When 17th-century settlers established Anne Arundel County's first community, Providence, they set in motion a legacy of residential growth as irrepressible as the tides of the Chesapeake Bay.
Several of the bay's large tributaries - the Magothy, Severn, South and West rivers - are part of the county's more than 500 miles of tidal shoreline, attracting a continuous flood of newcomers to the area.
Bordered by the bay to the east, Howard and Baltimore counties to the north, Prince George's County to the west and Calvert County to the south, the county's 418 square miles are home to nearly 500,000 residents.
And its communities vary widely, from the older urban neighborhoods near Baltimore to the mansions along the Severn and the bay, to the 18th-century townhouses of Annapolis.
Linthicum is one of the county's northernmost communities and one of its oldest. Settled in the early 1800s, Linthicum remained agricultural until the 20th century when the now-defunct Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis railroad lines opened the area for commuters.
Residents share the rich heritage. Cordelah Hopkins Swanson has lived in her home on Maple Road in Linthicum Heights for 32 years, but she grew up on her family's truck farm two miles away.
Swanson's neighbor, Sara Frances Shay, has lived on Hilltop Road for 52 years. Her house, built in 1912, was fairly modern for its time, equipped with electricity and indoor plumbing. But the original deed warned potential buyers that they would have to look elsewhere if they wanted to raise pigs and chickens.
Residents appreciate Linthicum's quiet neighborhoods of single-family dwellings minutes from downtown Baltimore. Clinging to the hilly banks of the Patapsco River with a view of the city beyond, Linthicum provides a balcony seat for residents to watch Baltimore's annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
All the homes in Linthicum, whether new or more than 75 years old, are single-family dwellings. The average sale price tops $212,000.
Fifteen minutes from the Inner Harbor, but still in Anne Arundel County, is Brooklyn Park, an established community of apartments, townhouses, duplexes and single-family dwellings. Because it is close to bus lines and major thoroughfares, Brooklyn Park offers convenient access to many shopping centers, hospitals and churches.
Affordability is the key to housing in Brooklyn Park. Prices for single-family homes average $145,000, says Jo Anne Poole, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
South of Linthicum is Glen Burnie, a lively mix of commercial and residential developments that includes every type of housing from apartments to tree-lined neighborhoods with charming, older homes.
Jim Gomez, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker OPF, has lived in the 35-year-old Glen Burnie neighborhood of Southgate for nearly three decades.
"People tend to stay here," says Gomez, "and their children come back and buy. It's a place where people work together."
A short drive south of the Glen Burnie/Pasadena area is Greater Severna Park, which covers Severna Park, Millersville and Arnold.
"Residents like the lifestyle, the water, the schools, the quality of life that includes a little bit of country," says Sherry Giddings, a Severna Park resident who has been selling real estate for 20 years.
Giddings, who specializes in Severna Park properties, says she has never lost a client to Howard County. Although newer developments with very large homes are popular, she says 40- to 50-year-old developments such as Chartwell and Round Bay are old enough to be "in."
While $138,000 will buy a condo in Arnold and $225,000 and up will get a townhouse, it takes more than $400,000 to move into a desirable older neighborhood such as Chartwell. But a $2.3 million price tag is not unheard of on waterfront property on the Severn and Magothy rivers.
Crofton, in the western part of the county, is another great place to raise kids. Developed nearly 40 years ago because of its proximity to Washington, it has evolved into more than a bedroom community.
"Crofton is such a family-friendly community," says Long & Foster Realtor Martha Brown. "People move in, their children grow up, leave and move back."
With annual community events such as Christmas tree trimmings and Easter egg hunts, and clubs for every age and interest, Crofton has a Chamber of Commerce, community council and Police Department.
Housing in Crofton includes apartments, townhouses, condominiums, and single-family dwellings priced from the mid-$200,000s to more than $300,000.
Southwest of Annapolis, Davidsonville boasts some of the county's most elegant subdivisions. There, 2-acre estates with million-dollar price tags are nestled among some of the county's remaining woodlands and farms.
"New construction tends to be executive-type homes on 2-plus-acre lots in the $500,000 and up range," says Brown.
Architecture aficionados and history buffs might choose to live in the state capital, Annapolis, but for pure fun, Eastport is the place.