For many people who don't live in Crownsville, that name conjures up bleak images of the mental hospital located there.
Others think of Crownsville as the home of the Maryland Renaissance Festival. For several weekends each year, a corner of Crownsville becomes a re-creation of a 16th-century English village, buzzing with jousting and jesters, knights and ladies fair.
To Jehovah's Witnesses in the Baltimore/Washington area, Crownsville is the location of an Assembly Hall, one of about 35 in the United States.
Most weekends, it hosts gatherings of 900 to 1,000 Witnesses. The facility's Korean-language programs draw members from as far as Massachusetts and Florida.
Others know Crownsville as the final resting place of heroes buried at the Maryland State Veterans' Cemetery.
But most of these facets of Crownsville have only a tangential impact on the lives of permanent residents. To most folks who live here, Crownsville means quiet neighborhoods near the beautiful Severn River.
Residents appreciate the country atmosphere and the easy access to Annapolis and Baltimore.
Crownsville occupies a rural area northwest of Annapolis and across the Severn River from Severna Park. Housing is available in every price range, from trailers in a mobile-home park to million-dollar mansions in high-toned developments such as Cranberry Woods and Belvoir Farms.
The "for sale" sign on one current offering in Cranberry Woods describes the dwelling as a "Power House."
This may be stating the obvious. Vast expanses of windows gleam in both the house and its four-car garage. The home has 8,300 square feet of living space, including a billiard room. It is priced at $759,000.
In the more moderate price range, the Crownsville ZIP code area also includes several small, older communities such as Herald Harbor and Arden on the Severn. These communities occupy small peninsulas poking into the Severn River, and feature more modest homes.
They were initially developed in the 1950s as summertime resorts. Most of the homes are now occupied year-round.
Kay Stanley, a retired government worker, lives in a home in Arden on the Severn that her father built as a summer cottage in the 1950s. The family moved there permanently in 1965.
Ms. Stanley enjoyed an easy 15-minute commute to her job at Fort Meade in Odenton.
She also appreciates being able to sit at her kitchen table, sipping coffee or reading her Bible, as the Severn River %o shimmers below.
B6 "Listen to the quiet," she said. "It's wonderful."
Beaches and boatyards
Local schools are great, she said, and the neighborhood has a real sense of community. Children who grow up here stay to raise families of their own. Ms. Stanley's grown daughter has begged her not to sell the house, because she wants her own children to grow up in it.
Arden on the Severn boasts four private beaches. Farther south, several boatyards and marinas also provide river access.
"The Severn River is the biggest attraction," said Don Yeskey, vice president and co-founder of the Generals Highway Council of Civic Associations, a coalition of 22 local community groups.
He said the Severn is "almost like a private river," and that it has managed to avoid much of the pollution and commercial development that have afflicted other nearby waterways.
Crownsville attracts people who want to be near Annapolis and its water-oriented lifestyle, but need an easy commute to Columbia or Baltimore.
Charles Kraus, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Annapolis, said the area is the likely target of the next wave of development in Anne Arundel County, because developers are running out of desirable land elsewhere.
Of course, Crownsville is not without its problems. Mr. Yeskey said the Generals Highway Council of Civic Associations is working to protect historic sites from encroaching construction, and to generally guide development in an orderly fashion.
Traffic can back up
Traffic is a concern. On days when the Maryland Renaissance Festival and the Anne Arundel County Fair are both in operation, Mr. Yeskey said, backups can develop.
A traffic light is going to be installed at the intersection of Sunset Beach Road and Generals Highway, an accident hot spot. And residents are keeping a wary eye on traffic-generating construction to the south, including shopping centers springing up around the intersection of Generals Highway and Route 450.
Low-flying aircraft coming into Baltimore-Washington International Airport can also be annoying, Mr. Yeskey said.
The Crownsville Hospital Center, on the other hand, is not a problem, several residents said.
About 600 people work at the psychiatric hospital, which occupies a 1,600-acre campus on Generals Highway. The hospital, established in 1911, is home to about 275 patients.
Overall, several residents said, Crownsville is a safe, middle-American community.