Ferndale takes pride in small-town spirit


January 09, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

Ferndale hasn't changed much since the old Baltimore and Annapolis interurban electric cars steamed through the middle of town.

During the railroad's heyday, its clackety old trains carried 1.7 million passengers a year. While rail-passenger service ended in 1950, freight trains continued to run over the same tracks for several more years.

Today, sleek light-rail trains transporting residents to the city wind their way along the same path as the old commuter line, which was known affectionately as "Bumble & Amble." A plaque on a brick clock tower speaks of Ferndale's past as an old railroad town. That, and a hipped-roof shelter for light-rail riders, are reminiscent of the one torn down years ago.

Ferndale's station opened in April -- one of the last two, along with Cromwell Station just to the south, to be added to the system. The arrival of the rail line has helped take Ferndale out of neighboring Glen Burnie's shadow. Some Ferndale residents say the community lost some of its distinction when the Anne Arundel County Police Department moved to Millersville, a few miles south, in 1971.

"You don't hear very much about Ferndale because there's very little new growth," says Larry Bornt of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn.

While some residents say they believe light rail has increased petty crimes in Ferndale, North ern District commander Capt. Gary Barr describes Ferndale as "quiet" and said an increase in crime because of the rail system is "a pressing concern of the neighborhood but we just haven't seen that."

Some Ferndale residents say they consider traffic snarls along Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, not crime, as the area's biggest problem. Reasons why vary. Some residents attribute the increase in traffic along the thoroughfare to the light rail changing traffic patterns. Others say they thought traffic increased after an exit from I-97 for Linthicum.

. Now, some drivers leave I-97 in Ferndale and wind their way along the boulevard to Linthicum.

In Ferndale, the light rail cuts right through the middle of town. This has made Ferndale more visible to passers-by, encouraging shop owners to refurbish storefronts near the line.

The small business section of mostly one-story shops, and a senior citizens center, sits along Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in what is considered old Ferndale -- home to the Ferndale Tavern, the town's post office and other shops on the north side of the street across from the light-rail station. Legend has it that in the old days politicos would meet over a few beers at the tavern to decide the fate of their constituents.

Older community

Ferndale is one of Anne Arundel County's older, established communities. Homes there were built as needed. People began moving here from South Baltimore around World War II, as young couples with burgeoning families sought more space and men returning from the war sought housing.

"It was not built as one big development. As plots of land in the community became available a builder would build his particular homes," says Leo Harnen, who has lived in Ferndale 27 years and is president of the Ferndale-Linthicum Area Community Association.

State Sen. Michael Wagner's parents moved to Ferndale from South Baltimore about 47 years ago when he was a toddler. "It was the first house on the street," he said. "We raised chickens, tomatoes and planted corn."

"I just would never think of leaving Ferndale," says Mr. Wagner, who lives in Ferndale with his wife, Carol. "People here are middle-income sorts who have old-fashioned values and there aren't a lot of problems."

Prices for newer homes, many of them ranchers built in the last five years, average about $150,000 on quarter-acre lots. Older homes, many of them Cape Cods, go for about $80,000 on half-acre lots, says Alex Sabotor, an agent with Coldwell Banker Home Realty Professionals.

The town is a mix of senior citizens and young professionals who are moving in, some of whom grew up in the community. Often, family members live nearby. Residents call it a good place to raise a family.

"It's a small town. It's not a big town. It's stable. There's not a whole lot of building going on," says the Rev. Michael Hubers, who grew up in the community and is pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church of Ferndale.

Some of his aunts and uncles still live here. His uncle, William, owns Hubers Bus Service on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. Occasionally, Mr. Hubers, his wife, Donna, and their two children, ages 5 and 10, take the light rail up to Baltimore. "It provides nice access to other areas," says Mr. Hubers, who lives in the Sundown Brooke subdivision on Olen Drive and Sundown Road.

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