Linthicum is near city, yet 'feels like country' 'It's a good place for kids to grow up'



Kathleen Notari remembers growing up in Linthicum, a close-knit community in northern Anne Arundel County, where she attended country fairs, church outings and sports activities.

After she married, she didn't want to leave her "small town," so she and her husband, Pete, bought a 1920s American Four-Square home on a tree-lined street, where they are raising their three children.

"I love Linthicum. It's a very active community," Mrs. Notari says. "I like the proximity to a number of vicinities. We're close to the city, but it still feels like the country."

Mr. Notari, a transplant to the community, says he is amazed by how many natives still live in town.

"You have generations of families. Turkey Hill is the ancestral home of the Linthicums and you still have Linthicums living there," he says. "How many places can you go where you still have a women's club planting flowers around town, where you still have a performing arts association?"

Bonnie Towner, who moved from Baltimore to Linthicum when she was 12, agrees that the town has the feel of a bygone era, when people knew their neighbors, were involved with community activities and helped each other out when needed.

In 1975, she moved to Catonsville, but missed Linthicum so much that she moved back nine years later with her three children.

"I just really like Linthicum. It's a good place for kids to grow up," Ms. Towner says. "A lot of my school friends are still here, the homes are nice, and it's got a really good school system."

So nostalgic was Ms. Towner about the place that she bought the old Mac's to $1 store -- later called Pumphrey's Variety Store -- when it became available earlier this year.

The store, in the town's tiny commercial strip along Camp Meade Road, is "an institution," residents say, where they can buy everything from candy to toiletries to hardware to toys.

"When I was 15, it was my first job," says Ms. Towner, who has changed the name to Bonnie Max Variety Store, so it resembles the original name but reflects the new owner.

"I've always wanted that store. It's like walking into the 1950s. I just love the smell of the place. It takes you back."

The land on which Linthicum developed was originally part of a land grant from the Lords of Baltimore to a Nickolas Painter in the late 1600s.

Portions of the grant changed hands a number of times, and the area known today as Linthicum was sold in 1801 to Abner Linthicum of Annapolis, a descendant of Thomas Linthicum, who emigrated from Wales in 1658.

Since 1801, several generations of the large and enterprising Linthicum family have lived and prospered in the community through farming, making charcoal by burning timber and eventually subdividing the land for residential development.

In June 1908, members of the family formed the Linthicum Heights Co. to develop residential subdivisions linked to Baltimore and Annapolis by train.

G. Cleveland Shipley, another early developer, built many homes in the 1920s through 1940s. A number of subdivisions, as well as the shopping center, bear his name.

Fliers distributed in the 1920s promoting Shipley Estates proclaim: "City Conveniences -- gas, sewers, cement walks, electric lights and water. Over 60 trains per day (each way)."

The train, an attraction then, became a divisive issue in recent years when the line, which had long ceased carrying passengers and was used for freight headed to a nearby paper mill, became a central piece of the state's new light-rail system.

Many residents aggressively fought the new line, fearing that it would bring increased crime and noise to the community, once known as a "sleepy hollow."

Since light rail, which runs through the heart of Linthicum, opened 2 1/2 years ago, the state's Mass Transit Administration has beefed up security and made concessions regarding how often horns are sounded, particularly in the evening.

Most residents have made their peace with it, although some will continue to be opposed, says George Bachman, the community's county councilman for 22 of the past 30 years.

Most people, says Mr. Bachman, see light rail as a boon for the town, which is aging and needs to attract new families for the first time in decades.

"The greater amount of people are for the light rail. This is one of the things that is drawing in this second generation of residents to Linthicum. Many of the older people are retired or moving into nursing homes and we need to bring in the young families. They see it as a valuable mode of transportation.

"You know, you can get on the light rail here at Linthicum and in 12 1/2 minutes you're at Oriole Park. In 18 to 20 minutes, you're at the Meyerhoff [Symphony Hall] or the Lyric [Opera House]."

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