A step back in time to a land of laid-back enchantment Churchville offers family fun away from hustle, bustle

Neighborhood profile: Churchville

November 01, 1998|By Ron Snyder | Ron Snyder,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Driving along Route 22 in Churchville can seem like a dreamy, nostalgic trip back through time.

Pull into the Big M Drive-In Restaurant and receive 1950s-style service, then go to the adjoining Bel Air Drive-In theater for a

night of movies at one of only two drive-ins remaining in the state.

When a movie isn't showing at the popular Harford County gathering spot, people will bring their vintage cars to the Big M to show off to others and see what other people have. Since 1969, Robert Wagner, owner of both the restaurant and the theater, also has donated the use of the grounds to charitable organizations on Sundays throughout the year for fund-raisers.

After leaving the Big M or the drive-in, many people will travel across the street to the Arctic Circle drive-in, where Ellis Reeves and his two sons have served the area since 1966. Or they might go play miniature golf at Churchville golf and baseball.

"During the summer, this whole block is filled with cars of teen-agers and families who want to come out for some clean, wholesome fun," Reeves said.

Families can also keep their children busy at the Churchville Recreation Center. The facility, which opened in 1992, is used for community meetings as well as gymnastics, indoor and outdoor tennis, basketball, volleyball, baseball and indoor and outdoor soccer.

"Coming to Churchville is like taking a step back in time," said Ken Rizer, who owns and operates the miniature golf courses with his wife, Joyce. "The pace here is really slow and laid back, but there are many places for families to do things together."

Rizer said Churchville gives people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life a place to go.

"Everywhere you look, you see more and more development," Rizer said. "Bel Air has grown up quite a bit. While there has been some development in Churchville, the town is more laid back."

Churchville was named after the church at the corner of Routes 22 and 136, which became a landmark at the "Lower Cross Roads" of the county.

Churchville Presbyterian Church was built in 1824, but its first congregation gathered to worship in 1738 and the oldest headstone in the church yard dates to 1771.

The five other churches in the area include Church of the Holy Trinity -- an Episcopal congregation established in 1867 -- and Smith's Chapel United Methodist Church, which dates to the 1850s.

Wesley Baker, the interim pastor at Churchville Presbyterian, said the church is a focal point for the community.

"Churchville is a very rural community, and rural communities tend to stay together longer, which I think is reflected by our family-oriented congregation," Baker said.

For C. J. and Lin Roberts, it was the slower pace of life -- and the accessibility to Interstate 95 -- that brought them in September to the small community tucked between Bel Air and Aberdeen. The Robertses moved into their 2,600-square-foot home that sits on an acre in Priestford Hills after living in Bel Air for three years and Fells Point before that.

"Churchville was a great compromise since I work in Cecil County and my wife works in Baltimore," C. J. said.

"It is also the perfect spot to raise a family since the homes are so private and there is so much room to move around."

While Churchville is still greatly rural, developments, such as Priestford Hills, dot the landscape.

"Churchville is very unique and very pretty," said Linda Hash of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. "There are lots of horse farms and flat lands. Also, there is very little turnover; those who move here usually stay here."

Hash said the area attracts buyers ranging from their mid-30s to mid-50s. Homes in the area typically range from $180,000 to $300,000.

However, there are Colonials and ranchers that are on the market for as low as $124,000 and as high as $379,000.

One example of this can be found on Priestford Road, where a 14-year-old, 2,700-square-foot Colonial sitting on 3 acres is for sale for $249,000, said Tom O'Connor of Long and Foster Realtors.

Churchville Population: 4,000

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 50 minutes

ZIP code: 21028

Public schools: Churchville Elementary School, Southampton Middle School, Aberdeen Middle School, C. Milton Wright High School, Aberdeen High SchoolShopping: Campus Hills Shopping Center, downtown Bel Air, Harford Mall

Points of interest: Churchville Recreation Complex

Number of homes currently on market: 3

Average listing price: $227,818 *

Average days on market: 188 *

Average sales price of a single-family home: $222,049 *

Sales price as a percentage of listing price: 97.47 percent *

* Based on 11 sales in the last 12 months by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

Pub Date: 11/01/98

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