Lost Colony On Rt. 198 Looks To Developer For Deliverance

August 04, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Don't try getting a mattress delivered to Maryland City. Chances areit'll wind up someplace else.

"They will never find you because they are looking for you on a Prince George's County map. They never think to look in Anne Arundel. We are very much forgotten," says Mary Lhotsky, who serves on the Maryland City Civic Association board of directors.

Official sources don't do much better. Call directory assistance,and the operator seems puzzled by a request for a Maryland City number. Get a driver's license at the Motor Vehicle Administration, and they'll stamp Laurel beneath your address and insist you live in Prince George's County. Buy the The Sun at the local convenience store, and the suburban section you read is about Howard County.

And for some residents, calling 911 means getting a dispatcher in Prince George's County, who has to reroute the call.

Wedged between Fort Meade and the Prince George's County line, the community of 10,000 feels isolated from the county and ignored by almost everyone else.

Roads in disrepair, sewers that back up and the lack of a community center top the list of residents' complaints. The root of the problem, they say, is that county officials don't care what happens to the neighborhood on the far side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

"The community has had to fight for everything it wanted," said Ray Smallwood, the outspoken president of the Maryland City Civic Association. "Wewere not getting anything we want from Anne Arundel County. The county had not spent anything in here in years.

This makes it tough toremember just who you are.

"I'm embarrassed to say it," Smallwoodsaid, "but some of our own residents don't know we're in Anne Arundel."


Maryland City wasn't always viewed as an outpost.

The community is relatively new -- built just three decades ago to accommodate an influx of families looking for the suburban lifestyle.

The brochures describing this community on the far western edge of the county promised modern homes with finished basements and the latest appliances, such as garbage disposals and dishwashers.

For about $11,000, a family could buy a well-equipped home and take advantage of new schools, shopping centers and parks.

"Maryland City is a realization of a new planning concept which rejects the conformity of massive housing developments," the promotional brochure said. "Maryland City will be the complete suburb, a community with country charm and big city convenience."

But something went wrong. Thirty years afterthe first house was sold, the children of the original families are still fighting for what the brochures promised.

Less than half of the development was built. Instead of 5,000 homes, 1,500 are grouped together in a circular pattern.

People driving by on Route 198 barely know Maryland City exists. What they see on the major divided road -- once a small country lane -- is a hodgepodge of bars and motels feeding off the nearby race track, a bingo hall, trailer parks and scattered industry.

Community leaders are now hoping another development -- Russett Center -- will finally draw attention to their community.

The 3,500-home development being built at the corner of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 198 could boost the population by the thousands.

"We support Russett being built," said Smallwood, who is also head of the Federation of West County Civic Associations. "Now, maybe we'll have enough clout to get what we need."


Robert Strider Sr. and his wife, Midge, became Maryland City residents in 1963.

They lived in Glen Burnie, but Robert Strider's commuteto Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab in Columbia was grueling, and the couple decided to move.

Midge Strider heard a jingle on the radio one day touting Maryland City, so the couple packed up the kids and went out for a look. There were no sidewalks or roads, but they fell in love with the quaint home, with its modern stove, central air-conditioning and a finished basement.

For $12,990, the couple bought a Dorchester, a three-bedroom rancher in the 200 block of Marganza South, becoming the 40th family to buy into the community. "My husband said I could have whatever I wanted," Midge Strider said. "I chose this one."

Soon after moving in, Robert Strider became one of the first presidents of the Civic Association.

"We got involved because the brochure offered so many things," he said. "We felt we had to get organized, or it wasn't going to happen."

Back then, Route 198 was Route 602. The closest store was Markles Corner, now an Amaco Station near the Prince George's County line. The Starting Gate Lounge was an elegant family establishment, not a headquarters for the down-and-out.

Maryland City was a haven for families on moderate incomeswho wanted to live upscale.

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