Where life is slower, people are friendly Affordable, accessible little town near I-83 attracts commuters

Neighborhood profile: Shrewsbury, Pa.

September 07, 1997|By Judy Reilly | Judy Reilly,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For years, the town of Shrewsbury, Pa., was passed over by its neighbors. Too far south for the people of York to consider a neighborhood, and too far north for Baltimoreans to consider a suburb. It remained a town that time forgot. As recently as the 1960s, the town had a population of just 950 and Main Street didn't need a traffic light.

Not any more.

Twenty thousand cars a day go through Shrewsbury. The town attracts people wanting to relocate off the beaten path, yet still have an easy commute to work, shopping and other urban amenities. Shrewsbury is 20 minutes from York and a swift 45 minutes to Baltimore's Inner Harbor via Interstate 83. The Susquehanna Trail -- the road that links Baltimore to York, Pa. -- cuts through town and becomes Main Street. It bustles with traffic that heads to the interstate, and along it are new housing developments and shopping centers that have popped up at each end of town.

Main Street is filled with specialty shops that attract collectors and browsers from a three-state area. Shrewsbury has become the place people might visit to escape the city for a day, and then decide to stay for a lifetime.

Ted and Dee Scocos moved to a new housing development in Shrewsbury five summers ago. "It's wonderful, really," said Dee. "I don't handle moving very well, but this place is great. People talk to you, and know your name -- even when you go to the cleaners. I lived in Baltimore 20 years, and no one said hello at the cleaners. Plus, I travel [for Baxter Health Care Corp.] and don't have a lot of time for errands. Here I race around and go to the grocery store, the cleaners, the doctor's, the vet's -- everywhere in an hour. Moving here is the best thing I've ever done."

Her husband agrees. Ted Scocos is dean of students at McDonogh Middle School in northwestern Baltimore County. He said he had no intention of moving, but when he and Dee took a ride into the country several years ago, and stopped in to see a model home in a new development, they were sold. "People in our development are very friendly," he said. "It's a good community and convenient to I-83. The taxes are lower, and it's a slower, low-key life here. It takes me about 40 minutes to get to work -- the traffic never stops. If you're going to live in Northern Maryland you might as well in Pennsylvania."

Scocos' neighbors, Greg Johnson and Sandy Ballenger, couldn't afford a house in northern Baltimore County. After living in Stewartstown in 1985, they inched over to Shrewsbury, a similar town closer to the interstate, in 1993. They paid under $200,000 for a four-bedroom home with a great floor plan and wraparound porch that sits on nearly an acre of land.

It takes Greg 25 minutes to get to his job in Hunt Valley. "Shrewsbury is closer to I-83 but you still have the feeling of living in the country," he said. "We moved for affordability and lifestyle."

Driving on the winding back roads from Maryland into Shrewsbury on a recent Saturday, passing thoroughbred farms, nurseries, herb farms and the promise of bed and breakfast on a side road, the entrance into Shrewsbury seemed more like a sojourn into a quaint New England town than into a thriving bedroom community less than an hour from Baltimore.

Shrewsbury was one of the earliest towns established west of the Susquehanna River, settled by Scottish-Irish immigrants around 1739. A German immigrant, Baltzer Faust, laid out the town in 1794. The town had a sleepy history until the past decade, when housing developments began springing up around it, and Shrewsbury's Main Street was revitalized and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The revitalization of the town in recent years shows in old Main Street homes and businesses.

Constructed of frame or brick, with recent face-lifts to exteriors, lace curtains at the windows and flower baskets on front porches, the once-sagging structures now house families, shops and cafes. Solid brick churches ring their bells at predictable intervals, and the library sits in the center of town. Flower boxes ,, rest under window sills and flags fly from every porch. Lawns are tidy and well-kept.

Moving to Shrewsbury is a natural migration from Towson and other Baltimore Beltway communities, according to Dan Fisher, a sales associate at Ashley Homes, a custom-home builder in Pikesville.

"The first [Pennsylvania] exit off I-83, only 25 miles from the Beltway at Towson, means you're right here," Fisher said. "The affordability of the houses and the lower taxes are driving people who live in Maryland over the Pennsylvania line."

Developments like those built by Ashley also boast public water and sewage systems, natural gas heat, good schools and a low crime rate. Four-bedroom Colonial homes with 2 1/2 bathrooms, a fireplace and first-floor family room typically sit on up to half an acre, with views of surrounding countryside.

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