Waltherson residents look after one another

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE

Community members proud of knowing, aiding others in area

January 30, 2000|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

So by now everyone knows the hot areas of the city -- Federal Hill, Fells Point, Canton, Mount Washington -- and the list continues to grow. But bargain hunters and trendsetters know that before an area is declared "a happening," it usually starts out as a quiet little neighborhood that has something unique to offer.

While the Waltherson neighborhood may not be walking distance to Harborplace or near an artsy enclave, it does offer a lot of house and yard for very little money.

"You can get the houses at very reasonable prices. And you can fix them up all different kinds of ways. They have nice yards and mature trees. It's kind of garden-like around here," said Joyce Richardson, who moved to the area 27 years ago and is president of the Waltherson Improvement Association.

"It's a really nice area and it still looks pretty much the same as it did when I moved in. It's like a lived-in community. It's not brand new, but it's a comfortable community. And I know our house is older, but it's a comfortable house."

The average home in Waltherson, a neighborhood in the northeast section of Baltimore, goes for about $80,000.

"Homes are individual homes usually with three bedrooms, one to two bathrooms, basements and a few have fireplaces and garages," said John Wood, a real estate agent with the Parkville office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc.

"Prices are usually $80,000 to $85,000 and it's a good value for their money. Yards are usually landscaped and beautiful. Shopping and bus transportation is nearby and the major highways are close. It's a stable neighborhood," Wood said.

The boundaries of Waltherson include Southern Avenue to the south, Hamilton Avenue to the north, Harford Road to the west and Belair Road to the east.

The area was up for development in 1926 after the city passed the ordinance to open Walther Boulevard, the first automobile boulevard in that area, according to Eric Holcomb, a city planner for the city's historical and architectural preservation commission who is working on a book on the history of Northeast Baltimore.

"Walther Boulevard was built strictly for the automobile and also strictly to create a development between Belair and Harford roads," Holcomb said.

"It was created to open up development in that area," he explained, "and it was a boulevard planned to segregate commercial traffic from light and pleasure traffic."

While the majority of the area consists of single-family and semi-detached homes, there are a few rowhouses and rental units in the neighborhood. Many homes come with a driveway and garage.

"The single-family homes were all built by different builders. So the houses are very unique and different," Richardson said. "My house is solid brick with a stone foundation and the walls are just so thick."

The neighborhood is close-knit, she said, but it goes more by street as opposed to the entire neighborhood.

Christine Baranoski, who bought her house in Waltherson six years ago, agrees with Richardson that neighbors know one another well.

"The one thing I find about the city is that people love their street," Baranoski said. "My favorite thing about Waltherson is the neighbors on my street -- they are phenomenal. That's really what makes it.

"If we ever went looking for another house, I would have to interview the people there because I would want the same kind of neighbors."

The only thing she would complain about, said Baranoski, wouldn't be the neighborhood but the business district along Harford Road.

"I'm really disappointed in our business area. It seems the city has opted to help Canton as opposed to helping out Hamilton."

In recent years, residents of the bordering neighborhood associations have formed the Harford Road Partnership, a nonprofit community development corporation assigned to develop and clean up the business corridor.

The group has been successful in getting a new Safeway, Rite Aid and Pep Boys into the Hamilton business district. On the east side of the neighborhood, Belair Road offers popular restaurants and bars like Bo Brooks and Cafe Tattoo. Waltherson resident Bob Wiegel says it is also home to one of the best bakeries in town -- Woodlea Bakery.

"It's one the best-kept secrets. We are very lucky to have one of the best bakeries in the city in this neighborhood," said Wiegel, who has lived in Waltherson for more than 20 years. "I have many neighbors that walk to the bakery or grocery store almost on a daily basis. Anything you want, you can find along Belair or Harford roads."

Waltherson, like most older city neighborhoods, has undergone a change in recent years with many elderly residents moving out. But residents are determined to maintain the area and, in 1997, organized a citizens patrol. The group has provided patrols in the neighborhood three to five nights a week for the past three years.

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