When Dawn Delahanty and her husband decided to make the move from Waldorf, which they found to be a bit too crowded, their trek took them from Gaithersburg to St. Mary's County. Then, in the summer of 2000 after a two-year search, they found a three-bedroom split-foyer on 2.5 acres in Calvert County's quaint Chesapeake Beach.
The Delahantys knew they had found their new home even before they went inside.
"When we pulled up to the house, all of the neighbors came out and introduced themselves," she said. "That's all it took."
Located in northeastern Calvert County, Chesapeake Beach is situated on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, which forms the town's eastern boundary. The town, which encompasses an area of 4 square miles, extends westward to Route 260, south to Randall Cliff and north to the town of North Beach.
It's not very easy to distinguish where Chesapeake Beach ends and North Beach takes over. As its name suggests, North Beach also is bordered on the east by the Chesapeake Bay, to the north by the Anne Arundel County line, to the south at First Street and Chesapeake Beach and to the west by Greenwood Avenue.
The housing market - values seem to be rising every day - is very active in both Chesapeake Beach and North Beach, according to Jody Pickens, a real estate agent with Generations III Realty. Pickens said buyers need to be ready to move fast because homes that are listed during the week are typically under contract by the weekend.
That wasn't always the case, however.
Originally, both beach communities were characterized as resort towns, with few year-round residents. The homes, many of them bungalows, reflected the seasonal nature. Chesapeake Beach was at the terminus of a railroad line that originated in Washington. A mile-long pier served as a dock for steamships from Baltimore.
Chesapeake Beach's founder, Otto Mears, envisioned the Monte Carlo of the East Coast, and Washingtonians and Baltimoreans did come to gamble. One of the town's biggest draws was an amusement park, which included a wooden roller coaster, built on stilts in the Chesapeake Bay. A hurricane destroyed the roller coaster in 1928.
By the 1950s the area had begun to grow as more people owned cars and relied less on public transportation. The opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1952, however, contributed to a decline in tourism, as travelers could reach the ocean with little difficulty.
In the 1970s, developers purchased the vacant amusement park site and built a 108-unit planned community that brought a supermarket, pharmacy and bank to Chesapeake Beach for the first time. The homes, some with water views, have cedar siding and are built in a California-contemporary style. The developers invested tremendous amounts of money in landscaping the community and successfully created interest from commuters who became year-round residents of the town.
More developments followed, and, under Mayor Gerald Donovan, Chesapeake Beach officials worked closely with these developers in an effort to revitalize the town.
Donovan took revitalization efforts further, by introducing a Streetscape Program that called for the planting of trees and flowers throughout the town.
Hoping to make Chesapeake Beach "The Town That Walks," Donovan has plans to add sidewalks along the major roads. A walkway from two of the town's newest communities will allow residents to walk from their homes into the center of town, providing access to the town library, tot lot, water park, ball fields, recreation center, public boat ramps and water activities.
Additionally, the mayor introduced several programs to improve the quality of life for Chesapeake Beach's 5,000 residents. The Fun Committee sponsors seasonal events, such as a Halloween Party, Easter Parade and Christmas light show. The Gold Plated Service program provides assistance to seniors and disabled citizens, offering services such as snow removal, prescription delivery and trips to the grocery store.
Chesapeake Beach is also home to the bay's largest fleet of charter boats, and fishing trips are a year-round activity for residents and tourists.
Development of North Beach has been somewhat slower, because of the town's smaller size.
Like Chesapeake Beach, North Beach was typically a resort community. Until the mid-1980s, North Beach was hampered with blighted or abandoned residences. A major revitalization effort, including the construction of the waterfront boardwalk, brought in new businesses and attracted a new pool of homebuyers. The beach-oriented lifestyle, coupled with low real estate prices, made North Beach a desirable place to live.