Pastoral enclave created on rock

July 24, 1994|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Staff Writer

The neighborhood profile of July 24 incorrectly reported the history of the Hampton area. Col. Charles Ridgely bought the property in 1745 from Ann Hill, whose father Col. Henry Darnall received it as a land grant from Lord Baltimore in 1695.

The Sun regrets the error.

On the 1.3-acre St. Francis Road property that Larry Carico calls home stands a 65-foot white pine -- a symbol of his commitment to his neighborhood.

"That tree has lived with me, and I've lived with it," says Mr. Carico, 79, who received the tree as a gift 35 years ago and has lived at his current address for almost 42 years. "You get used to it, and it's a part of you."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Such is a common feeling among residents of Hampton -- a Towson community close to the Beltway developed in the 1920s, where the lot size is still at least one acre. Lured by Hampton's proximity to Baltimore and its ability to stay relatively undeveloped, many of the current owners are in their 70s with no intention of leaving.

"They'll have to carry me out of this place," says Dick Tarallo, co-founder of a Fallston-based engineering consulting firm and a resident of Hampton for 38 years. "We'll stay here as long as we physically can."

Hampton has about 600 homes, typically stone and brick on an acre or more, shielded by towering trees and gentle slopes. Sixteen Hampton homes currently are on the market, with an average listing price of $310,218.

Many of the homes available for purchase are ranchers, ranging from $189,000 for three bedrooms and two bathrooms to $449,000 for five bedrooms and four baths. A small number of the homes are two-story Colonials, ranging from $295,000 to $349,000 for four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths.

Homes there increasingly are being snapped up by younger families -- a trend that has Ronald Porterfield, president of the Hampton Improvement Association, smiling.

"It's a revitalization of the community itself," he said. "Families with children are a positive influence in any community. I love to see that."

The Hampton area -- basically defined by Providence Road to the east, the Beltway to the south, Dulaney Valley Road to the west and Seminary Avenue to the north -- is best known for the Hampton National Historic Site and Notre Dame Preparatory School, both off Hampton Lane.

Colonel Ridgely

The area originally was owned by Col. Charles Ridgely, who received the property in a land grant from King George III of England during the 1780s. Colonel Ridgely formed the Northampton Co., an ironworks that produced round shot for rifles and cannons. The Ridgely family turned the area into a massive farming industry.

That began to change at the turn of this century, when the family came on hard times, says Mr. Tarallo, a local historian. The Ridgelys, whom Mr. Tarallo called "land rich but money-wise poor," started to sell land to developers during the 1920s, with the plots divided into three sections.

But the Ridgelys wanted to preserve what Mr. Tarallo called "gentlemen estates." So the family instituted covenants, defining what the owners could do with their property. The covenants -- including forbidding further division of land for private sale and certain limitations for additions -- still are enforced today.

A few Hampton residents have tried to get around the covenants, but to no avail so far.

The improvement association took a Seminary Avenue homeowner to court after he tried to subdivide his property for private sale. A judge ordered him to drop his plans.

Another lawsuit filed by a Windygate Road couple challenging the validity of the covenants is pending.

Hampton is also unique in its topography. Many of the homes were built on a rock foundation that until recently prevented the homes from having public water and sewage system. Until the 1980s, most of the homes had septic tanks and wells.

But that began to change in 1984 when Baltimore County won a legal battle to install a sewage system for 150 houses whose septic tanks had failed, causing raw sewage to run off into Long Quarter Branch and eventually into the Loch Raven Reservoir.

The county blasted the rock with dynamite -- sometimes 16 feet down -- and installed a line to the nearby Long Quarter Pumping Station at Dulaney Valley and Seminary roads.

Sections of the pipe have broken in recent years, causing sewage to flow into the watershed. The County Council decided in January 1993 to replace the line. However, the prospect of further noise and possible damage to residents' homes and properties when the work starts later this year is not an idea pleasing to Mr. Porterfield.

"This represents a trauma statement because of the bad experience they had before," says Mr. Porterfield. "Not only was the job marginally constructed, but also the breaks continue to occur."

But Mr. Carico, who retired 18 years ago from Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., said he thinks the work is necessary.

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