Charm, convenience, contentment under the trees

Neighborhood profile: Cedarcroft

`It's a great place for the die-hard city dweller'

November 04, 2001|By Charles Belfoure | Charles Belfoure,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"People are doing a lot of work on their houses around here - and it's in the city," observed the man who was doing some work on Terry Hollon's home in Cedarcroft.

That's the attitude of a lot of people who think that living in Baltimore is an odd thing to do given all the new subdivisions going up in the counties.

But Hollon, an architect, knows that North Baltimore neighborhoods such as Cedarcroft offer a style of living that can't be found in a new subdivision built in a cornfield. "It's a beautifully planned and designed neighborhood - and you pay less for a house that's close to work," she explained.

"It's a great place for the die-hard city dweller," said Lil Donnard, a 14-year resident and president of the neighborhood association, the Cedarcroft Maintenance Corp.

"We're a smaller neighborhood, so people get to know each other. And we're definitely not stuffy like some neighborhoods around here."

It's the design and planning of Cedarcroft that make it special, said Hollon and her husband, Jack, who's also an architect. "The proportions of everything make it a charming place to live," said Jack Hollon. "The size of the houses to the size of the lots; the width of the streets, and the spacing of the trees all play a part."

Cedarcroft is in the early stages of seeking status as a historic district. "We're full speed ahead on the National Register of Historic Places," Jack Hollon said. "We got unanimous support for the National Register and overwhelming support to become a Baltimore City Historic District."

The community is an excellent example of traditional neighborhood design or TND, a method of planning neighborhoods that disappeared after World War II. Houses were sited on small lots with narrow, well-landscaped streets that connected to larger thoroughfares such as York Road and Charles Street in Cedarcroft's case.

Most importantly, traditional neighborhoods readily lend themselves to walking. On a typical afternoon, Cedarcroft residents stop to chat while out pushing a baby stroller or walking a dog.

The houses are modest in size but well designed.

"Some of them are ingenious," Jack Hollon said. "There's a shingled cottage model on Blackburn Lane; four of them on a row, some with their fronts facing the street and some with their sides toward the street and they all appear as different houses."

The designs are typical of the suburban building boom of the 1920s in the city with a predominance of shingled cottages and colonial revival houses. Prices average in the low- to mid-$200,000 range and houses usually sell within a month.

Cedarcroft was the name of the 45-acre estate of Phillip Lamb, who built himself a mansion in 1886 which still stands on Sycamore Road. Development of the neighborhood started with the creation of the Cedarcroft Land Co. in 1910 by Lamb and other investors, including E.L. Palmer, an architect who would become famous for his work in Roland Park and Guilford. Palmer did the site planning of Cedarcroft as well as the design of many of its houses.

About 30 houses had been built by 1921. Then in 1923, when all the lots were sold, the company was liquidated and the community corporation was founded that to this day is the governing body of the community.

Covenants and land restrictions similar to those of the Roland Park Co. had been created by the former company and were incorporated into the charter of the Maintenance Corporation. These rules regulating land use and the design of homes are still in effect and play a major role in maintaining the quality of the houses, according to Jack Hollon.

A homeowner must submit plans for an addition to a three-member architectural review committee for approval. Paint colors have to be reviewed as well, but according to Donnard, the committee doesn't force owners to use slate roofing or wood windows as some other neighborhoods do.

The neighborhood association meets regularly to deal with issues in the community.

"We're very fortunate that they're just small issues like someone's trash blew across a neighbor's yard," Donnard said. Parties are a big part of Cedarcroft life, with Christmas and Halloween get-togethers as well as the annual progressive dinner.

People are coming around to the advantages offered by traditional neighborhoods such as Cedarcroft, according to Jack Hollon. Even new communities are following their planning principles.

"Interest in neighborhoods like Cedarcroft [is] here to stay," Hollon said.

Cedarcroft

ZIP code: 21212

Commute to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes

Public schools: Roland Park Elementary, Roland Park Middle, Northwestern High

Shopping: York Road Plaza, Anneslie Shopping Center

Homes on market: 5

Average listing price: $222,064*

Average sale price: $217,767*

Average days on market: 37

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 98%*Based on 15 sales in the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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