Joan (Bittner) Fry is a native Sabillasvillian or Sabillasvillite, depending on which side of the tracks you’d like to claim. She has written several books of history that serve as collections of memories about Sabillasville and the surrounding areas. The following is an excerpt from Book 3. It is a reprint of an article by an unknown author that was published October 5, 1962, in the Record Herald called “Where Do You Live? Blue Ridge Summit Covers Knob” about Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas on the “knob.” To order a book from Ms. Fry, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call her 301-241-3295.
Where Do You Live? Blue Ridge Summit Covers Knob
Blue Ridge Summit shows on the map of Pennsylvania as a little town near here, on the Maryland border. But ask a resident of the area where he lives and—even if his home is in Maryland—he may answer “Blue Ridge Summit.”
He may mean Highfield, Maryland, or one of a dozen satellite communities, which have grown up around the hub of Blue Ridge Summit. Actually, Blue Ridge Summit is a geographic location—a tiny pinprick on the map—but it has become a term used to cover all the mountaintop communities on the knob of the Blue Ridge Mountains shared by Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Grew Around Rail Loop
Blue Ridge Summit grew up around a short Pennsylvania loop of the Western Maryland Railway. The builders had intended to keep the line in Maryland but were forced north for a few hundred yards because of the terrain.
A half century ago the railway carried thousands of weekend excursionists from Baltimore and Washington to the mountaintop to the now overgrown Pen Mar Park and to elegant watering places such as the Blue Mountain House (burned in 1913), and to Buena Vista Hotel (burned in 1967) and now owned by a Roman Catholic Order.
Smaller summer hotels and imposing private summer estates were set among the hemlocks. But with the motorcar and good roads, Blue Ridge Summit took a back seat as a tourist center.
Grew During War
The mountaintop blossomed with people again during World War II. They wore khaki and olive green, went abroad at night, and spoke strange languages.
Thousands of soldiers received their Army intelligence training at nearby Fort (then Camp) Ritchie, Maryland. The summer hotels became apartment houses. Following the war, a nearby mountain was hollowed out to house the “Underground Pentagon/Site R” and Fort Ritchie became a permanent post to serve as the housekeeping headquarters for the Joint Communications Agency and later for the Joint Alternate Command Element. Everything about the latter agency, except the name, remains classified to this day (1962).
Can Be Confusing
But many folks find it more convenient to rent a post office box at the new post office building at Blue Ridge Summit regardless of where they live. This can become quite confusing.
In addition, many community institutions ignore the state, county, and township barriers. The Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Company gives service equally in both states. It’s located in Washington Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania and receives government support from the township supervisors.
Also in Pennsylvania is the Blue Ridge Summit Free Library. It is located in a former railway station donated by the Western Maryland Railway and is a member of the Washington County Maryland Free Library System. Ironically, Franklin countians served by the library pay a half-mill library tax, which goes to support a Franklin County Library, which does not serve the Blue Ridge Summit Free Library.
Twin Water Companies
Some 500 mountaintop residents buy their water from twin, privately owned water companies – Monterey-Blue Ridge Water Supply Company in Pennsylvania and the Blue Ridge Water Company of Washington County in Maryland.
Telephone users appear in the Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania and Highfield, Maryland exchanges. The United Telephone Company of Pennsylvania services both but remits Highfield billings to Maryland’s Chesapeake and Potomac system. Chesapeake and Potomac provides physical plant maintenance on the Maryland side.
The mountaintop is served by four county roads departments and three township roads systems. On the Maryland side there are two county school systems while in Pennsylvania there are three township school boards.
Most communities, such as Cascade, Cullen, Highfield, Lantz, and Sabillasville in Maryland; Charmian, Fountaindale, Greenstone, Monterey, and Pennersville in Pennsylvania; and Pen Mar in Maryland/Pennsylvania, have their own post offices.
Things get really confusing at taxpaying time. The two Adams County Townships have occupation taxes; the Washington Township School District has a one percent wage tax and Maryland a state wage tax. Property taxes are levied everywhere, and the Pennsylvania taxables pay per capita (residence) taxes.