Where the good life abounds In tiny White House, the days are savored around the coffeepot

Neighborhood Profile

February 02, 1997|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

White House, with the only traffic light for miles around, is a four-way stop at the tidy intersection of Mount Carmel and Falls roads in northern Baltimore County.

Three corners are more or less filled by Spark's Store, the Country Side Carryout and the John Deere dealership. The fourth corner, the Wheeler farm, is scenic vista -- like most of this area -- of manicured farmland and luxury homes. It's a place to watch for roving whitetail deer and Canada geese on the wing.

Several times now, the movies have come to White House.

One scene in "Twelve Monkeys," the Bruce Willis time-travel thriller, was shot in front of the Country Side Carryout, with owner Larry Carrico in the scene and Wilbur Wilson, known locally as Willy the Welder, driving through in his welding truck.

Scenes for "Guarding Tess" were shot at Spark's Store as well as advertisements for Kaiser-Permanente, Park's Sausage and Keno.

Cornfields and dairy cows have been among the area's mainstays for generations. The Armacost dairy still supplies Cloverland. The John O. Hale Creamery, in large white stone barns, operated until 1920, where Hale's Haven Produce is today a popular summer stop for home-grown vegetables.

This agricultural panorama along Mount Carmel Road has been carefully carved into a limited number of residential lots along sinewy cul-de-sacs. Hunter's Green and John Carroll Lane are complete; Bush Cabin Court is still settling residents into executive-style custom homes on spacious acreage. A four-bedroom Bush Cabin Court home, on 3 acres, sold last year for about $320,000. Four homes, of the four-bedrooms-on-4-acres formula typical of this area sold last year along Mount Carmel Road, prices ranging from about $165,000 to $300,000. Several large homes on smaller properties were sold on Falls Road for about $150,000 to $185,000.

White House, named after an old white tavern that served as a meeting place on Falls Road, has been shrinking over time.

There had been a blacksmith and wagon maker, and a hotel. Now it's a place to gather, for Larry Carrico's Italian chili or around the coffeepot at Spark's. The post office moved ages ago. Now, White House falls within the Upperco ZIP code.

"I haven't found Upperco yet, and I've been here since 1923," said one plaid-shirted local at Spark's Store. Spark's was last kept by Sherman Sparks, hence the name so similar to another town 10 miles away. "Then I tell people about Spark's Store, that it's not in Sparks, but in White House," he added.

The ZIP code isn't the only confusing thing about this area. The Upperco post office is seven miles southwest, in Arcadia, a town formerly named for the Upperco family. But people who populate the general store or the carryout hail from even smaller places, such as Foreston and Mount Carmel, where only the churches retain the historic small-town names. Three ZIP code zones meet near here. Neighbors might refer to one of three ZIP codes -- Hampstead, Parkton and Upperco -- although they quickly define themselves by street name, too.

Paula Nash, 24, who's lived off Prettyboy Dam Road in Hampstead for 10 years, attended Hereford Middle and Hereford High. Like her sister and brother before her, she makes pizza and sandwiches and dips ice cream at Country Side, on Falls Road opposite Spark's Store.

"Here, it's quiet, peaceful and safe. Most teen-agers work at Graul's," she said, referring to the supermarket in Hereford, seven miles to the east. "There's largely not a whole lot to do. Teen-agers go down to Cockeysville to the movies. That's about it."

Jimmy and Barbara Douglas acquired Spark's Store about two years ago, moving from Hampstead in Carroll County.

"My family had a store like this in Virginia. If you know me, you'd see how this is my personality," said Jimmy, who's decorated the tidy general store with agricultural collectibles and opened an antiques wing where hardware was previously sold. He calls himself a "Harley-Davidson tattooed biker" although you can't see it beneath his farmer's coveralls. He was a painting student at the Maryland Institute in the 1960s, and now commutes to full-time work in body and fender repair and tends the store when he's home. Otherwise, Barbara keeps the coffee and conversation flowing -- Spark's is open all day, every day.

Jimmy believes that the Spark's Store dates to about the 1870s. On the day they moved in, he spotted a small green coin near the store. He rubbed it to discover it was an 1870 Indian head penny. "That was a sign," he said.

After "about three months of negotiating with the Sparkses, who were ages 93 and 89, plus selling everything and putting two houses up for collateral," said Douglas, the store had became their own.

"The first thing the old-timers said, was 'are you going to take the chairs out? I couldn't do that. They're our regular customers," Douglas says. "The world's problems are solved right here in this room."

At midmorning, he says, "You'll find 10 or 12 local farmers here. It's a congregation." Small groups develop, near the coffeepot, by the canned foods. "It's like a checkers game, them figuring what each other is going to be planting that season."

White House

Population: 2,300.

Commuting time to Baltimore: 45 minutes.

Public schools: Fifth District Elementary, Hereford Middle, Hereford High.

Shopping: Hampstead, Hereford.

Nearest mall: Hunt Valley Mall.

Points of interest: Spark's Store, Country Side Carryout, White House Nursery.

ZIP codes: 21155, 21120, 21074.

Average price for a single-family home sold through the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies' multiple listing service for the past 12 months: $210,378 based on the sales of 14 homes.

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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