`A very nice place to raise children'

Neighborhood profile : Bowie

Bowie has charm, price and location

September 26, 1999|By Nancy Jones Bombrest | Nancy Jones Bombrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

What made Bowie an attractive and profitable junction for the railroads back in the 1870s is what attracts homebuyers today -- location, location, location.

"It's just very well located," said Russ Davies, a resident of Bowie for 27 years and an employee of Bowie's Belair Mansion and Stable Museum.

"You have everything that you could possibly need or could possibly want. There's shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and we have a baseball team. Nothing is very far away."

"Years ago, when a young couple was looking for a place to live, the attraction of Bowie was the cost of the home and the size of the home; you got a lot of house for a little bit of money," said Abbie Banks, who has lived in Bowie for 30 years.

"But, also, to be only 22 minutes from the White House or 25 minutes from Georgetown -- with the size of the home we got -- it would probably cost two or three times as much. And that is probably still true today.

"There are a lot of old buildings here in the historic district and, being an antique dealer, that's one thing that attracted me to the area," added Banks, who owns the antique store Images in the Welcome House.

What's more, she said, "Bowie has a real sense of community, and in a large metropolitan area such as Washington, D.C., that's a really, really difficult feeling to achieve."

Bordered by Route 564 on the north, Route 214 on the south, Route 301 on the east and Highbridge and Church roads on the west, Bowie is an incorporated town of more than 44,000 residents in Prince George's County.

Known originally for its thoroughbred horse breeding and railroad industry, Bowie traces its origins to 1870, according to Stephen Patrick, curator for the city of Bowie.

The Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company (B&P Railroad), of which Oden Bowie served as president, formed an alliance with the Pennsylvania Railroad. The alliance allowed the B&P to build its long-sought line to Southern Maryland and the Pennsylvania Railroad to extend a spur to Washington. The line opened in 1872. Today it serves as an integral part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and the original mainline to Southern Maryland, which opened in 1873, remains known as the Pope's Creek line.

The town of Bowie grew up around the train station after more than 500 residential building lots were divided to create a large site known as Old Bowie. The old town area has kept much of its original charm and appeal, existing today as a historic area complete with antique shops, small businesses and restaurants.

In the 1950s, the firm of Levitt and Sons began to develop a residential subdivision on the large historic Belair estate four miles to the south of the old town section. And in the 1960s, the Levitt section was sequentially annexed so that the original town now makes up one section of the larger city of Bowie.

The homes in the city come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. The Levitt homes, which include three-bedroom, two-bath rancher styles; four-bedroom Cape Cods; and three- and four-bedroom Colonials, sell for $130,000 to $200,000, according to Mary Lee, manager of the Bowie office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. In the newer subdivisions such as Northridge, Derbyshire and Saddle Brook, there are 3,000-square-foot houses that approach $300,000.

The area is also dotted with condominiums, townhouses and historic homes.

"Homes that are priced right and show nicely, we will many times have multiple offers on them," Lee said. "The Bowie market is probably up about 20 percent over last year."

"We have a lot of commuters to the District," Lee continued. "This is an easier commute than if you lived on the Virginia side. And you can buy a much nicer house in Bowie and can buy more home than if you went to the Virginia side."

"It's a very nice place to raise children," said Mary Basim, who, along with her sister Fannie, wrote a book on the history of the area.

"It's a residential community with shopping areas, antique stores and a number of small businesses."

"In the old town area where I am, we know practically everybody," continued Basim, a native of the old section who has lived there nearly 80 years.

The community is also home to the Belair Mansion and Belair Stable Museum. The mansion, circa 1745, was the house of Samuel Ogle, the provincial governor of Maryland. It was also home to William Woodward, a famous horseman in the first half of the 20th century.

The area radiates with activity. There are more than 1,700 acres of parkland inside the city limits, including Allen Pond Park, an 85-acre multiuse park that includes an ice arena, amphitheater, boathouse, 10-acre stocked fish pond, six lighted ball fields, picnic areas, bike trails, fitness station and several playgrounds. There's also Whitemarsh Park, a 210-acre multiuse park that includes the Bowie Playhouse.

Bowie also boasts three community centers, a community theater, a very active boys and girls club and, to top it all off, the city is home to the Bowie Baysox.

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