Community's country ways attract newcomers to area Town's development contains 70 homes

Neighborhood Profile: Norrisville

March 16, 1997|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Don't look for sidewalks, streetlights or convenience stores in the quiet Harford County community of Norrisville.

Despite mostly scattered housing construction and a growing population, this is still a decidedly rural area where cattle get loose from time to time and wander about through neighboring yards.

"If you'd like a place that's still like a little country village, you'd enjoy it," said Pauline Carico, 83, who has lived in or near Norrisville all of her life. "We're happy to have you. The Norrisville United Methodist Church has a very fine chicken barbecue in May."

Set in the northwest corner of the county just south of the Mason-Dixon line, Norrisville is a longtime farming community that is attracting newcomers with its country ways.

"People can get more house and more land for their money," said Lynn Creager, associate broker for Coldwell Banker/Grempler. "This is tomorrow's community."

Seventy homes are clustered in Norrisville's only development, and the names of newcomers are on roadside mailboxes that once displayed names of families that shaped the area's history.

A small village settled in the 1700s, Norrisville was a rural trading center for generations of dairy farmers who lived in the rolling countryside that stretched out for miles around it.

General stores, a post office, creamery, livery stable, barber shops, tractor store, plow shop, hotel, foundry, blacksmith shops and taverns all made the village a gathering place for many years.

Today, community life revolves around the church, elementary school, volunteer fire company, recreational activities and library.

"I see our church as providing a great stability in the community," said the Rev. Donna Hennessey Bennett, pastor of the Norrisville United Methodist Church. "People who are strangers can come here and find a home."

Half of the church's 70 active adult members have young families and are new to the area, Bennett said. Many were attracted by a children's program that emphasizes Sunday school, a youth group, a weekly children's sermon and special events -- a Christmas party with Santa, a Christmas pageant, a fall hayride.

"I see us working in conjunction with the Norrisville Elementary School to nurture the children of the community," the pastor said.

The elementary school, one of the smallest in the county with 230 students, has an active parent-teacher organization that has an annual spaghetti dinner, a craft fair, reading incentive programs and cultural events for children.

Adjoining the school grounds are baseball diamonds, soccer fields, tennis courts and a pavilion that form the nucleus of a busy recreation program. A community center with a library, gymnasium and meeting rooms is planned.

"The recreation council brings different families together," said Sandy Janiski, president of the Norrisville Recreation Council and a 12-year community resident. "We're all volunteers working so kids can have a good time in safe conditions."

Just down the road on Route 136 is the Norrisville Volunteer Fire Company. It is staffed by about 60 active members who donated about 8,700 service hours last year.

"Norrisville is just a nice place," said Fire Chief David "Rusty" Leftwich, a resident since 1990 who is also captain of the Division of Emergency Operations for the 911 Center in Harford County. "And the fire company itself is kind of like a big family."

The price residents pay for Norrisville's scenic views and out-of-the-way location is extra driving, said Gregory Skinner. They may be reminded of the area's original name -- Long Corner -- during lengthy commutes to work, shopping and other activities.

"One of our greatest strengths is also our greatest weakness," said Skinner, a lifelong resident and president of the volunteer fire company.

"We can have a lifestyle that few can enjoy with space between houses, elbow room and panoramic views. But we have to travel some distance for essential services. We're 22 miles from the nearest hospital."

Longtime residents reminisce about quieter days: traffic was sparse, the countryside was open farmland, kids could coast or sleigh ride on the now busy Route 23, lessons were taught in two-room schoolhouses and everyone knew all of his neighbors.

"When we first moved up here, I believe I knew everyone between here and Jarrettsville [a Harford community 10 miles away]," said Jack Morrison, 70, who came in 1960 with his wife Naomi, 64, to be the caretaker for a 200-acre Norrisville farm.

"The traffic is the biggest change," Morrison said. "Used to be you hardly ever had to wait on the cars to cross the road."

Royston Smithson, a former dairy farmer who now raises cattle and hogs, used to travel with his father by horse and wagon to have grain ground into buckwheat, cornmeal and hominy at the Amos Mill not far from his family's Norrisville-area farm.

"I can still see Mr. Amos walking across the bridge toward the mill with his dog following him," said Smithson, 67.

Norrisville

Population: 4,970

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 55 minutes

Public Schools: Norrisville Elementary School, North Harford Middle School, North Harford High School

Nearest Malls: Harford Mall, Hunt Valley Mall

ZIP code: 21161

*Average price of a single-family home: $193,367

*Based on 12 sales during the past 12 months through Metropolitan Regional Information System's multiple listing service.

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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