Outsiders discover a town of yesteryear


January 30, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Very little in New Windsor is new. A tiny town in northwest Carroll County, it appears to have snuggled warmly into the surrounding hills and green meadows 150 years ago and gone to sleep.

But the rest of the world hasn't passed New Windsor by -- as some older residents here would have liked. Plenty of land and a good location have attracted developers, whose new homes will likely double the town's population within 10 years. Many of the 800 residents here -- some of whom have never lived anywhere else -- are upset.

"We've grown too much," said Albert Benedict, a New Windsor native who has lived all but four of his 78 years in town. "I liked New Windsor the way it was when I was born. A long time ago, there were stores everywhere in town. Now we're growing, but it's all houses."

Many fear the traffic that may crawl through town after the homes are finished.

Some residents already complain about an estimated 500 tractor-trailers that rumble through town a day, to and from industrial centers.

"These narrow little streets just aren't going to be able to handle the flow, especially around 5 o'clock," says Donna Alban, who has lived for four years in the Main Street home where her husband, Tracey, was born.

"We already have the truck traffic."

A variety of housing is in the works -- designed for, among others, older people, families moving up to larger homes and first-time buyers. Developers, however, are limited to 12 units until a supplement to New Windsor's spring-generated water supply can be found.

One developer, Mike Sponseller, has four houses under construction and is preparing to start six more at Atlee Ridge, a 134-unit development of two-story, split-level and ranch homes on one-third to three-quarter-acre lots priced between $109,000 to 149,000. Mr. Sponseller said his customers have been first- and second-time buyers.

The Blue Ridge Manor homes, the 84-unit project on Rowe Road by NWP Homes and S&A Custom-built Homes, will feature a Victorian theme, with mailboxes and street signs reminiscent of that era.

The builders are offering the homes on one-third-acre lots for $130,000, which they say will attract move-up buyers.

A model has been built on the site, and two more houses are under construction.

The foundation has been laid for David Bullock's Springdale Retirement Village, a 36-unit condominium complex on Springdale Avenue and Rowe Road. It will cater to older people, as will the 30-unit Brethren Center Retirement Community, which will be built alongside the Brethren Service Center property on Route 31. The Service Center, which occupies the former Blue Ridge College buildings, provides international disaster relief.

Not as quiet

When the building is done in a few years, New Windsor will likely look more like a city than the crossroads village from which it evolved.

Isaac Atlee laid out New Windsor along the Old Monocacy wagon road, which stretched from Winchester, Va., to Philadelphia. He hoped to capitalize on the traffic by opening a hotel and leasing lots around the busy road to shopkeepers and tradesman.

Atlee and the town prospered once city folk began to summer in New Windsor, disembarking in droves from wagons and coaches in the early 19th century to test the medicinal and healing powers of the towns' sulfur springs, at the foot of Main Street and owned by Atlee.

New Windsor flourished, prospered and survived through the Civil War. It was used by Union soldiers as a passageway to Gettysburg and by the Confederates as a supply center -- the town was looted in the

summer of 1862, the same year that the railroad came through town, strengthening its commercial base and giving farmers and merchants greater accessibility to eastern markets.

The prosperity allowed residents to build the ornate Victorian homes that line upper Church Street, dubbed "Quality Hill."

More than a century later, the train no longer stops at the foot of Main Street. The terminal was torn down in 1964, although the freight trains still pass through on the way north to Highfield, Pa., and south to Glyndon, Md. The sulfur springs, hidden by a small outbuilding, are no longer used.

Western Maryland Railway also runs the EnterTRAINment line, which features social themes, such as "Murder Mystery" trains and holiday events for patrons wanting to party on the rails.

Small-town feel

But some things haven't changed, like the shops and corner grocers that have become staples in small-town America. Everett Ecker, a former town councilman, runs the hardware store on Church Street. On the corner of Church and High streets is Roop's Grocery, which has been in the family for several generations.

"It's the little things people like about small towns that make New Windsor so special, like the volunteer fire company, the Lions Club, social activities, interactive government," said Lou Scharon, a former County Commissioner who grew up in the area. He works for Long & Foster Realtors in Westminster.

"It's just a very nice country atmosphere."

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