Town's residents reap rural lifestyle

Neighborhood profile: Pylesville

Harford community enjoys good schools, peaceful atmosphere

March 10, 2002|By Amelia Cleary | Amelia Cleary,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I was driving on Route 165 looking for Pylesville, in northern Harford County, and couldn't find it.

So, I pulled over to ask how to get to the town. Lora Ohearn hopped out of her red pickup truck in front of the defunct Barnacle Bill's Restaurant and Grill, which has been closed for years, and said, "You're in it."

I looked around for evidence of life and saw a few houses in the distance beyond the cornfields. The town starts on Route 165 up the road where the lights are flashing and ends farther up the road in the other direction a little ways, said Ohearn, who has lived in Pylesville for 10 years because she loves the country.

So, I took her lead and drove a little farther up the road. It looked pretty much the same in all directions - rural, with immense fields, scattered houses and a corner general store that looks like a house.

Nearby are North Harford elementary, middle and high schools, occupying three buildings.

Nathan Pyle - who provided the community's name - owned a mill on Broad Creek in 1813, and a post office was established in 1850. Residents still receive rural delivery service.

Although many of the farms have been subdivided into 2- or 3-acre plots with single-family homes, Sherry Fullerton, a lifetime Pylesville resident, said that a lot of the farmers have put their land into agricultural preservation, maintaining the rural atmosphere.

"It's a very family-oriented community," Fullerton said. "It's rural. People who like their own space live here."

Fullerton runs Halsey's Food Store, the general store that sits at the end of a dip in Old Pylesville Road. If it weren't for the soda machines sitting out front, the store could easily be mistaken for a small house.

The Halseys, her grandparents, built the store 70 years ago below their farmhouse, which sits atop a hill behind a row of trees.

Convenient stop

Once a stop for homemade, hand-dipped ice cream, today Halsey's is a market for convenience store goods and hot sandwiches.

In 1936 the Halseys built the first public pool in Harford County next to their store, and gas pumps were out front until three years ago. The pool has been filled in, and the pumps were taken out because they were too expensive for the independently owned store to maintain.

Residents now fill their tanks at the High's dairy store on the edge of town.

But Halsey's remains the town's focal point.

"This is the little country store [where] you can see people you haven't seen for a while," said Sheila Hayward, who works part time there.

Hayward said most of the town's activities revolve around the schools, which offer a great many programs to the students and have large PTAs. Her daughter is on the debate team at North Harford High, where she also studied.

A selling point

Public schools seem to be one of the big selling points of the community for newcomers.

Last summer, Natalie Blakeman moved to town from Riverside with her husband and three children specifically for the schools.

"It's a little bit of a hike [for shopping and for work], but the schools are the difference," she said.

Only 22 pupils are in her daughter's third-grade class. Because Pylesville has no sidewalks, all students are bused to school, even if they live next door.

The middle school has a pool and offers swimming lessons to the students. Behind the high school is a watershed project for students studying ecology. A pedestrian tunnel runs under Route 165 for students to walk from the elementary and middle schools to the high school.

Blakeman said other benefits of living in Pylesville are Harford County's low property taxes, more space and less traffic congestion.

"The roads out here are not that much of a big deal. When it snowed, a snow tractor came by every 15 minutes. These roads are snow emergency routes," she said. "I dread [driving on] the other side of Harford County now."

The Blakemans bought their five-bedroom home on 2 1/2 acres for $315,000.

According to Jennifer Wilson of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA, four-bedroom homes range from $200,000 to $350,000.

She said people want to move to Pylesville because "they're getting more for their money. They're out in the country, with a quieter lifestyle."

Pylesville

ZIP code: 21132

Commute to downtown Baltimore: 60 minutes

Public schools: North Harford elementary, middle and high

Shopping: Stores in Bel Air

Homes on market: 1

Average listing price: $198,044*

Average sale price: $193,211*

Average days on market: 216*

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 97.56

*Based on nine sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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