Horses, of course, and a ghost Butler is costly, quiet and friendly

Neighborhood Profile

December 08, 1996|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Travelers zip through Butler all too quickly as they drive its grand prix-style curves along Falls Road between cottages of solid stone, high above the rapids of Black Rock Run.

For the residents, what those speeding drivers have not stopped to see is what they cherish: an almost English countryside that springs to life under horses and redcoat riders when the fox hounds bay; cottages built from its own quarry of world-class building stone; a place that affords the ability to live a genteel life.

It's more than another friendly town -- everyone in Butler truly seems to know everyone else.

"At college, I told friends my town has no gas station, no stop light. It has a post office, liquor store and saddlery. That shows you what's important around here," said Kristen Mrozinski, 26, who lives with her parents on nearby Cuba Road.

At the Maryland Saddlery, where 20 years of horse-show ribbons flutter, Mrozinski is one of several horsewomen who know horse bits like artists know brushes.

Fox hunting and riding clubs form one type of continuity here. The hunt "on more than one occasion has gone tearing down Falls Road, through the middle of town," she said.

Dave Matthews, who with brother Scott and sister Lyn Stewart owns the century-old Butler Stone Quarry Inc., goes on the hunt, too -- "something he grew up with," says Stewart, who lives in Butler.

The family grew up in the nearby community of Sparks.

At the quarry, several office windows are translucent panels of onyx rather than glass; more than three dozen varieties of marble, along with other stones, are imported to be made here into tabletops or supply stonemasons.

'Known around the world'

The quarry's Butler stone, a blend of tan, silver and gray mica-flecked building stone, "is known around the world," says the town postmaster, Raphael Cameron.

"We've basically [quarried] down to about 75 feet above the stream level, so we haven't even reached water yet," Dave Matthews said.

His family drilling and explosives interests fell in line with quarry work, and they acquired the business in May 1990.

Unique cottages of Butler stone line the curving banks of Black Rock Run along Falls Road -- structures once used as summer homes and a schoolhouse, and now full-time residences. An old mill (its wheel long gone) likewise has become a home, and ruins of a dance pavilion can be seen atop the quarry hill.

The town, to most people here, radiates about a half-mile from the post office where, relaxed and ready to share his dry wit, Cameron hails by name every person stepping into a lobby that is slightly larger than the Xerox machine. He weighs and inspects, and doles parcels and stamps as if it were a gourmet deli.

"He knows everything, hears everything, sees everything," said one customer. "This is the cracker barrel."

There is no house-to-house mail delivery in Butler, so local residents -- and others who rent boxes for the sake of having a Butler address -- pick up their mail at the post office.

The farthest-out Butler box holder is probably the Daft alpaca farm, about five miles away, where one can arrange to see its llama-like creatures roaming a field off Millender Mill Road.

"Live here? Not on a postal salary," says Cameron, who commutes from Towson.

Range of prices

Homes on the market include an eight-bedroom estate and horse farm dating from 1794, listed at $1,450,000.

On the Butler perimeter of Stringtown Road, the former Black Rock YMCA camp, now a 9-year-old contemporary on 129 acres, is listed at $1,950,000.

Less-expensive properties on the market include 2.25 acres with a 120-year-old farmhouse for $169,900 on Falls Road, and an old farm cottage on a half-acre lot on Butler Road for $132,000.

"You can go from $132,000 all the way to what your heart desires," says P. Dennis Connelly, a real estate agent at O'Conor, Piper & Flynn's Timonium office.

"Butler is prestigious, well-known, and everybody wants to keep a low profile. It's a wonderful place to live, and we don't want that to change," says Pat Parks, 57, snacking on sunflower seeds in her liquor store.

Her customers have been here beyond her generation, and first names come easy. She knows their desired labels, where they're shelved, when they're to be stocked again.

She sits at the counter -- once the wooden bar of the Butler Hotel, where Josiah Mallonee Jr.'s own brand was served. Pat has a treasured empty on the shelf. (Mallonee's hotel, about 50 feet north of the liquor store, is now the quarters of Maryland Saddlery.)

Parks moved to Butler from Govans when her father, Sam Adams, purchased the general store and became postmaster in 1948. Butler was a far-off country place on a bumpy Falls Road, in those days crushed stone all the way from Mount Washington, Sam Adams recalled.

"When I came out there wasn't enough electricity to run the frozen food bin," he said. "I took a meat-cutting course to become the butcher." Just 30 people got mail at Butler, but business grew and his wife, Mildred, became postmaster.

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