Where professionals find contentment Lawyers Hill has community spirit as well as stately homes

Neighborhood Profile: Lawyers Hill

August 23, 1998|By Mary Medland | Mary Medland,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Set in the shadow of the historic Thomas Viaduct, Lawyers Hill is, most likely, one of Baltimore's oldest suburbs.

And today, the area located near Relay and Elkridge still resonates of the past. "We're trying to preserve this neighborhood as a way of life that is a little less hurried," said one longtime resident.

"The neighborhood has a candlelight tour every Christmas, and the tours still have the feel of an old-time get-together," said Ellicott City attorney David Thomas.

One of the area's first residents was Judge George W. Dobbin, who visited the country setting in the early 1840s to find relief from his asthma.

Dobbin -- a Southern sympathizer during the Civil War -- eventually made the area his permanent residence. He was soon joined by John H. B. Latrobe, a lawyer for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and Thomas Donaldson, a lawyer and reportedly a Union sympathizer. During the Civil War, the area served as an encampment to safeguard the Thomas Viaduct, which was crucial to maintaining rail transportation between Washington and Baltimore.

The rustic atmosphere was also attractive for those seeking a summer escape from Baltimore's city life. "The area was cooler than in the city; springs provided water, and the neighborhood didn't get electrified until around the turn of the century," Thomas said. "You got off the train and a carriage would take you to the top of the hill.

"The more stately homes were originally built and landscaped about 100 years ago, almost at the same time the homes were becoming year-round residences, rather than just summer homes."

In 1870, Judge Dobbin built the Elkridge Assembly Room as a community gathering place.

"The community had been divided by the Civil War, and the idea was to bind up the wounds by having a meeting space where you could play tennis or croquet," said Thomas. "There's also a stage, dressing rooms and an area above the stage for flats. Politics, however, was off-limits as a subject, and it's still pretty much off-limits, but you can really get to know your neighbors because of the assembly hall." The hall today serves as a site for potluck dinners and a Fourth of July picnic.

Lawyers Hill is also home to Belmont -- a stunning Colonial mansion. "Belmont was originally part of a 1,000-acre tract of land that was known as Moore's Morning Choice," Thomas said. "In the 1600s, Mordecai Moore was a surveyor who worked in [what is now] Howard County, and his compensation for doing this surveying work was land.

"Moore and his surveying party were encamped on a hill that overlooked the Patapsco River Valley, and legend has it that he supposedly woke up one morning and decided that this was the place for his home."

Dubbed "Belmont," the mustard-colored plantation mansion is today owned by the American Chemical Society. Both sides of the road to Belmont are lined with huge old trees, and the house itself sits on a hill overlooking surrounding fields.

Nearby is Rockburn, another beautiful old brick home.

"There is also Holy Trinity Orthodox Cemetery and chapel in the neighborhood," said Thomas. "Both have been there for the longest time, and you kind of only know about them if you happen to stumble across the cemetery."

Today, Lawyers Hill is an almost exclusively residential neighborhood of professional people.

Although the neighborhood now is divided by Interstate 95, the major roads that make up Lawyers Hill include Old Lawyers Hill Road, Lawyers Hill Road, Elibank Road, Rockburn Hill Road, Belmont Woods Road and Norris Lane.

In addition to the older houses, there are many newer homes in the Gables subdivision, just off Lawyers Hill Road. "These homes are 5 or 6 years old," said Shirley Hillman, a Realtor with Long and Foster's Ellicott City office. "They're four- and five-bedroom pTC Colonials that sell for from about $259,000 to $328,000."

"Lawyers Hill is a wonderful area," she added. "There are large lots with beautiful oak trees, and it borders Patapsco State Park."

The neighborhood is also 15 minutes from Columbia, and its proximity to Route 1 and the many nearby shopping centers adds to the convenience. Nearby is the Timbers of Troy public golf course, and several churches are within a mile or two of the neighborhood.

Currently on the market is an 1897 carriage house. Originally built as a stable, the structure was converted into an inn and then converted back into a single-family home with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Situated at 6001 Old Lawyers Hill Road, the home has an asking price of $334,900.

"It's a great neighborhood, where people will band together to help plow out other neighbors' driveways when there's a blizzard," said Thomas. "And, back when the gypsy moths threatened the beautiful old trees, everyone chipped in to commission a helicopter to come from Pennsylvania and spray.

"The trees that weren't sprayed got decimated," Thomas said. "But now, it's a great place for trees and for bird-watching."

Lawyers Hill

Population: 1,000

Public schools: Elkridge Elementary, Elkridge Landing Middle, Howard High

Shopping: Elkridge Corner Shopping Center

ZIP Code: 21227

Average price of a single family home: $179, 2000*

*Based on two sales in the past 24 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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