Graceland Park: pastoral, neat, beckoning Contented residents in well-kept homes that tend to sell quickly

Neighborhood Profile

August 25, 1996|By Rosalia Scalia | Rosalia Scalia,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the southeastern fringe of the city and extending into Baltimore County is Graceland Park, a little-known gem of a small community where houses, fences, yards, trees, bushes and streets are meticulously tended.

Although in the shadow of one of the city's most industrialized areas, the community has a decidedly pastoral feel. Like some county neighborhoods, there are some sections of Graceland Park that do not have sidewalks. And, because it sprawls into the county, some homes actually sit across the line, with living rooms in the county and kitchens in the city, or vice versa.

The spacious front and rear lawns are neatly trimmed; some boast peach and plum trees that, according to one longtime resident, have yielded so much fruit this year and last, after his neighbors tired of the harvest, he supplied bags-full to a local soup kitchen.

Neatly trimmed dogwoods abound in other yards, and carefully landscaped gardens line walkways, perimeters of houses and properties, and even the bases of lamp posts.

"The back yards along our street have no fences. I don't know of anywhere else in the city where you have a whole block of back yards that is so open," said Cecilia Tyber, who moved into the community 34 years ago when she and her husband, Frank, bought a plot of land and built a house on it.

It was the generous amount of land around the house that attracted Frank Vienna and his wife, Carolyn, to the community 13 years ago.

"I didn't like the house, but I loved the property around it," said Vienna, who planted a row of saplings along the wide, grassy strip that separates his driveway and the edge of his property.

"I didn't realize that the strip was ours until we signed papers for the house and the Realtor referred to it as ours," he said. "Usually, the driveway is at the end of the property, so when I learned that strip was ours, too, it made it even better."

His wife, on the other hand, liked the house.

"There was something for both of us here," said Mrs. Vienna. Veritable newcomers compared with the length of time other residents have lived in the community, the Viennas cited the quietness and the neighborliness of the community as other draws.

Beside a cemetery

Aside from the design of the community, the other factor that contributes to the quietude of the area is that it is nearly surrounded by cemeteries.

"When we first came to see our lot, we were still in the car, driving up, and I said to my husband, 'I hope it is not next to a cemetery.' Sure enough, our lot was right next door to a cemetery," Mrs. Tyber said.

"At first I wasn't too happy about it, but over the years, I came to accept it. Our kids played ball in a part of the cemetery that was just an empty field, and the caretakers didn't mind," she added.

"Plus, we have really great neighbors -- they're so quiet," said Mr. Tyber.

Bounded by Railway Avenue on the south, Graceland Avenue on the north, Dundalk Avenue on the west and Delvale Avenue on the east, the community was actually plotted as early as 1917, according to historian and Baltimore County planner John McGrain.

Although development of the community didn't begin until the 1940s, in keeping with the 1917 map, the area's streets all bear names connected to some aspect of the steel business: There are Bethlehem Avenue, Gary Avenue, Boston Avenue, DeLuth Street and Bessemer Avenue.

German Hill

Though commonly referred to as German Hill, the neighborhood was actually built on part of Grace's Farm, and generally settled by the city's growing Polish community. Referred to as "Graceland Park" by the locals, the name stuck to the area listed on the map as German Hill.

According to John Grupenhoff, a Realtor with Long and Foster, good-size Cap Cods and bungalows with three and four bedrooms are the predominating architectural style.

"The homes tend to be 49 or 50 years old, and many have really very nice Victorian trims," Grupenhoff said.

Well-kept houses in excellent condition tend to sell promptly, and in Graceland Park homes tend to sell in an average of 59 days.

"They sell quickly and usually very close to list price," Grupenhoff said.

For Graceland Park, the average sale price is $82,000, but some of the larger homes can easily sell for as much as $91,000. Currently, there are 16 homes for sale, but nine have contracts pending.

New development

Last year, 21 homes in the area were sold, though some of them are part of a new townhouse project under construction along Boston Avenue.

Called Boston Court Townhomes, the new development will consist of 94 new townhomes, 17 with garages. Fourteen will sit in the city, 80 in Baltimore County, and prices begin at $95,900 for four floor plans, fully finished basements with gas fireplaces and spacious back yards that are a hallmark of the community.

The project also features a pond where the area's numerous natural springs have been diverted.

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