials gave the name Sparks to the switch and soon area residents began to refer to the location as "Sparks' Switch." For some years a creamery, which can still be seen, was operated for farmers who brought their milk in daily to be separated. The cream was shipped to Baltimore while the skim milk was used by the farmers on their farms. With the passage of time, Sparks' Switch came to be known simply as "Sparks." In 1888, the area had grown to a point where "a substantial foot bridge 6 feet in width" had to be built across the Gunpowder. A combination passenger and freight station was operated by the Northern Central Railroad in 1889 to serve the community, appropriately named Sparks Station.

An interesting bit of history shows that the area along York Road today that we know as Sparks was once the town of Philopolis. Sparks was merely a cluster of homes and farms one mile to the east along the NCR tracks. Philopolis was the site of the Milton Academy, a well known private day and boarding school for boys. Also located there were a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, an undertaker, a milliner, and a general store. In time, the entire area came to be known as Sparks, and the village of Philopolis disappeared from county maps. (Ed. Note: The name "Philopolis" is from the Greek and means "Love Town." Today, a subdivision of Sparks is named "Loveton.")

In 1909, six small rural schools were consolidated into what we know today as Sparks Elementary school (destroyed by fire in 1995). Initially the school was called Agricultural High School - many of its students rode the NCR's Parkton local to get to school. In 1913 a general store and warehouse was built and the post office was moved from York Road to Sparks. Sparks State Bank was built in 1916 next to the store along the NCR tracks. Interestingly, both the bank and the post office have been moved back to York Road which is now the main area of local business. The bank moved in 1954 due to a decrease in train activity as well as repeated flooding from the Gunpowder River - some of its safe deposit boxes were said to have contained water from past floods. The original Sparks Bank building is now operated as a Nature Center for young children by volunteers of Gunpowder Falls State Park in conjunction with the NCR Hike and Bike Trail which follows the old railroad path through northern Baltimore County.

Zip Code 21152


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