It was the freak snowstorm of Christmas night when the two children of Patricia and Robert Zouck took to sledding down the steep hill of Overbrook Road in Ruxton, just as their parents had done on the dead-end street in their own childhoods.
"It's a great memory. It was so quiet, fun and safe at Christmas-- just the way it used to be years ago," Mrs. Zouck said.
The Zoucks are among many Ruxtonites who, struck by nostalgia, have moved back to the community they so enjoyed in their childhoods.
"Ruxton is a charming, rural-type community. It's very close to the city, yet has a character of its own -- with its hilly, windy && roads," said Mrs. Zouck, a 47-year-old preschool teacher married to an attorney.
Yearning for greater elbow room and more of a country feel, the Zoucks sold their townhouse in Rodgers Forge and bought a Dutch Colonial in Ruxton six years ago. Now they have the big yard they wanted, where they planted a vegetable garden, and Mr. Zouck has the comfort of a short commute to his downtown office at the Maryland Tax Court.
Ruxton may be known to many as a sanctuary for bluebloods. And certainly the community has its share of old aristocracy, along with prominent well-heeled corporate executives, physicians, lawyers and stockbrokers.
The many housing styles are what appeals to many who choose to live there.
"We're a collage. It's not unusual to see a house over half a million dollars next to one that is $200,000 to $300,000. Everybody isn't jammed up in one price range," said John E. Dunn III, an agent for Prudential Preferred Properties who has lived in a sprawling one-story house on West Wind Road for 30 years.
Of course, the diversity has its limit: homes below $200,000 are rare.
In Ruxton, housing styles vary widely, along with the topography. Although there are a few small and pricey subdivisions of recent vintage, including Ruxton Green, most of the Ruxton homes were custom designed.
* There are giant Victorians -- many with three floors, loads of bedrooms and the wrap-around front porches beloved by their inhabitants during the warm seasons. Some of them have stood for more than a century and served as summer retreats for wealthy families whose primary homes were closer to the city.
* There are elegant traditional homes, including many center-hall Colonials, built throughout the decades in a range of styles and sizes.
* There are one-story houses, including large stone and brick ranch-style houses, built in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s.
* There are custom contemporary homes of various designs, many constructed in the 1960s and 1970s.
"It's hard to put the houses in Ruxton in neat little categories," said Mr. Dunn, referring to the 1,000-or-so properties in the suburban community. Not only do ages and styles vary widely, but so do sizes. Most of the houses are spacious: 2,000 to 6,000 square feet or larger, with four or five bedrooms and multiple baths.
As in other Baltimore-area communities, residents of Ruxton suffered a slump in property values during the recession of the late 1980s. But once again prices seem to be slowly rising and should continue to do so in the coming spring market, said Richard Gatchell, real estate broker for Hill & Co. in Cross Keys.
Lure of amenities
Ruxton is more rustic and casual than similarly priced areas like Roland Park, Guilford or Homeland. By design, Ruxton has neither sidewalks nor streetlights and many residents, relishing the country feel of the place, prefer it that way.
"There are many old shoes here -- people who like to put their feet up. They're not here because of the glow of the word Ruxton. They're here because of the amenities," said Mr. Gatchell, who lives in a contemporary home on Walnut Hill Lane.
Sloping hills, privacy, trees and big yards are not the only lures in Ruxton. Location is also considered a prime benefit. Though rural in feel, Ruxton offers quick access to the Baltimore Beltway, Charles Street and Interstate 83 -- main arteries to employment centers around the metropolitan area.
Residents like having their low-key Ruxton Village Center, which is anchored by Graul's market, a gourmet grocery. Also at the center are a wine shop, beauty salon, women's apparel shop and other small boutiques and professional offices.
Another amenity is Ruxton's access to Robert E. Lee Park and Lake Roland -- admired by joggers, walkers and nature lovers who have voiced strong concerns about the ecological well-being of the area. Each fall, the improvement association that serves Ruxton sponsors a walk through the park as a community event.
Satellite of Towson