1950s `nondevelopment' still thrives in Towson

Neighborhood profile: Campus Hills

Home designs stem from time studies of housewives

July 11, 1999|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Familiar to many Towson commuters is the sign for Campus Hills that sits in the middle of Goucher Boulevard among the flowers of a median strip garden.

Beyond the familiar sign and the busy Towson streets lies the community of 350 brick tri-levels and ranchers, among them the abode of Jacob Hess.

"It's a dream home for my wife and family," said Hess, who, three months after moving into his home, signed up to head the community association. Three years later, he's still president.

"It's unique in that it's kind of protected in the way it can go in the future. It's a nice, quiet community and it's well-kept. It's also quite an active community. Everybody stays involved and we try to get the new people involved. It also has history to it. Quite a few of the [Baltimore] Colts lived here."

The 1950s neighborhood of three- , four- and five-bedroom homes is surrounded by Goucher College, Providence Road, Goucher Boulevard and the Beltway.

The original 248-acre tract contained a main dwelling and several outbuildings in 1954 when it was purchased by developers Ralph DeChiaro and Anthony A. Sanzo.

Seventy-seven acres were sold to Notre Dame Preparatory School and 44 acres were taken by the State Roads Commission for a portion of the Beltway (Interstate 695) and the cloverleaf at Providence Road. Campus Hills was built on the remaining acres.

The only access at the time of purchase was via Providence Road, which was a 20-foot-wide macadam lane.

The developers decided to build homes geared to the daily routine of the 1950s housewife. Time and motion studies were made and floor plans were devised to reduce footsteps by the hundreds. Kitchens came equipped with a dishwasher, garbage disposal and an exhaust fan.

"It's a physically old community yet in today's scheme of things, [the houses] still work out great," said Mike Mulford, who moved to Campus Hills 15 years ago with his wife, Maureen. "The largest is the five-bedroom, tri-level house and the smallest is the three-bedroom rancher. And then you have the models in between. It's worth the value and that's the appeal. It's now a very young community. I couldn't say that 15 years ago when we moved in. There weren't that many kids. Now, original owner's children are starting to move back in with their kids."

Campus Hills' homes came in seven models. But to give the community the feel of a "nondevelopment," the developers adapted each home to its lot and made sure each block contained a mix of models.

When the homes went on sale in 1955, the 232 homes in the first and second sections were sold the first day. The third section of 137 homes was finished by the late 1950s.

"I remember we bought the home on the first day. We stood in line to buy the house. I had given birth 11 days before we bought the house and my husband wanted me to see it," said Jane Clemmens, who has lived in her Campus Hills home since 1956.

"I said there was no way my obstetrician would let me go. But I did. We had already bought a house on Rolling Road, but [the Campus Hills house] was such a good buy we took a chance of not getting our money back. We had to wait one year to move in.

Ties to campus

"Back then we could drive either way on Goucher, it was [then a single-lane] dirt road. The traffic [on the multilane, divided thoroughfare] is horrendous now, but we have grown with it. We are so used to it."

Summer life in Campus Hills centers around the community pool, Campus Cabana. During the rest of the year the neighborhood hosts several events, including a Halloween costume party, Easter egg hunt, a luminary night at Christmastime, a golf tournament, and bull and oyster roasts.

The community also enjoys a good relationship with adjacent Goucher College and has access to its facilities.

"With Campus Hills and other neighborhoods, Campus Hills in particular, it has been a long relationship. In fact, a lot of our faculty and staff live in the community," said Mark Jones, vice president of advancement for Goucher.

"We enjoy a peaceful and mutually supported partnership with Campus Hills and we anticipate that it will always continue," said Jones, who added that residents are "encouraged to come onto campus."

"We will be adding a track next year that they are also welcome to use," Jones said.

The many conveniences within walking distance -- from Towson Town Center to Goucher College -- have helped keep Campus Hills an attractive community for both seniors and young families.

Pat and Tom Jenkins grew up in Campus Hills and went to Towson High School together. After they were married and living in a nearby townhouse development, his parents decided to move. The Jenkins decided to buy his parents' house in the early '90s and move back into the neighborhood where they grew up.

"There are a lot of parents and children living in the neighborhood. A lot of the children who grew up in the neighborhood have come back," Jenkins said. "We really are Middle America here."

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