An otherworldly name, but down-to-earth living

Neighborhood profile: Paradise

An eclectic blend of housing styles

March 24, 2002|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Be prepared to chuckle, but thousands of Baltimore County residents living east of Old Catonsville really can say they reside in "Paradise."

This otherworldly name encompasses approximately a 12-square-block area, primarily along Frederick Road, from the Baltimore Beltway to the city line, north to Edmondson Avenue, and south along Paradise Avenue to Kenwood Avenue.

As one of the first waves of suburban development during and after World War II, Paradise embraces an eclectic blend of housing styles and periods, as rich as Catonsville's 200-year history.

Bungalows, old Victorians, rowhouses, circa 1945 Colonials and a smattering of new homes line tree-shaded streets. Seasonal banners and American flags proudly wave from front porches while manicured lawns boast various country woodcrafts of welcome.

As newlyweds, Bill and Diane Jones moved into one of Paradise's end-of-group rowhouses in 1988. Both were graduate students at nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The location couldn't be better and the two-story, three-bedroom, one-bath "starter" home in an established neighborhood suited their needs and pocketbook perfectly.

They made some cosmetic changes to their $79,000 purchase by ripping out the carpeting to expose beautiful wood flooring, installing a privacy fence where a chain-link had sat for 40-plus years and updating their bathroom.

Their plan was to live in the home for five years, attain faculty positions at UMBC and then purchase an old Catonsville home to rehab.

But plans can always change.

Now, 14 years later and with a house appraised at $135,000, the family has grown to four with two boys, and the house has grown with them. There's a new kitchen, an attic loft, a finished basement, a deck and a back yard landscaped with a fishpond.

"Sometime during that first five years, we realized that we didn't want to buy and work on an old house," Diane Jones said. "We wanted the luxury of being able to send our kids to private schools; we wanted to take frequent trips to Europe. With a house payment that is less than 5 percent of our combined monthly incomes, we are able to do all of that."

All of that -- and more.

Over the years, the couple has watched their children grow up playing in the back alleys with the neighborhood kids; they've acted as hosts of block parties and have felt secure with retired people around "keeping an eye on things."

They both work in federal government jobs in Washington, but their commute is only about 30 minutes.

But not everything is perfect in Paradise.

"There is an ongoing parking problem with rowhouse living," said Diane Jones. "With two or three cars per family and on-street, parallel parking, a place in front of the house is not always a given."

The quaint business district, three blocks off Exit 13 on the Beltway, includes a grocery store, barbershop, pharmacy, tavern, car repair, cafe and pet shop.

A quick glance at those two blocks of merchant activity makes it easy to envision the area of the 1840s -- a natural and convenient resting place for "Frederick Turnpike" travelers heading back and forth from Baltimore to the western part of Maryland.

Symbolizing the small-town atmosphere is a grocery called The Store, which will box up an order and deliver it to a home -- and a clerk will put the food away.

The Store's manager, Frank Evans, has been there since he was a stock boy in 1951. Across the street are Rita and Bernard Manelli, who have served up daily fare in the cafe they've owned for 30 years.

Businesses and a diverse influx of people changed the face of Paradise. German and English Protestants, Irish and French Catholics, and African-American Methodists settled and built churches in the immediate area or nearby.

Following the No. 2 bus line from downtown Baltimore, homes went up quickly during the 1940s. Prospect, Maple and Shadynook avenues today boast, along with their rowhouses, framed two- and three-bedroom bungalows, while a few stately, albeit tarnished, Victorians can be found at great "fixer-up" prices. The compact Colonials of the Dunmore community within Paradise appeal to moderately sized families and retirees.

Maria Murray, an agent with the Catonsville office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, boasts about the community feel that is Paradise.

"People [move in] and want to stay forever. This is a wonderful place for kids," she said.

Paradise

ZIP code: 21228

Commute to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes

Public schools: Catonsville Elementary, Arbutus Middle, Catonsville High

Shopping: Villages of Old Catonsville and Paradise, Security Square Mall, Westview Mall

Homes on market: 1

Average listing price: $85,871*

Average sale price: $84,414*

Average days on market: 75*

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 98.3%*

*Based on seven sales during the past 24 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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