Charm of a close community

Neighborhood profile: Wiltondale

Neighbors enjoy friendships near busy Towson area

February 13, 2000|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you want to know what it's like to live in Wiltondale -- a neighborhood nestled within the greater Towson community -- just listen to Richard Peyton, who moved there 11 years ago.

"My wife knew about the neighborhood because her aunt and uncle raised eight children here. She always said that someday we would live in Wiltondale," Peyton said.

"We had friends that lived here, and they invited us down one day to the neighborhood pool for a crab feast. And that is really what sold us. What we saw that day was this incredible neighborhood feeling that was just so much a part of the party."

The neighborhood is bordered by York Road and Cedar Avenue to the west, Towson High School to the north, Stevenson Lane to the south, and Weatherbee Road and a tributary of Herring Run to the east.

Consisting of mostly brick and stone Colonials with a few Cape Cods, country cottages and ranchers thrown into the mix, the houses in Wiltondale usually sell in the mid-$200,000 range.

"It's a very close-knit neighborhood," said Peyton, the incoming president of the Wiltondale Improvement Association. "There must be 350 families living in Wiltondale and yet it seems that so many people know one another. I can remember growing up in a neighborhood like this, but I don't think this is typical anymore."

For Andy Evans, who moved to the area four years ago from Philadelphia, there is a mystique to the area, which borders the better-known Stoneleigh community.

"We sort of like being unknown because it protects the neighborhood to some extent. There's a quaintness to the community, and we don't want to attract a lot of attention," Evans said.

"I was relocating, and we were looking for a house in a couple areas, including Towson. As we were driving through Wiltondale, someone was putting a `for sale' sign up in their front yard and we went in. That night, we ended up competing for the property."

Evans and his family consider it a lucky find.

Some of the neighborhood closeness grows from the popularity of the community pool and park that were donated by the neighborhood's builders.

"It is the ideal place for mothers to bring their children during the day," said Peyton. "The pool becomes the focal point of the neighborhood throughout the entire summer."

Built in three sections beginning in the 1930s and ending in 1952, the two- and three-level houses usually have three or four bedrooms, one or two bathrooms, a basement, a large living room and formal dining room off the kitchen. Most of the homes have attics that can be finished into additional bedrooms, and many have garages. Original features include hardwood floors, fireplaces and slate roofs.

"A lot of people have added additions onto the houses rather than move out of the neighborhood. It's one of those neighborhoods that's hard to get into because houses don't come on the market all that often," said Ashley Richardson, an agent with the Towson-South office of O'Conor, Piper and Flynn ERA. "It's a very desirable neighborhood. And it's a popular neighborhood that people want to live in."

Before the Wiltondale development was built, the area was part of a horse farm and racing track, according to a history written in 1984 by former Wiltondale resident Carroll Pfeiffer.

The property was subdivided for residential development and the name Wiltondale was derived from a thoroughbred trotting horse stabled at the farm. Although Wiltondale's racing career was unspectacular, the horse was a favorite of Wilton and Jessie Hilles Greenway, who owned the land.

The first section of Wiltondale to be developed was known as the Spanish section and was located in the southern portion of Wiltondale. The original streets of San Pierre and San Sabastien were renamed Sussex and Wilton roads when the later two portions of the neighborhood were built. Now the streets reflect names of English harness racing tracts.

"Rumor has it that some of the stables for the harness racing was near Cedar Avenue and that there is buried a full-standing horse -- which may be Wiltondale," said Harvey Noyes, president of the improvement association. "And every once in a while someone will find horseshoes and other items from that period."

Although he considers the neighborhood sedate and conservative, Noyes said it is going through a rejuvenation with many families moving in as older residents move out.

Noyes has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years and discovered it after he and his wife had moved to a house in a neighboring area. They jogged through Wiltondale, then joined the pool and fell in love with the community.

Effects from being located near the busy Towson corridor and across from Towson University are hard to find in this neighborhood.

"We have no through streets and without any through streets to other neighborhoods, you're not likely to discover it. It's sort of a maze back here," Noyes said.

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