Affordable Taneytown has heart and history Oh, say, did you know Francis Scott Key taught Sunday school there?

Neighborhood Profile

September 08, 1996|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Taneytown -- one of Carroll County's oldest communities -- is finding new life as one of the area's most affordable addresses.

According to records held by the Historical Society of Carroll County, Taneytown has been attracting residents since the first lots were plotted in 1762. Strategically located along the former Monocacy Road, the town became a final destination for many settlers moving out of Pennsylvania into what was then Frederick County.

Although it is commonly thought that Taneytown was named for Roger Brooke Taney, a chief justice of the United States in the 19th century, in truth the city was named after a forebear of his. The less notable Raphael Taney -- one of the recipients of the original land grant -- was from St. Mary's County. It's doubtful he ever lived in the city that bears his name.

Francis Scott Key, composer of "The Star-Spangled Banner," was raised just four miles from Taneytown at Terra Rubra, his family's farm in the small village of Keysville. The historic estate is in private hands today. According to county historical records, Key taught children in the town's first African-American Sunday school, gathering them in a small church that stood in the oldest section of the cemetery that now belongs to Grace United Church of Christ.

In an interesting historic twist, Roger Brooke Taney married Key's sister. Their marriage is recorded in the registry at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. The church, which dates to 1777, is the second oldest church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

City officials are hoping to capitalize on Taneytown's Civil War history and share some of the glory -- and tourism dollars -- that have been afforded neighboring Gettysburg. In 1863, Union Gen. George Meade established a command post in Taneytown as he headed for Gettysburg and the battle there.

Today, Taneytown attracts prospective homebuyers from Baltimore, Frederick and points between -- all willing to add 10 or 15 minutes to their daily commute in order to save $10,000 to $15,000 and own a home of their own.

Seventeen years ago, Gwenn and Gary Bockelmann moved from Woodlawn to a house on the Taneytown-Westminster border. They were looking for more space and a quiet, "country #i atmosphere" in which to raise their two sons.

The boys -- now grown -- attended Taneytown schools and were involved in Taneytown activities. The Bockelmanns patronized Taneytown businesses and did most of their shopping at the local grocery store. When the couple decided to move last year, they made a conscious decision not to leave the life they'd built in the Taneytown area. Their new home is just a mile down the road from their old home. Their former property was sold to longtime acquaintances.

Since they moved to Carroll, both Bockelmanns have become Realtors for O'Conor Piper & Flynn in Westminster.

"I like the Taneytown area enough to move several of my friends and even my mother-in-law there," Gwenn Bockelmann said.

"And I do like my mother-in-law," she said with a laugh.

Taneytown's central location between Baltimore, Frederick and Hanover, Pa.; the large amount of clean industry in the area that provides jobs for many residents; and the variety of housing choices available are just a few of the community's merits, Gwenn Bockelmann said.

In a recent survey of marketable Taneytown properties, Bockelmann found 38 single-family homes listed between $105,000 and $150,000. Many of those properties were new houses built in the smaller subdivisions that are beginning to ring the town. In Copperfield, one of the larger developments, buyers are offered homes ranging from 1,200 to more than 2,000 square feet for $115,000 to $165,000.

The choices aren't expected to stop there. With another subdivision slated for property near Route 194 and developable acreage for sale off Roberts Mill Road, which parallels Main Street, Taneytown is expected to continue to grow.

City Manager Chip Boyles said that while an influx of newcomers has polarized some Carroll municipalities, Taneytown officials are making a conscious effort to keep that from happening in their community. Both groups share a common bond in their love of Taneytown's small-town character, Boyles said. The key is getting them to compromise on their expectations of city services.

Heavy rains this year have caused overflow problems with the city's sewer lines. Residents who have had to call members of the local fire company several times to pump raw sewage out of their basements have understandably lost patience with the predicament, Boyles said. The city is getting help from state environmental officials.

"But if you moved in from Baltimore City, you were used to a very well-equipped and well-staffed department," he said. "Here, we're smaller; it does take more time, and our funding mechanisms are not as well developed."

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