The good life in Taneytown

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE

`A little gold mine of homes' awaits the house hunter

April 08, 2001|By Jean Marie Beall | Jean Marie Beall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Lisa and Randy Crawford were looking to buy a home -- an older, quality home -- they began their search in Frederick where they both worked.

But prices for the kind of home they were looking for were well over $200,000, more than what they wanted to spend.

They looked for three years, but finally turned their attention 25 miles east to Taneytown. "Taneytown has a little gold mine of homes," Lisa Crawford said.

The couple finally bought an old Victorian on West Baltimore Street, the town's main street, for just under $130,000. Yet, affordability wasn't the only attraction for the Crawfords. They were also attracted to the town's parks and swimming pool, which are nearly in their back yard.

Mrs. Crawford added that while both she and her husband work in Frederick, they find the commute an easy one. "And it's not a bad commute to Baltimore either," she said.

Affordability, easy commutes to nearby larger communities and the friendly, small-town atmosphere are what attract new residents to the area, according to real estate agents.

The town isn't new; it's just being rediscovered.

Taneytown's roots go to 1754 when 7,900 acres were granted to Edward Diggs and Ralph Taney under a patent designated as the Resurvey of Brothers Agreement, according to "Taneytown," a booklet issued by the Taneytown Chamber of Commerce.

Even though Taney, whose home was in St. Mary's County, never lived in the town, he did help design the town's layout and gave it its name.

"The town was located along the Frederick to York Road," according to the booklet, which described the early industries as brick making, pottery, a tannery, hat factory and munitions and blacksmith operations. The booklet notes that George Washington visited the city in 1791 while en route to Philadelphia. A couple of generations later, the Battle of Gettysburg could have easily been the Battle of Taneytown.

On July 1, 1863, Gen. George Meade located his Union headquarters about one mile north of town on the Taneytown-Littlestown Road, now known as Route 194.

According to the booklet: "It was Meade's intention to lure the Confederate commander, Gen. Robert E. Lee, down from southern Pennsylvania. Expecting a battle involving 100,000 soldiers, Meade formed a 20-mile line parallel to Big Pipe Creek. Meade's plans were changed, however, when the two armies accidentally clashed at Gettysburg. As a result, Meade ordered his troops out of Taneytown and proceeded to Gettysburg."

Today, the town of 5,000 is experiencing a renaissance.

The Taneytown downtown area gained 10 businesses last year -- among them a 1950s-style ice cream parlor -- according to Nancy McCormick, the town's economic development director. Six more businesses have expanded in the past year.

And interest in restoring its main street, Baltimore Street, to its original grandeur led to the town's selection as one of seven of the state's Main Street Communities. Part of the plans include putting up lights and street signs that approximate those used in the 19th century as well as restoring a large brick mural on the side of City Hall.

Residents such as Alice Unger also are restoring their properties. Unger's Colonial Revivalist Victorian on York Street dates to 1896. She has restored nearly all the home's rooms, complete with wallpaper patterns that were similar to those used in the 1800s.

"There is definitely a visible change," McCormick said of the past five years. "I see people fixing up their homes and businesses. People are stopping in Taneytown for events like the car show, Taneytown Days and Art Train. What we want to do is make Taneytown a destination town."

New housing developments, giving homeowners greater choices, is another factor that is bringing more people to the area.

Stephanie Myers, a real estate agent in the Taneytown office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., said several developments are being built in town or just outside the city limits. Roberts Mills, Copperfield and Meadowbrook are a few of the new ones. Plans for an 18-hole golf community with mixed-use housing just outside of town are in the conceptual stages.

Myers said there has been a great deal of growth in the past five years.

"I did over 60 transactions last year," Myers said. "I did about half of that five years ago."

Charles A. Reed of Charles A. Reed, Real Estate Services Group, PC said he also has seen much growth.

"The number of transactions per month has easily doubled," he said.

The cost of homes in Taneytown from five years ago has also increased, say area Realtors.

Myers estimates the average price of homes in Taneytown five years ago ranged from $110,000 to $115,000. The average price now is around $140,00 to $145,00 with some of the developments offering homes that cost as much as $200,000.

But Myers said that five years ago the question she was asked about most was affordability.

"Today people are asking how far Taneytown is from Eldersburg or Columbia," she said.

Reed said he is seeing more people moving to Taneytown from metropolitan areas because they like the town and its atmosphere.

"They want to live in a more rural area, and they don't mind the commute," he said.

Taneytown

ZIP code: 21787

Commute to Baltimore: 50 minutes

Public schools: Runnymede Elementary, Taneytown Elementary, Northwest Middle, Francis Scott Key High

Shopping: Taneytown Shopping Center; Cranberry Mall in Westminster

Homes currently on market: 114

Average listing price: $111,404 *

Average sale price: $108,612 *

Average days on market: 130 *

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 97.49% ** Based on 36 sales in the past 12 months as compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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