Dot on the map becomes circle of attention


Lisbon's rural peace attracts more buyers

June 06, 1999|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Taking the Lisbon exit off Interstate 70, many people never realize that they've passed through the small town in a blink. But for people who live in conveniently located Lisbon, their part of western Howard County is as pleasant as living can get.

Lisbon covers only a sparsely settled section of land that straddles Route 144. The town includes a handful of businesses in a five-block-long "downtown," farms, single-family homes and its own ZIP code, though the Lisbon Post Office services only retail and post office boxes. Other mail deliveries come from the Woodbine Post Office.

"It's kind of like a little dot, where nobody really knows where it is," said Kathleen Schwartz, who has lived in Lisbon with her husband, Allan, since 1995."I always have to tell people that it's halfway between Mount Airy and Columbia."

The quick and easy access to I-70 is one reason they moved from Mount Airy to Lisbon, relocating their business, Days End Farm Horse Rescue, which takes in abandoned and neglected horses.

"I needed a farm that could house a large number of horses, and I needed it to be in a centralized location that a lot of people could get to," she said. "The people in this area are so friendly. There's really a sense of community here. Lisbon is an old town and there are a lot of people here who care.

"We have over 400 volunteers listed on our database, and a lot live in the surrounding area. They're not all from Lisbon, but the people that come on a more regular basis, many of them are from Lisbon. We depend on donations from people and we get a lot of support from this area."

About 15 miles west of Ellicott City, Lisbon is attracting a steady stream of buyers, according to Elaine Northrop, an agent with the Ellicott City office of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc.

A variety of housing styles have been sold in the area in the past year, ranging from a two-bedroom, $141,900 rancher to a $485,000, four-bedroom Cape Cod, as well as a sprinkling of Victorians and Colonials.

"It's a gracious, quiet way of living," said Northrop. "It has a very rural feeling. People are starting to come in and ask for Lisbon because they get a little more for their money out there. The lots are usually a little larger out there, and there's more farm territory. It's a great place to live."

Former way station

Founded in the early 1800s as a farming village and supply depot, Lisbon served as a way station for travelers on the Old Frederick Turnpike, now Route 144. The road was carved by the Ellicott brothers to reach the markets of Frederick, Hagerstown and Cumberland.

Caleb Pancoast is credited as the founder of the town, purchasing land in 1802. Pancoast laid out 100 lots and built the first house in Lisbon around 1810. No one seems to know how Lisbon got its name.

In early history records, the town is referred to as New Lisbon.

In its heyday, Lisbon was a resort town. The extension of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the 1830s provided summer vacationers a chance to escape the city's heat.

While many historic structures were torn down when U.S. 40 was built, several buildings remain. And many of the oldest homes in Lisbon were built during or before the Civil War.

Friendly mixture of worlds

"Lisbon has a special feeling to the folks. They feel like they're in the country," said the Rev. Keith Corrick, pastor of the Liberty Baptist Church.

"Lisbon is kind of like being in the country and at the same time you're enjoying the luxuries of suburban life. It still has kind of the best of both worlds. And we have the friendliest post office in Maryland," said Corrick, who grew up in western Howard County.

"Everybody is very neighborly. The people are friendly," said Hazel Esworthy, who has lived in Lisbon for close to 60 years. "We have a fire department, two garages, a store and several churches here in the community. It's just an old town."

Lisbon also boasts the first traffic circle designed in Maryland, at the intersection of Routes 144 and 94.

New homes being built

In recent years, the area has seen a steady growth of new houses. As farms are sold off to make room for development, more families move in.

"It's a small town still, even though a lot of development is happening on the outskirts of town," said Eric McIntosh, the president of the Lisbon Volunteer Fire Company and a Lisbon resident for more than 25 years.

"A lot of people are moving out of the city and from other counties to the area," McIntosh said. "The attraction is that it is still somewhat rural.

"But I think the main thing is that they can get away from the city but still have access to [Interstate] 70. You can get to Baltimore and Frederick in no time."

McIntosh said that in recent years the community's focus has changed to the "school and school activities."

"But the fire department still has monthly pancake breakfasts, which a lot of people from the area come to and a lot of people from out of the area come to," he said.

The combination of the small-town atmosphere with a strong sense of school involvement is what prompted William and Suzanne Menner and their two children to move from Elkridge to the Lisbon area.

"There's a lot of farm land around, and it's a quieter atmosphere here with not a lot of business," said Suzanne Menner. "I think most people who move out here wanted to move away from all the businesses. I am willing to go to it. I don't want it to follow me."


ZIP code: 21765

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 45 minutes

Public schools: Lisbon Elementary, Glenwood Middle School, Glenelg High School

Shopping: Lisbon Center

Homes on the market: 3

Average listing price: $299,931

Average sales price: $299,537

Sales price as a percentage of listing: 98 percent*

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

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