`Great Swamp' of 1888 is hot bay area in 1999

Neighborhood Profile: Shady Side

Arundel boating haven has small-town karma

April 25, 1999|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For years, Colleen Pearsall's husband, Wes, tried to persuade her to move to Shady Side, a boating community he came to every summer as a kid because his father kept a boat at the Chesapeake Yacht Club. Once they finally did make the move, she couldn't understand why she didn't agree to it sooner.

"It's like a big playground. We have it all here," Colleen Pearsall said.

And having it all has been the reason many other people have made the move to the secluded community surrounded on three sides by water. For years, Shady Side served as a vacation spot for people in Baltimore and Washington trying to escape the summer heat. Dotted with one- and two-bedroom, summer-home cottages, the area slowly has been transformed into a year-round community.

"A lot of people are finding it's worth the commute. It's so laid-back and it has maintained its country atmosphere. There has been a really big push in the past 10 years. We're seeing less and less of the second homes," said Colleen Pearsall, who manages the local office of Deale Long & Foster Real Estate Inc.

Because of the transformation of the bungalows into renovated two- and three-floor houses, Shady Side offers a wide choice of housing. The original summer cottages can go for as low as $60,000 while transformed waterfront estates can sell for $500,000 and up.

"We are out of waterfronts right now and we have buyers looking for waterfronts. The minute a waterfront comes on the market we have people fighting over it," Pearsall said.

"We are starting to see this market change little by little from a buyer's market to a seller's market. But there are still [unimproved] lots available to be developed and still a lot of houses to be renovated," Pearsall said.

"The area has changed, but has also stayed the same. It has maintained its innocence even though it has grown."

Shady Side's main attraction is the water. Situated where the West River meets the Chesapeake Bay, most of the homes are either on the water or have a water view.

The deep waters of the West River are perfect for sailboats. And on the other side of the peninsula, the bay beckons fishermen and boaters, while offering a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

"It's a short trip from where we are located to the bay and it's pretty well protected," said Cordell Vitkun, manager for the last 13 years of the Chesapeake Yacht Club, a cruising club that has been in Shady Side for 51 years.

"You don't spend a lot of time getting out of here to get to the bay. Most of our members are from Washington, Virginia and Silver Spring. And a few of our members have moved here over the years."

Boaters are not the only people to experience the fun of the water. Each community in Shady Side has its own water privileges, which are owned and shared by the residents. Privileges include a marina, a waterfront picnic area, harbor, public beach and pier.

All of this makes it the perfect place to grow up, or retire, Pearsall said.

And while some kids in Shady Side may dream of one day moving out of the small-town atmosphere, residents say they usually return when it's time to settle down and raise a family.

"A lot of people stay here. Or if they move, they eventually come back," said Shannon Vranas, the owner of Shannon's Restaurant and a Shady Side resident for 40 of her 45 years.

"I used to know a lot of people by name. Now, with all the buildings going up it has changed a lot. But I guess progress has to go on. Everybody is still very sociable and everyone is still willing to help out. It's very homey," Vranas said.

Shady Side was originally inhabited by the Conoy Indians of the Piscataway-Conoy Confederacy. The area then became the site of an active Quaker congregation when Lord Baltimore granted Edward Parrish several tracts on what is now Parrish Creek.

In 1888, the area referred to as "the Great Swamp" was designated for a new post office. But the federal government needed to know what to call the community, and Shady Side, the name of a nearby farm, was chosen.

The old-town appeal and love of water is what attracted George and Mavis Daly to the area.

After owning a summer home in Shady Side for seven years, the couple finally made it their permanent home in 1987. For the past six years they have served as co-presidents of the Shady Side Rural Heritage Society, which in 1989 restored the Captain Salem Avery House as a museum dedicated to local watermen.

Shady Side residents have worked hard to keep development of the peninsula under control. The South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development recently won a 12-year effort to preserve Baldwin's Choice, more than 475 acres in Shady Side which included Franklin Point.

Announced in October, a cooperative financial effort of the state and Anne Arundel County will preserve the property, one of the county's largest remaining tracts of Chesapeake Bay waterfront.

"So far, the commercial development hasn't come in here yet," said Mavis Daly.

"The community has grown, but it still maintains the country charm that makes it so desirable," Daly said.

"The warmth and neighborliness about it makes it so unique. It's one of those rare places where you go into a store or restaurant or church and people know your name."

Shady Side

ZIP Code: 20764

Commuting time to Baltimore: 1 hour

Public Schools: Shady Side Elementary School, Southern Middle School, Southern High School

Homes on market: 81

Average listing price: $164,750.31*

Average sales price: $159,628.48*

Average days on market: 144*

Sales price as percentage of listing price: 96.89%*

*Based on 86 sales in the last 12 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

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