Hamlet doesn't have much, which makes it appealing

Neighborhood profile: Butler

No real boundaries or local officials, just an old-time charm

January 27, 2002|By Erika Hobbs | Erika Hobbs,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Butler is a place that has no official boundaries and no local leadership. Yet, many people want to live there.

"If I could satisfy half the people who wanted to live there, I'd be a very rich man," said Stephen Edelen, an agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA in Hunt Valley, who has lived in Butler since 1957.

The Baltimore County hamlet, sandwiched among Hunt Valley, Cockeysville and Reisterstown, has no bank or gas station.

In fact, according to postal service routes - the only official definition of Butler - the town is really only a smattering of Waltons-type houses that have been converted to businesses along Falls Road. Among them: a post office, general store, furniture maker, saddle shop and interior designer.

"We got an ATM about six months ago," said Ray Cameron, who has been Butler's postmaster for 12 years. "That was a quantum leap."

For several miles around Falls Road, crops and meadows curl like comforters, aging trees reach grandly toward the winter sky, and million-dollar horse farms wind around soft hills.

Butler is all of that to the hundred or so people enjoying life there.

Some people desire living in Butler so much that they fake it.

"Some people just want others to think they live in Butler," Cameron said. So they rent a Butler post office box. For others, such as those who live in Upperco, Butler simply is the most convenient location.

Altogether, Cameron said, he serves about 300 customers, although about two dozen fall within the post office's designated Butler area.

For many, the old-time charm holds appeal.

"I moved here in 1948," said Ann Adams Parks, who owns the town's only general and liquor store - Butler Store and Liquors - and is the closest thing to Butler's mayor. "I can't say that it has changed much. And I don't anticipate that it will change."

Her father, Sam Adams, bought the store - which has served the community for nearly 100 years - the year he moved his family to the area.

Butler sprang up around settlers who came to work at the grist and flour mills on Western Run Avenue in the early 1800s. No one is quite sure how Butler got its name - although local lore has it that it honored a stonemason or perhaps a Civil War hero. Families then started farms on sprawling tracts of land, their homes hidden in thick trees.

Residents gathered to catch news and gossip at the town center. The post office officially opened in 1846, although it had operated out of the store before that. Today, the box-shaped post office is still attached to the store.

Throughout the years, Butler's old-fashioned, town-square feel stayed intact. Residents still meet in the town's center to chat while they pick up a loaf of bread, a cup of coffee and the day's bills.

"It really is the place to go to learn about how your neighbors are doing, where the traffic accidents are and what the latest gossip is," said Hope Birsh, who moved to the area from New York City to open Maryland Saddlery in the late 1980s. Her shop is across the street from the general store. "Everyone really does know everyone else's business," Birsh said.

Cameron, who knows everyone by name, lingered recently at the postal counter to inquire about the health of a man who stopped by to weigh his letter on the old-fashioned scale and to discuss the weather with a woman purchasing stamps.

Then there's the land. Butler is rich in lush woods and huge estates with few houses in between.

"I can go out on my porch in my skivvies, if I want, and no one will see me," said Barbara Ayres, who manages the liquor store and has lived in Butler since 1987.

For now, it appears that won't change soon.

Most families put their estate in trusts so that the land cannot be subdivided, and the state has designated Butler as an area of little growth, said Edelen of OPF. Few properties are sold in Butler, and much of what does, changes hands within the family, he said.

The area also is horse country and home to the Maryland Grand National steeplechase. It is also where the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club holds its famed fox hunt each year.

Factor all that together - the down-home feel, the priceless privacy and the national acclaim - and Butler becomes one hot commodity, Edelen said.

The town's prestige carries a hefty price tag.

"Occasionally, realistically priced houses come into the market, but they get snapped up quickly," Edelen said. Most of the few properties that have sold over the last few years were larger than 140 acres and priced at more than $1 million, he added.

Last year, prices averaged slightly more than $800,000.

For Birsh, who drives at least five miles for gas and at least 20 minutes for mall shopping, fleeing the bustle of New York for the quiet of Butler was well worth the trip.

"I miss nothing," she said. "It is wonderful here."

Butler

ZIP code: 21023

Commute to downtown Baltimore: 30 minutes

Public schools: Sparks Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Glyndon Elementary, Franklin Middle, Hereford Middle, Franklin High, Hereford High

Shopping: Owings Mills Mall, Hunt Valley Mall

Homes on market: 1

Average listing price: $867,250*

Average sale price: $823,750*

Average days on market: 230*

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 94.98%.*Based on four sales in the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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