Peaceful beauty awaits those who yearn for it New Windsor is choice of old-timers, returnees and many newcomers

Neighborhood profile: New Windsor

November 02, 1997|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Issac Atlee came to New Windsor from Philadelphia more than 200 years ago, he noticed the proliferation of stagecoaches and wagons passing what is now the corner of Main and High streets in this western Carroll County community and wondered if he might find a way to stop traffic.

Buoyed by his discovery of a sulphur spring nearby -- which he figured would attract settlers who wanted to experience the "health benefits" of drinking and bathing in the water -- Atlee began buying land to establish his own business center.

New Windsor is no longer the bustling town Atlee founded. But for the first time in more than a century, people are coming in droves, drawn by the 20th-century version of healthy living: a chance to live in the peaceful beauty of the subdivisions and the retirement community which now ring this quiet country village.

By the time the century ends, New Windsor will have added more than 600 households to its tax roster. The offerings range from the retirement condominiums at Springdale Village at the east end of town -- all occupied -- to the starter homes priced from $116,000 in Atlee Ridge, a hillside community overlooking the town at its west end.

It's a far cry from 1797, when surveyors laid out the very first lots and Atlee established his own inn, the Atlee Tavern. The town developed at a measured pace until 1830, when it expanded east toward Westminster. Atlee's son, James, enlarged the inn to capitalize on the town's growth and at the same time started the town's first college, the New Windsor Institute, which held classes in Atlee's establishment.

"The inn became a summer hotel. People would come from Baltimore, Annapolis and Philadelphia for the summer to enjoy ,, the country air. Some of them even built homes on some of the new lots," said Julia Cairns, the town's official historian, who has lived most of her 84 years in New Windsor.

When the college outgrew its simple beginnings at the Atlee Hotel, it moved to a site at the edge of town. Cairns said the "Old Main" building was the first building built to house classes and it remains the oldest college building still standing in Carroll County. Through the years, the college added buildings, changed hands a number of times and even closed during the Civil War when the students went off to battle; but it is best remembered in its most successful incarnation, Blue Ridge College, owned and operated by the Church of the Brethren.

Today, the former college is the site of the Brethren Service Center, a meeting and conference center and headquarters to a number of international aid projects including Heifer Project International, which teaches self-supporting skills such as livestock and crop production in Third World countries.

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said the service center is probably the town's best-known attraction, drawing a variety of trade groups to hold their annual meetings there -- people who otherwise might not come to New Windsor. The center also holds a popular international festival each year, bringing a variety of foreign visitors and cultures to town.

Gullo, an attorney, works out of an office on the corner of Main Street and Route 75, also called Union Bridge Road. The mayor's law office formerly was the barbershop run by his late grandfather, Dutch Lovell.

Gullo and his wife, Sue, live in the three-story historic home -- complete with cupola and wraparound porch -- that once belonged to his grandparents.

After spending countless weekends and summers in New Windsor when he was a boy, Gullo's family moved back to the community from Chevy Chase and decidedly more developed Montgomery County, when he was in high school. Now 29, Gullo became one of Maryland's youngest mayors when he took office at age 24. He has little sympathy for today's youngsters who claim there is nothing to do in town. Some of his fondest childhood memories, he said, are of fishing off the bridge down by the railroad tracks and similar outdoor pursuits.

Gullo might seem an unlikely choice to lead a town that had nearly stagnated for most of the 20th century. When he was elected in 1993, the town had only 800 citizens, many of them FTC descended from families who had lived in the area for generations.

Today, New Windsor is home to 1,100 people and growing. Rachel Taggart, a Realtor with Haines Realty in Westminster who lived outside the town for 24 years and has lived in the town proper for the past five, said that, outside of the new subdivisions, there is not much turnover in New Windsor.

"I can only think of a few homes on the market at the present time and these older homes sell quickly because people really appreciate them," Taggart said.

In 1996, eight of the town's older homes sold, including one auctioned for the bargain price of $85,000. Taggart said a restored home with an accompanying restored carriage house that can be used as a rental property is being offered at $275,000.

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