City area returning to garden roots

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE : GARDENVILLE

A park to grow the soul recalls Gardenville's truck-farming past

December 26, 1999|By Charles Belfoure | Charles Belfoure,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Gardenville is so named because it actually was once Baltimore's garden. It was the premier truck farming region where the city got most of its fruits and vegetables.

Houses now stand where tomatoes and beans once grew at Belair and Moravia roads. But this coming spring the community will be getting a new and very unique kind of garden. A labyrinth walk and meditation garden will be built in front of St. Anthony of Padua's Roman Catholic Convent on Frankford Avenue.

"It's part of a program called `Sacred Places -- Open Spaces' which attempts to put places of peace and beauty in urban areas," said Gloria Carpeneto, a pastoral associate.

"With a perennial and annual garden, two fountains, benches and a labyrinth, a prayer path evoking the ancient patterns on European cathedral floors, the community will have a place to sit, relax, and calm oneself," she said.

The labyrinth is an intricate circular stone path used in the Middle Ages by the faithful who could not travel to the Holy Land. Walking at whatever pace they wish, people wind their way to the center of the pattern. Participants can pray, recite verse or read the Bible as they walk.

St. Anthony's, once the largest church in the archdiocese, is still a major presence in this Northeast Baltimore neighborhood and is an apt place for such a project that will try to bring together a multi-ethnic community that is undergoing change.

Originally a suburb where first- and second-generation Poles and Italians could buy their first single-family homes, it has lately been discovered by African-American and Nigerian families.

"Gardenville is a good place for first-time buyers who don't want to start off with a townhouse," said Pat Gussio, an agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA's Greenspring office. Detached single-family home prices usually range from $50,000 to the low $90,000s.

"It attracts buyers because you can get a lot of house for your money and it's convenient to the city," Gussio said.

The commute to downtown is a straight shot south on Belair Road; the Beltway is a short way north.

Gussio has a listing for a four-bedroom house with two porches selling for $92,000. Other recent listings included a three-bedroom cottage for $74,000 and a four-bedroom, two-bath Colonial for $104,000. The most typical house style is a two-story frame bungalow with a front porch.

Tina Kline, a resident since 1989, also enjoys Gardenville's convenience, but the aspect she likes most about the neighborhood is the people.

"They're remarkable, hard-working and genuine," she said. In fact, she married one of those "remarkable" people, her husband, James, in 1997. His family has lived in Gardenville for generations.

Most of the 19th-century Gardenville population consisted of farmers. By 1880, the land was described as "highly productive and much of it commands $300 or more per acre on the rare occasions when it comes on the market." But by the 1890s -- with the extension of the streetcar line along Belair Road -- the land in Gardenville became much more valuable for development than for farming and subdivisions soon replaced vegetables.

While rowhouses stretched from North Avenue to what is now Herring Run Park, mostly single-family detached homes were built north of the park.

Along with the new development came businesses along Belair Road that eventually became the well-traveled U.S. 1.

Some of these establishments are quite familiar to Baltimoreans such as Bo Brooks, the famous crab house, and the Woodlea Bakery. Many of these businesses are still owned by residents of Gardenville, said the Rev. C. Lou Martin, St. Anthony's pastor.

Gardenville once was farmland, then a suburb that was engulfed by the city. The new garden at St. Anthony's will be a reminder of the old.

GARDENVILLE

ZIP code: 21206

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes

Shoping: Parkside Shopping Center, Cedonia Shopping Center, Golden Ring Mall

Public schools: Gardenville Elementary School, Furley Elementary School, Northeast Middle School

Homes on the market: 103

Average listing price: $74,076

Average sales price: $72, 243

Average days on the market: 209

Sales prices as a percentage of listing price: 97.7%*

*Based on 168 sales in the last 12 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

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