Rural feel lingers as new folks arrive


Upper-class trend doesn't cramp Jacksonville's style

October 28, 2001|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At 7 years old, Thomas Albright started selling fruits and vegetables in front of his father's house in Jacksonville.

Thirty years later, not much has changed for Albright. He can still be seen selling produce in front of his father's house, which sits across from the Jacksonville Volunteer Fire Company. In fact, Albright says, the family produce stand might be Jacksonville's oldest business.

"We've been here for 30 years, in basically the same location," Albright said.

Albright, who has two young sons, wanted to make sure the family farm would be around if they decided to stay in the farming business. So he placed about 140 acres of farmland into an agricultural preservation program.

"We want our land to be there for the next generation. Our land will be preserved," Albright said.

Although many farmers in the Jacksonville community have sold their land, making way for new homes on large individual lots, the rural feel of the area is omnipresent. And not only are longtime residents hoping to preserve the country feel, but so are many of its newcomers.

"It's sad to see all of the development happening, but a lot of people bought their land as an investment or as a retirement, and as they have gotten older they've sold it off," Albright said. "But I don't think there will be much more development because of the commitment of the people. They don't want it, and there are not a lot of open spaces left."

But even with the commitment to preserve Jacksonville, many things have changed, he said.

"Everyone here is still very thoughtful about caring for one another. But it's a different area than it was years ago. When I was growing up it was a working-class community, and it has since become much more of an upper-class area. We are actually one of the few remaining people in the area that still farms."

On the edge of northeastern Baltimore County near the Harford County line, the community is known for its rolling acres, beautiful homes and country charm.

The homes are a good combination of styles including ranchers, bungalows, Cape Cods and Colonials, located along the rural roads on large lots. There are also several developments, some new and some dating back 30 years, that offer mostly split-levels and Colonials on 1-, 2- and 3-acre lots.

"The housing in Jacksonville is really very varied," said Dave Marshall, an agent with the Hunt Valley office of O'Conor, Piper and Flynn ERA and a resident of Jacksonville. "It's really got a bit of everything, and occasionally even a farmhouse with 10 or so acres will come on the market."

Many homes can be found in the mid-$200,000 range. However, for a Colonial-style home in a new development such as Locksley Conserve, the asking price is likely to be in the high-$400,000 to mid-$500,000 range. There are also $1 million-plus houses that dot the area.

The attraction is simple, Marshall said.

"It's the best of both worlds. It's not quite the country, but there's the sense that you are away from the crowd. There's a nice buffer provided by Loch Raven Reservoir, but yet you can be in Towson within 10 minutes. People like Jacksonville because it is a little further out, and there are larger lots available. I love living there."

If residents don't want to travel for everyday needs, most can be met right in Jacksonville. There are two shopping centers, Paper Mill Village Shopping Center and Manor Shopping Center, that sit on opposite corners of the Four Corners intersection. There are several businesses, including a grocery store, seafood store, bagel shop and card store.

Randy and Debra Javins, who moved to Jacksonville 10 years ago, agree that the attraction was the country atmosphere only a few minutes from the Beltway.

"The best way to describe it is you are only six miles from the Beltway, but you really feel like you are way out in the country," Randy Javins said. "It's an ideal spot."

They also were interested in providing a good location for their daughter, Lauren, now 11.

"The schools offer a great education. Jacksonville Elementary School is wonderful. It's almost like going to a private school," Randy Javins said. "And the recreational activities are very strong. The parents are all oriented to making sure the programs run well. There are a lot of extracircular activities, and it makes the area have a nice sense of community."

Jacksonville traces its history to the late 18th century and tobacco farming. The area also was on the Jarrettsville Pike route from Baltimore to York, Pa.

The Jacksonville name can be confusing; it's sometimes used interchangeably with Phoenix. Uusally, people think of the center of town, where Paper Mill and Sweet Air roads intersect with Jarrettsville Pike, as downtown Jacksonville or Four Corners.

However, the Phoenix post office is in downtown Jacksonville, which is where some of the confusion lies.

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