Northeast stop on the Information Highway Community Web page introduces a city area with a small-town feel

Neighborhood profile

May 03, 1998|By Charles Belfoure | Charles Belfoure,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The 4,242 residents of Lauraville now reside at one address: www.lauravillemd.com.

Anyone interested in learning about this northeast Baltimore neighborhood can hop on the Information Highway, stop at the community's World Wide Web site and discover the advantages that this community, rooted in the early 20th century, offers.

"They'd find out that Lauraville is a diverse, quiet, neighborhood where you can get a lot of house for your money," said Jeff Sattler, president of the Lauraville Improvement Association and designer of the Web site.

"There's every kind of house you can think of," he added. A pen-and-ink drawing of Sattler's own turreted Victorian home on Ailsa Avenue is the prominent image of the Web site.

"We moved from Glen Burnie, found our dream house and we're staying."

Home prices in Lauraville range from $60,000 up to $100,000.

Kathy Woodell, manager of the White Marsh office of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn-ERA, knows the quality available for a moderate price, "Lauraville has an enormous number of homes with stained glass, hardwood floors, and original woodwork."

In fact, the porch-fronted bungalows that are on almost every block have traditionally been starter homes. But for Eugene Grant, past president of the improvement association, it has been his home for almost 50 years. "We never thought of living anywhere else," he said with a laugh.

All the Web site's information -- from businesses to maps and demographics to history -- helps to explain why people in search of a home should not head to the surrounding counties. One resident who already knows this is Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, the executive director of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

"This is a great community with a small-town feel," he said. Landers' wife grew up in Lauraville, and he grew up close by.

Landers agreed with Sattler's view about housing value. "You'd be paying double the mortgage for a comparable house in the county," he said. But Landers also emphasized that, "neighborhoods are about people, not houses and streets."

To him, it's the sense of community and pride that makes a neighborhood successful. He remembers when a house remained vacant and its lawn needed cutting. The neighbors mowed it, showing the lengths people will go to to keep up the neighborhood.

Lauraville is named after the daughter of John Henry Keene, a lumber mill owner who established the first post office in the area. Lauraville is bounded by Echodale Avenue, Herring Run Park, Argonne Drive, and Harford Road. It is a streetcar suburb, meaning its development did not really begin until the electrification of Baltimore's streetcars in the 1890s, which in turn started the subdivision of the small farms that made up most of the area.

The area is a mix of grand Victorian homes, bungalows, foursquare houses, and ranchers on small lots, creating a small town feel on the area's hilly terrain. It is an example of the close-knit, traditional development that planners today want to reintroduce to replace the typical suburban tract subdivisions in the counties.

City neighborhoods such as Lauraville are walkable, because there isn't a total reliance on the car. "You can easily walk to the stores on Harford Road, the park, and elementary school," Sattler said.

Landers and his wife often take walks, sometimes to Garrett Heights Elementary, which sits on a hill, giving Lauraville one of the best views of Baltimore's skyline. Every Fourth of July and New Year's Eve, the community gathers at that point to watch the Inner Harbor fireworks.

Like most successful neighborhoods, the community association is extremely active. Besides its Web page, it publishes a monthly newsletter that lists community events such as the elementary school auction and the annual Lauraville fair. It also informs its residents of meetings with public officials to discuss development issues, crime prevention or city services.

Younger couples have taken advantage of the affordable prices and bought large houses which they invariably renovate.

Dan and Aisha Isackson are architects in their mid-30s who bought their home in 1992 and have just completed a major renovation of the second floor. Aisha, head of design and construction for Motion Picture Entertainment Inc., plans to do more work on the house.

"We have a full size walk-up attic we'd like to turn into a studio," Aisha said.

Lauraville

Population: 4,242 (1990 Census)

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes

Public schools: Garrett Heights Elementary, Hamilton Middle, Northern High

Points of interest: Morgan State University, Herring Run Park

ZIP code: 21214

Average price for a single family home: $80,000 *

* Based on 17 sales in the last 12 months provided by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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