A friendly community that's full of civic pride


July 09, 1995|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

The sign at the entrance to the town reads "Welcome to Aberdeen -- A Friendly Place to Live and Work."

Former Baltimore Orioles coach and manager Cal Ripken Sr. couldn't agree more. After all, Aberdeen is where Mr. Ripken learned to swing a bat and where Cal Jr. and his brother Billy hit their first balls.

Deeply rooted in Aberdeen for generations, the Ripkens have never considered living anywhere else, even after baseball took them on the road for long stretches at a time.

"I was born and raised here and after I went away into baseball, it always felt good to come home," Mr. Ripken said. "Everything you want in a town, we have right here."

"Aberdeen is our home, the people are very friendly and loyal, and there has always been a real sense of community," adds Mr. Ripken's wife, Vi.

Situated in Harford County about halfway between Baltimore and Wilmington, Del., Aberdeen is bordered by Interstate 95 on the west and on the east by the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a 72,000-acre Army weapons testing and research installation along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The town is bisected by railroad tracks and U.S. 40, a busy, four-lane highway that not long ago enabled Aberdeen to boast more filling stations per capita than any other town in the United States.

Some sections of Aberdeen are more gritty than pretty, others are known for their spacious yards, tree-lined streets and homes that run the gamut from townhouses to single-family and restored Victorian frame houses with large wraparound porches.

Though its history is rich, Aberdeen is not known for many historic landmarks. But its reputation for being a friendly town filled with civic pride reaches well beyond the borders.

Residents of Aberdeen truly care about their community.

"Aberdeen has a real hometown atmosphere, a warmth that I haven't found anywhere else in the county," says Billie D. Landbeck, an Aberdeen native, community activist and local Realtor.

Active in community

At age 74, Mrs. Landbeck is just as involved in the community as she was 30 to 40 years ago when her children were attending local schools.

Last fall Mrs. Landbeck watched with pride as new lights illuminated the Aberdeen High School football field. She helped raise funds for the project, just as she did some 30 years ago when she headed a group of volunteers who put on a variety show to raise money for the first set of football field lights.

Aberdeen incorporated in 1892, but its history dates back to the early 1600s when Capt. John Smith set out to explore the region north of Virginia and mapped out the rivers and bays of Harford County.

The town became a thriving and prosperous shipping point with the advent of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railroads in 1835. From the new railroad station, which was called Aberdeen after its stationmaster's native town in Scotland, large quantities of milk were shipped to Baltimore City.

By 1870 the village of Aberdeen had grown to 300 residents. Most lived in a square bounded by Plater Street, Edmund Street, Front Street and West Bel Air Avenue.

The original town map hangs in the Aberdeen Room, a museum started in 1987 by Charlotte Cronin.

Collecting history

Mrs. Cronin, an eighth-generation Aberdeen native, wanted to share her collection of historic family memorabilia. Other volunteers joined her efforts and, as a result, the community museum has grown from a small basement room in the old elementary school building to the first floor of the former district court building on North Parke Street.

Along with Indian artifacts collected by Mrs. Cronin's father, Clinton Sterling Garrettson, the museum contains old phone books, high school yearbooks, and pictures and newspaper clippings that tell the story of the town and its people from the humble beginnings to modern day.

With more than 13,000 residents today, Aberdeen has become the 12th-largest city in the state.

"We are a full-service municipality, operating with an annual budget of about $7 million," said Peter Dacey, the city administrator. "We provide our own water, sewer and police protection."

Once known for its booming canning industry, Aberdeen became a predominantly residential community when the canneries died out during the But with a residential and commercial boom on the outskirts of the town in the 1980s, Aberdeen also began to attract industry.

With easy access to Interstate 95, hotels opened and beckoned weary motorists to make Aberdeen their rest stop on their travels north and south.

"Aberdeen has 70 percent of all the hotels in the county," Mr. Dacey said. "And when 500 acres were annexed to the city and zoned industrial in 1987, Aberdeen became attractive for other industry."

Pier I Imports opened a 633,000-square-foot warehouse; Frito Lay built a $20 million snack manufacturing and distribution plant; a Wal-Mart store opened on U.S. 40; and Clorox operates a 400,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center just outside the city limits.

New leadership

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