Original Northwood thrives with diversity

January 06, 1991|By Mary Medland

According to "Beyond the White Marble Steps," a 1979 publication of the Citizens Planning and Housing Administration, the land that became Original Northwood was once estate property. In this case, the neighborhood's 540 acres included portions of the estates of John Work Garrett, Enoch Pratt and A. S. Abell. Today, it is a neighborhood of 368 houses with ample front and back yards and scores of large, old trees.

Original Northwood, part of which is adjacent to Ednor Gardens, has the shape of a jigsaw puzzle piece.

To tour the neighborhood, one takes the Alameda north from the VA hospital to Argonne Drive and then follows Argonne to Westview Road. Continue on Westview to Northview Road and follow Northview to Eastview to Havenwood Road and Loch Raven Boulevard. Then, to complete tracing the neighborhood's main boundaries, take Loch Raven south to the VA hospital.

The neighborhood also extends south of Argonne on Deepwood Road, Roundhill Road and Roundtop Road.

Original Northwood was developed in the early 1930s by the Roland Park Co., a Baltimore real estate development and management firm.

Early plans called for the neighborhood to include a shopping center and a school, but the Great Depression interrupted those projects. Also, the 1930s Depression stalled completion of many of the neighborhood's houses until the mid- to late 1940s, after World War II.

According to Ed Sommerfeldt, a longtime resident and current president of the Original Northwood Association, the Roland Park Company maintained the neighborhood for years; it shoveled snow and mowed the common areas.

As with some other Baltimore neighborhoods, Original Northwood has covenants that are enforced by the Greater Northwood Covenant Association (which represents a total of six neighborhoods including Original Northwood). The Covenant Association was incorporated in the early 1970s when the Roland Park Company bowed out of its long association with the neighborhood.

Covenant Association membership is mandatory; dues run around $12 to $14 a year. The Covenant Association mandates, for example, that residents cannot have fat rendering plants in their front yards. But today it has other responsibilities such as handling the paving and upkeep of the alleys.The association once had racial and religious restrictions that applied to Original Northwood, but the restrictions no longer exist.

"The neighborhood's residents are a diverse group," said 20-year resident Pat Gorman. "We have a lot of young people with families, a lot of professional couples, and many of the original owners. All in all, residents are a mix."

One of the neighborhood's original residents is Ethel Blakeslee, who moved there in February 1940. "There the area was considered country," said Mrs. Blakeslee, a retired Lake Clifton schoolteacher, "and there used to be a free bus for residents to take us to the stores and the movies at Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street."

"Back then there were lots of woods here where I would gather loam for my garden," says Mrs. Blakeslee. "And there was also a fenced park just across Loch Raven for the neighborhood children to play in."

Her house, which is semi-detached, was purchased for $5,450 plus a $1,600 ground rent.

Original Northwood was described by the 1931 "American Civic Annual" as a "country place in the city," with most of the houses selling in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.

Although housing prices have changed dramatically, Original Northwood is "still a very pleasant neighborhood, with a very strong sense of community," said Mr. Sommerfeldt.

"It is also a very social neighborhood; we have an annual crab feast, Halloween party, an evening of Christmas caroling, a garden walk in the spring, an Easter egg hut, and a newcomer's party."

There are also several working committees, including ones for a newsletter, police and community relations and neighborhood cooperation committee, which deals with housing inspection and zoning violations.

"The Northeast [District] police tell us that we have one of the lowest crime rates in the city. And the problems we do have are primarily auto break-ins," Mr. Sommerfeldt said.

"The quality of houses is excellent," he says. "Prices range from $70,000 to $200,000, with an average probably being about $130,000."

"Many Original Northwood homes sell by word of mouth," says Mrs. Gorman. "It has a lot of good homes for very good prices. We now live in our second Original Northwood home."

Joe Clisham, a Realtor with Chase Fitzgerald and Co. and a resident of Original Northwood, points to the wide diversity of houses in the neighborhood: row houses, semi-detached, small detached, and large detached.

"The row houses on Northview Road usually sell in the upper $70,000 through the $80,000s price range," said Mr. Clisham. "This would include three bedrooms, one bath, a living and dining room, kitchen and club basement.

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