In Academy Heights, they play by the rules Covenants keep area looking good

Neighborhood Profile

August 04, 1996|By Jill Zarend | Jill Zarend,Contributing Writer

Moving into the Baltimore County neighborhood of Academy Heights carries a responsibility.

Residents adhere to a strict covenant and strive to keep the community uniform and looking its best. But they also have a strong sense of camaraderie, evident in the way the community takes care of its own.

Homeowners must follow restrictions that mandate slate roofs, black or brass front porch lights, green awnings. Mailboxes must be green, black or brass and masonry foundations must be painted white, gray or sandstone.

"One of the reasons we moved here is because of the covenant. Some people don't like the restrictions, but we liked them because we knew the neighborhood would always look nice," said Mary Ellen Griffin, who moved from Pikesville four years ago with her husband, Dirk.

Built in the early 1950s by Welsh Construction Co., the neighborhood of Academy Heights lies just east of Catonsville. The sturdy red-brick row homes are 30 to 32 feet deep and 20 to 22 feet wide. The community's 482 homes, in groups of eight, run along Harlem Lane, Northdale Road, Whitfield Road, Regent Park, Strattford Ridge, Greenlow, Academy and Lambeth roads, where cars are parked underneath mature maples and oaks. Manicured lawns are accentuated with azaleas, rhododendron, dogwoods and holly trees.

"There is also a great sense of community and the people in the community do a wonderful job of enforcing the covenants and restrictions. It's a gorgeous neighborhood and the covenants helps keep the value up," said Griffin, who is vice president of the Academy Heights Civic Association.

"We are seriously monitored; that is why the neighborhood has been so stable. We have a police community watch, Citizens on Patrol, and monitor things in the neighborhood, making sure people are safe," said David Fogle, 28, civic association president.

Mike Gary, a Realtor with ERA Caton Realty, said homes on the market in Academy Heights usually sell within 30 days, with pricings ranging between $97,800 and $116,00.

"From a Realtor's point of view, the model and style home is the same as Rodgers Forge. Both communities are very popular as far as construction, floor plan, plaster walls and hardwood floors," Gary said.

"Reproducing the same quality of homes in today's market would cost twice as much as they cost now," he said.

The homes are about 1,800 square feet and feature formal living and dining rooms, three bedrooms, a kitchen, 2 or 2 1/2 baths and knotty pine paneled basements.

"They are very popular, not to mention the location. It's always been a very, very, stable, rock-solid investment for everyone who has moved in there. Prices have never gone down; they just keep escalating," Gary said.

The community also comes under the Office of Community Conservation, a program Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III began that strives to preserve older communities through monetary and technical support.

Academy Heights got its name from Mount de Sales Academy. Once a 100-acre tract, the land was acquired by the Visitation Sisters of Georgetown in the early 1850s.

In 1853 they sent 12 sisters to open the school, the first for girls open to all denominations.

By World War II, enrollment dropped and the academy's income was reduced. The sisters sold off the land in the front of the complex, which became Academy Heights. After the war they sold more property. Today the academy, now run by the Dominican Sisters of Congregation of St. Cecilia of Nashville, Tenn., has about 10 acres remaining.

"The student body is now about 340 students -- the largest it's ever been," said Connie Baker, a 1937 graduate who works in the school's library.

John O'Ferrall and Mary Ellen Beaty-O'Ferrall moved to Academy Heights 10 years ago because of its location and the price.

"Its centrally located to downtown and D.C. and the airport. The affordability attracted us and they [homes] are put together so well," he said.

The couple has three daughters -- Elizabeth, 7; Maggie, 4; and Caroline, 2.

"I feel safe here," said Elizabeth. "People wave to you when you see them. I like the trees and I like the alley in the back. We can play back there."

Academy Heights is home to young singles and couples, first-time homebuyers, families and "originals" -- those who purchased their homes when they were first built.

Doris Herrmann lives in the last section, constructed 44 years ago.

"I stayed because it's a very nice community and we have building restrictions and so forth which keeps the property up," said Herrmann, who raised two daughters and a son there. Two of her children have returned to the community.

"You know, you can go home again," said Mary Beth Gourley, Herrmann's daughter who moved back five years ago with her husband, Carroll.

Academy Heights

Population: 1,246 (1990 Census)

Public schools: Westowne Elementary, Catonsville Middle, Catonsville High.

Zip code: 21228

Average price of a single-family home: $98,509*

Commuting time: 12 minutes to downtown Baltimore, 35 minutes to Washington

Shopping: downtown Catonsville, Metro foodmarket at Old Frederick Road, Giant, Rolling Road, and Giant on Wilkens Avenue.

Nearest malls: Westwood, 5 minutes; Security Mall, 10 minutes; Mall at Columbia, 20 minutes.

Points of interest: Mount de Sales Academy

* Based on 20 sales during the past 12 months through Merritt Multiple List)

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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