Knaggs preserves N.Baltimore history
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 19 January 2013 08:54
North Baltimore’s Bonnie Knaggs has often been called the village’s unofficial historian.
|Bonnie Knaggs by a historical sign in front of the library (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Actually, it’s her official title.
Knaggs was appointed village historian in 1984 by then-Mayor Robert Patterson Jr. It’s a position she has held with pride and dedication since.
“People with families and children direct their energy toward raising their kids. I guess my kid is North Baltimore,” Knaggs joked.
Ask her about the old opera house, or the time when the village boasted three grocery stores, two appliance shops and a bakery, Knaggs has dates, names and an anecdote ready.
The 82-year-old newspaper editor and real estate agent moved to North Baltimore for her third-grade year and has been rooted their since. She graduated from NBHS in 1948.
“I guess I just kind of fell into this and realized there was a need to preserve the history,” Knaggs said.
She began archiving North Baltimore for the village’s Centennial Celebration in 1976.
“By default, I got to be the chair of the Centennial Celebration,” she said. “Because of that, I started seriously collecting North Baltimore memorabilia.”
Her collection was enough to fill a large room in her home.
“It got to the point where at flea markets people would say, ‘Hey, Bonnie, I’ve got some North Baltimore stuff,’” she said. “I became known as the North Baltimore collector.”
Knaggs later went on to found the North Baltimore Area Historical Society and has spearheaded numerous historical projects to benefit the village such as: historical books on North Baltimore; signs on I-75 designating North Baltimore as the “Crossroads of the Heartland;” marker at the edge of town listing the village as a historical railroad and oil town; wooden train whistles with the old depot on them to commemorate the CSX railyard; and the Main Street “welcome banners,” among many other projects.
Dr. Ralph Wolfe, president of the North Baltimore Library Board of Trustees, which later purchased property for the Historical Society on Main Street, called Knaggs a “historical entrepreneur” and “patriot of North Baltimore.”
“The community is fortunate to have had someone with this interest because community history dies when people die,” Wolfe said.
Knaggs was also integral in having the historical marker placed in front of the library in 1997.
“It took me three years to get it,” Knaggs said.
“I would also like to have a marker for the historical center and I would also like one where the old school was torn down,” she said.
Knaggs founded the North Baltimore Area Historical Society in 1998 shortly after the historical marker was erected.
“It all started over a Civil War flag,” she said.
While at the beauty shop, Knaggs overheard talk of a Civil War flag designed by the ladies of North Baltimore. A founding family had the flag and wanted to donate it to the local historical society — provided there was one.
“I immediately told her to tell her yes,” Knaggs said.
And that’s how it was started.
While she is passionate about North Baltimore’s history, preserving it is also something she feels compelled to do.
“Somebody has got to do it,” Knaggs said. “It was lost between the 1890s and 1976 and nobody did anything.
“It just frustrates me that people aren’t more interested in preserving things.”