Friendliness, water create 'great place'


March 27, 1994|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

When Ted and Mary Ann Smith bought their first Joppatowne home more than 30 years ago, they felt like pioneers staking out a homestead.

Roads were unpaved, sidewalks were nonexistent, and the closest grocery store was about 10 miles away. "When we moved into our house in 1963, we were only the third family in the area," Mrs. Smith says.

Today, there are more than 3,000 homes -- from two-story Colonials to ranchers and split levels, semi-detached homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments.

Residents enjoy a 32-acre park along the Little Gunpowder River with walkways for joggers and bikers, picnic areas, fishing piers and a boat-launching facility.

A nearby full-service marina offers 500 boat slips, and man-made waterways flow through the landscaped neighborhood.

The Smiths say they didn't mind enduring the initial inconveniences when they first moved to Joppatowne. They were excited about taking an early part in what promised to become one of Maryland's first self-contained, planned communities.

Residents can walk to stores, schools and the public library.

"People moving to Joppatowne were like us -- young families buying their first home, wanting to create a great place for their kids to grow up in," Mrs. Smith adds.

That initial community spirit, nurtured through the years by people like the Smiths, is still alive. "Just ask anyone what they like best about living in Joppatowne and the immediate response is, "It's a friendly community,' " says Mrs. Smith.

Susan Lahey, 42, a resident in the Rumsey Island section of Joppatowne, couldn't agree more. "I just love it here, people are warm, friendly and helpful. I've never lived in a neater place," she says.

Mrs. Lahey fondly remembers how welcome she felt when she and her husband, Mike, moved into their waterfront duplex home four years ago. "There was a knock on the door, and a neighbor greeted us with a cake and left her telephone number just in

case we needed any help," Mrs. Lahey says.

NTC Community associations sponsor Halloween parades and fishing derbies for children.

An active recreation council, which the Smiths helped organize almost 30 years ago, offers programs for all ages and begins its youth baseball-softball programs with an opening day parade.

Members of the local garden club landscape and maintain the median strip on Joppa Farm Road, the community's 2 1/2 -mile main street. Other clubs raise funds for scholarships and playground equipment, and an Easter Egg Hunt is sponsored by the Lions Club.

When the community's privately owned swim club was closed two years ago and the property put up for sale, a volunteer group stepped in and raised funds to purchase and reopen the pool.

Joppatowne was the dream of J. Leon Panitz, a third-generation land developer and builder. He believed the location, off U.S. 40 just across the Baltimore-Harford counties line and bordered by the Little Gunpowder, would be the perfect spot for families migrating to the country. And Baltimore City was just 12 miles away.

Thirty years ago the work force at nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground was growing rapidly, and there was a need for affordable housing for young families. The individual homes were designed to have three and four bedrooms and one to two baths on a quarter-acre.

Home prices ranged from $8,000 to $11,000, says Dee Jefferson, sales manager for Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc.'s Joppatowne office and a resident of the community for 25 years.

"The same homes today range in price from $90,000 to $150,000," Mrs. Jefferson says.

Mr. Panitz named his new community after its Colonial predecessor, Joppa, a tobacco seaport and county seat of Baltimore in the early 1700s.

In its thriving days, Joppa received manufactured goods from all over the world and exported tobacco and corn.

But the town's prosperity was short-lived. Joppa deteriorated rapidly when silt filled up most of the town's mile-wide harbor. A smallpox epidemic accelerated the town's downfall.

Since the building of modern Joppatowne, numerous links to the community's Colonial heritage have been discovered.

'We will stay here'

In 1983 the foundation of St. John, the original church of the town of Joppa, was excavated just yards away from the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, St. John's successor.

The area has since been designated the Joppa National Historic Site, and archaeological studies are continuing, says Karen Hawley, a member of the Church of the Resurrection. The Historic Joppa Foundation oversees the studies.

"We helped start this community, and we will stay here," says Mr. Smith, 59, a retired assistant superintendent for the Baltimore County public schools who coaches swim, tennis and volleyball teams at Joppatowne High School.

And Mrs. Smith, 57, a secretary at the high school, also coaches the swim team and is the school's first female assistant football coach.

Housing prices in Joppatowne today start at $450 a month for an apartment to $275,000 for a waterfront homes.

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