Lutherville holds onto past, looks to its future Historic district is key to community

Neighborhood Profile

Lutherville holds onto its past but is planning for its future

October 15, 1995|By Amy Bernstein | Amy Bernstein,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The key to Lutherville's character lies in its past.

In the 1850s, an enterprising Lutheran minister named John Morris bought up parcels of the present-day town, encouraged wealthy Baltimoreans to build summer homes there, and then used the proceeds to finance a female seminary (now the College Manor Nursing Home).

Today, Lutherville's historic district -- a couple of dozen Victorian homes replete with gingerbread molding and spacious yards -- is the all-important anchor in a community striving to hold onto its past, while planning for the future.

The district (bounded by Bellona Avenue, Francke Avenue and the aptly named Seminary Avenue) has spawned succeeding generations of fiercely loyal residents. Jim Watson and his brothers have operated Watson's Garden Center on York Road in Lutherville for nearly 35 years, but as with so many residents here, their connection to Lutherville dates back even further: the Watsons' grandfather was a town alderman in 1902.

People born in Lutherville, it seems, don't often leave. "Our customer base has remained remarkably the same," Mr. Watson says. "It's just that now we're waiting on the third and fourth generations."

Eric Rockel, a county government supervisor who grew up in Lutherville and now heads the community association, says one of the town's best features is its continuity. "With all the conveniences, we've somehow managed to resist a lot of the development pressures that would change the character.It's much the same as it was in the 1940s and '50s."

In fact, change has come to Lutherville, as it must to all healthy suburbs. The original Victorian housing stock was supplemented after World War II by enclaves of split-level homes (now in the $130,000 to $200,000 range).

And in recent years, large tracts of undeveloped land have given way to spacious new homes, such as Seminary Overlook and Hillside at Seminary ($280,000 to $700,000). According to Cindy Ariosa, manager with the Lutherville-Timonium office of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty, these upper-end properties are primarily attracting local residents who are moving up.

"Many families have grown up here, have fond memories, and are returning," Ms. Ariosa says. As a testament to the town's inter-generational drawing power, local retirees are moving into new 'cluster' homes, which share garages, are maintenance-free, and offer ground-floor master bedrooms for elderly residents.

With the post-World War II generation moving out of the older homes, and into the newer developments, "there's been a resurgence," Ms. Ariosa says, "with the older housing stock opening up to young professional couples and families."

But despite all the new development, Lutherville is still spacious. Numerous ball fields and parks dot its neighborhoods, and opportunities for organized athletics abound. The schools, together with the Lutherville-Timonium recreation center, offer everything from ballet to soccer to tennis. Three community pools are also available (for a modest fee), as well as public golf (Longview Golf). And the Baltimore Country Club is nearby.

But while many of Lutherville's oldest and best features have been preserved, the town's recent growth spurt has brought its share of problems as well. The hottest debate in town right now is over traffic. Residents anxious to get out to York or Ridgely roads (and onto Interstate 83) are cutting through some of the narrower residential streets in the historic district.

One proposed solution is to lay down asphalt walkways alongside the now sidewalk-less roadways, thereby safeguarding pedestrians. Meanwhile, other streets that abut the York Road commercial corridor are blockading their commercial ends, in order to prevent incoming traffic and litter.

Nevertheless, Lutherville is fortunate that traffic is its worst problem. A few years ago, many residents opposed the development of light rail, which has a station moments away in Timonium. But the crime, noise and debris feared by residents who live along the original North Central commuter rail line has not materialized.

The town, which is easily missed by those zipping along Interstate 83 or York Road, is highly self-sufficient. And that's just the way longtime Luthervillians hope it will remain.

Lutherville

Lutherville Population: 24,494 (Baltimore County Office of Planning)

4 Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 25 minutes

Public schools: Lutherville-Timonium Elementary, Hampton Elementary, Ridgely Middle, Dulaney High

Shopping: Ridgely Shopping Center, Grand York Shopping Center

Nearest mall: Towson Town Center (10 minutes)

Points of Interest: Fire Museum, Lutherville Historic District, Victorian train station

Zip code: 21093

@4 Average price of a single-family home: $220,602*

Average price of houses sold through Mid-Atlantic Real Estate

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