1700s town attracts modern colonists People drive an hour to live in Libertytown.

Neighborhood Profile

August 11, 1996|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

History says Libertytown took a turn for the worse the day folks voted not to let the railroad wind its way through the area.

Talk to people who live in the Frederick County village today, however, and they tell a different story.

Jan Dijkstra and Kristina Zaal found their dream home on Main Street in Libertytown. Veronica and Dean Perkins discovered a business opportunity. And Vince and Tami VanSant looked only as far as their own front yards to find a place to raise their children with the same strong morals that punctuated their own youth.

Though the truck traffic -- tractor-trailers, milk tankers and dump trucks that rumble through at almost minute-by-minute intervals -- has become much more of a nuisance than the railroad ever could; in many ways Libertytown is still the sleepy hamlet Mary Joy moved to in 1945.

There is indoor plumbing now, Joy laughingly admitted. But steers still graze along Route 26 -- the town's Main Street -- in a fenced pasture smack in the middle of the town limits.

The market Joy and her late husband once operated is now an antiques store -- part of a new wave of business that seems to have drifted over from nearby New Market.

Though that store and others are run by relative newcomers to the area, attendance at Libertytown's fire company and civic association events remains high, as does involvement in services and activities at the two local churches, St. Peter the Apostle and the Libertytown United Methodist Church.

Century 21 Realtor Dwight Dotterer said that small-town atmosphere and modest home prices are making Libertytown increasingly attractive to those willing to endure a 40- to 60-minute commute to find solace beyond the suburbs.

A lifelong resident of the area and a former student at Liberty Elementary School, Dotterer said he is surprised by the number of names he doesn't recognize when he attends a town event now. But it is a testament to the loyalty Libertytown builds that there are still a number of his former schoolmates living in homes on Main Street, he noted.

Though some of the more historically significant homes on Main Street have sold for upward of $160,000, Dotterer said a more accurate price range for homes is $100,000 to $150,000.

The split-levels and ranchers under construction in the new Liberty East subdivision start at $129,900. Condominiums at the northern end of town bring $69,000 on the resale market, Dotterer said.

The most interesting housing choice in town is one that may not come to fruition for several years. The county planning department approved the Frederick CoHousing project -- 27 acres on a former farm rezoned to permit construction of 39 housing units and a dining room and central community center.

The housing units proposed include four single-family homes, 20 duplexes and 15 triplexes. Ed Gorski, the county's chief planner, said each home will have its own kitchen, though residents also plan to offer meals in the central dining room.

Gorski said the project -- unique to the state -- is expected to blend well in Libertytown. Prospective residents include a mix of empty-nesters, young families and single people, he said.

Construction will not begin, however, until school adequacy standards have been met. The elementary, middle and high school that serve the area are all over capacity. County projections show the figures increasing through the year 2000. New schools or school expansions are not even in the planning stages, Gorski said.

Founded in 1739

In some measure, Libertytown may be the fitting place for such a project. Founded in 1739, the community didn't get its current name until 1782. According to local lore, the name may have come from a landowner who urged prospective residents to start their lives in a town where they could "enjoy liberty." Other historical information suggests the town was named in honor of the Colonial Sons of Liberty.

During the Revolutionary War, history shows Libertytown was the largest slave-holding area in Frederick County. During the Civil War, the town harbored both Union and Confederate


Jan Dijkstra and Kristina Zaal live in one of Libertytown's older homes, an Adams-style house on Main Street built between 1790 and 1795. Their neighbors, Veronica and Dean Perkins, live in the former slave quarters of that home. Scientists who commute to their jobs in the I-270 technology corridor, Dijkstra and Zaal said the drive is a small price to pay for the opportunity to restore their historic home.

The Perkins did some restoration work of their own before opening the Libertytown Mercantile & Antique Market a little over a year ago. The store -- like many of the buildings in Libertytown -- was originally a log cabin. The coupled pulled down plaster to expose the chestnut logs on the second floor.

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