Hope and progress nurtured by diversity Randallstown offers attractive homes, nice schools, good folks

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE: RANDALLSTOWN

September 13, 1998|By CHARLES BELFOURE | CHARLES BELFOURE,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Homeownership is said to be the cornerstone of the middle class in America, but for the black community in Randallstown it has particular significance.

"We've had to struggle for the opportunity to own a home," said Priscilla Hawkins, a nine-year resident of Randallstown, "so it holds a great deal of importance."

Pride of place is a key ingredient of the success of Randallstown, a neighborhood along Liberty Road which in the last 10 years has become a major black middle-class community in Baltimore County.

Hawkins, a special education teacher at Woodlawn High School, is among the many black professionals who have moved into the area. "I was living in Edmondson Village and wanted to relocate to a more affluent black section." Another reason that Hawkins moved to Randallstown was the quality of the schools available to her grandchildren. Instead of attending private schools, they went to the neighborhood's public schools.

In reality, Randallstown attracts residents from many areas.

"My customers have relocated from all the surrounding counties and out of state," said Denise DeLever, an agent with the Pikesville office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. "They like the easy commute into the city, and the range of housing that's available."

There are townhouses starting at $75,000 for first-time buyers, and recently built detached move-up homes, costing as much as $265,000.

But the typical Randallstown house is the one-story brick rancher on an eighth-acre lot. The majority of these homes were built in the mid-1950s to late 1960s, the height of development in Randallstown.

The neighborhood's schools are one of the most important reasons that families move to the area. Eric Carlton, the principal of Randallstown High, explained that his school has two new magnet programs, biomedical technology and communications management.

It has created partnerships with the region's medical labs and internships with local TV and radio stations.

The churches along Liberty Road also play an increasingly important role in the lives of the residents.

The Rev. Kenneth L. Barney is pastor of the New Antioch Baptist Church of Randallstown on Old Court Road, the largest black Baptist Church in Baltimore County.Barney has seen a huge increase in the number of black residents in Randallstown.

"They like suburban living, the quality of the schools and being close to stores like Owings Mills Mall," he said. Barney's church has 4,000 members, and plans are under way for an additional building that will hold 3,200.

The Jewish community that arrived in Randallstown in the 1950s and 1960s remains -- albeit a much smaller presence.

"We're still kicking and still very active," said Michael Klaff, president of the Randallstown Synagogue Center. "We just keep going and going and going."

Recently, Klaff wrote in the congregation's newsletter that, 10 years ago, few people would have thought the center would still be around. Other congregations that had dwindling memberships left Randallstown for Owings Mills or the Park Heights area. RSC, meanwhile, developed a new closeness with the two other synagogues that remained in Randallstown.

"There's been a great deal of interchange among us," Klaff said. Later this month, on the first day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, the congregations will meet on Brenbrook Drive where it crosses Scotts Level Creek to perform a ritual casting away of sins.

"I can remember when Brenbrook was a dead-end street," Jerry Spitulnik said as he watched a seemingly unending stream of cars go by his house on Brenbrook. Brenbrook was extended to McDonogh Road 10 years ago, and now is a link to Owings Mills. Spitulnik came to Randallstown 30 years ago because of the Jewish community. To him, it's all but vanished.

"The Liberty Road Jewish Center is gone, and you can't even get a bagel around here anymore," he said.

Many new developments such as Oakwood Village and Pikewood have been built in Randallstown in the past 10 years, but the community was developed relatively late compared with many other Baltimore County suburbs close to the city.

The area got its name from Christopher and Thomas Randall, who opened a tavern on Liberty Road in the 1700s. Until the first decade of the 20th century, Liberty Road was just a dirt road used mostly by farmers.

The turreted 19th-century farmhouse and barn at Church Lane and McDonogh Road is one of the few reminders of the area's rural beginnings.

By the late 1800s, Randallstown had developed into a small community and, by 1905, it needed a school. Three years later, a school was built on the south side of Liberty Road near Church Lane and is still in use as Randallstown Elementary.

After construction of the new school, more changes occurred, including the paving of Liberty Road and the erection of the stone community building, a familiar site to those who travel FTC through Randallstown.

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