Time has light touch on town


Homes with boat slips edge into community marked by farm fields

July 25, 1999|By Patricia A. Granata | Patricia A. Granata,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When you ask Fred Mitchell about Perryman, the community in which he has spent the last 66 years, what you get is a history of a small area only slowly affected by the touches of time.

"My family has lived in Perryman for years. We started our food-processing business in 1882 where we canned the vegetables and sweet corn from our farm," Mitchell said.

That food-processing business is the Mitchell Canning House, which once plied its trade on Canning House Road in Perryman -- the neighborhood between the Bush River and the township of Aberdeen in southern Harford County.

In 1984, the Mitchell family sold the brand name, and the facility hasn't been used since 1985. Most of the Mitchell family farmland, though, is still farmed for "field corn."

Yet, family names such as Mitchell, Gabler and Pearce are familiar and are as much a part of the roots of the area as the cornfields that line the roads. Memories of a two-room schoolhouse with three grades in one room and four in the other do not belong only to Mitchell, but to others who have lived in this quiet area all their lives.

"My sister, Betty Pearce, lives right in town and has raised her four children here in Perryman, just like I did with my wife," Mitchell said. "I wouldn't think of moving anywhere else. This has always been my home.

The children of Perryman now attend elementary, middle and high school in neighboring Aberdeen. But some things have stayed the same -- such as the post office that's run by one person.

For Mitchell, the changes to Perryman have come "slowly" but have been "stable." Next to farmhouses are newer developments with single-family homes and boat slips and a marina at the Bush River. Industry has also edged into the area, including Rite-Aid and Clorox distribution centers, but Mitchell doesn't seem to mind.

"This area has been platted with the county for development since 1926, so what do you expect?" Mitchell said.

Just off U.S. 40, aside from bountiful farmland and a scenic view of the Bush River, Perryman is also known for another mainstay -- Gabler's Shore Restaurant.

Since 1938, this crab house hasn't changed much. It's still open from April through September, has no air conditioning and the owners guard the secret spices that are used to create their renowned steamed crabs.

The family-run business has been attracting regulars and bus loads from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

"We're known for our crabs and our sunsets," said Charles Harkins, who, when he married Genie Gabler, was brought into the business 15 years ago.

Nevertheless, Perryman's "down home" feeling has been subjected to development. Waterfront properties are valuable.

One such development, Church Point, is being built by Apple Tree Homes at the end of Canning House Road, overlooking the Bush River. The development offers single-family homes on half-acre lots with the option of adding a boat slip.

"These are selling well," said Mike Barrick, assistant community manager for the property.

"It isn't easy to find lots this size on the water. People are really happy with the kind of neighborhood this is. It is quiet and has shopping and good schools nearby."

The homes at Church Point start at $139,000, a little higher than some of the homes in the area. According to the Metropolitan Regional Information System, the multiple list database used by Realtors, the resale value of homes last year in Perryman was $106,000.

Raymond Mariacker works in the Aberdeen office of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA. He not only sells homes in Perryman -- he's lived there for 30 years.

"What I have enjoyed about this area is being part of a small and quiet community. I have seen the farm fields and how they have changed, but there are still a lot of them out there, which is really nice," Mariacker said.


ZIP code: 21130

Average commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 30 minutes

Public schools: Hillsdale Elementary, Aberdeen Middle and Aberdeen High

Shopping: Stores in Aberdeen on Route 22; Klein's supermarket, Walmart on Route 22.

Homes on market: 4

Average listing price: $106,330*

Average sales price: $106,330*

Average days on market: 151*

Sales price as a percentage of listing price: 100%

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

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