Hereford grows, changes NEW GENTRY AMID THE GOOD OL' BOYS

September 10, 1992|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

For more than 150 years, Hereford was a tiny farm village flourishing on the road between Baltimore and York, Pa., but modern development has changed its face and created a divide between the old and the new.

"There is an incredible cultural clash between the good ol' boy, laid-back farmers and the high-profile new gentry who have built their big houses on subdivided farms and on the little back roads," said J. Lee Bishop, secretary of the Hereford Community Association.

Strung out along York Road north and south of Mount Carmel Road, Hereford also has become a major shopping point, attracting commuters from northern Baltimore County and Pennsylvania.

At York and Mount Carmel roads, a small modern area with stores, pharmacies and professional offices as well as a post office and a library has replaced a longtime general store in the heart of Hereford. Just east of town, a shopping center has sprung up on Mount Carmel Road between York Road and Interstate 83.

"It's very convenient," said Allan Foster, 82. "We never go to Baltimore or even Towson anymore."

He and his wife, Jessie, also 82, have spent their lives in the area and remember when York Road was just a dirt road, and farmers came to town by horse and buggy.

"We used to drive a horse and buggy here to church every Sunday for the two years we lived in White Hall, a couple of miles up the road," Mr. Foster said.

According to a brief history of the community by Josephine S. Mays, a descendant of an old Hereford family, a 1745 map of York Road shows only four towns: Baltimore, Hereford, Parkton and York.

By the late 1800s, Hereford was a self-sufficient community. Ms. Mays cites the tale of a traveling salesman so impressed with Hereford that he called it the "one place he considered complete."

"If he could return he might not recognize Hereford, but we who call this part of the community home realized long ago that change was inevitable and have accepted the complete transition with appreciation and enthusiasm," Ms. Mays wrote.

The commercial and residential changes are good for business but they have eroded some of what was "a charming, close-knit, relaxed community where people used to leave their doors unlocked," said Mr. Bishop, 48, who has an insurance agency at the edge of the village.

Despite the modernization, old Hereford retains much of its rural ambience; cornfields touch the road between buildings.

The 1842 Baptist Church and the 1871 Methodist Church are reminders of the past. Some houses have been converted to small businesses. Several old stores have been adapted to new uses, but do not seem out of place.

Unfortunately, however, other "interesting old buildings," such as the old country store at the corner of York and Mount Carmel roads, were demolished to make way for new construction, said Ethel Troyer, 77, a retired school administrator.

Mr. Bishop fears the "cancer [of commercial development] creeping up York Road" and spreading through Cockeysville, Hunt Valley and Loveton.

"Once everything's paved over and sprawl envelops us, the rural way of life will be gone," he said.

The burst of development in the late 1970s and early 1980s has slowed, but Hereford and its surrounding areas are still feeling the impact, he said.

"My office is right on York Road, and I can see the traffic growing every month -- people from Pennsylvania and northern Baltimore County," he said.

Then there is the traffic coming off I-83 at the Mount Carmel Road interchange just east of the village, putting Hereford in danger of being overwhelmed.

"Hereford was always a very quiet town," said Mr. Foster. "Everybody knew everybody, what troubles they got into and out of. Nobody got rich. The businesses served the farm community. But there are very few people residing here now that I know."

A traffic signal installed about a year ago officially recognized the volume of traffic being generated from I-83 and along York Road, much of it from the twice-a-day procession of school buses through the village.

Virginia Shelley, 65, lives on what was once a farm lane off York Road. She recalls that when she was a teen-ager "this was all fields around here."

However, Mrs. Shelley said she loves the new commercial development because "I'm far enough off York Road to avoid the noise and close enough to walk to anything I want."

Dixie Lynn Cook, 43, who has lived in the area all her life and operates an antiques shop in an 1840s house, said of Hereford: "It was a very comfortable place until all the development started, then it changed."

The subdivision of farms for upscale housing has driven up assessments, making it difficult for older people to stay, Miss Cook said.

New development, however regulated, remains inevitable as the population increases and moves about. But developers will not have an easy time.

Jeffrey Long, community planner for the area, said Baltimore County's planning office is "resisting [large-scale] commercial development north of Loveton."

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