Richnor Springs residents prize close-knit community


Tiny section hidden away in a busy stretch of city

March 14, 2004|By Shruti Mathur | Shruti Mathur,SUN STAFF

As more homeowners turn to high-tech security systems, Alice Bevans boasts that her neighbors are her best security.

Bevans, 77, is president of the neighborhood association of Richnor Springs, a tiny, tree-lined community consisting of about eight streets. It is tucked away northeast of the York Road-Cold Spring Lane intersection in North Baltimore.

It's a "very close, comfortable community where everyone knows each other," Bevans said. "Whenever I go away on vacation, I tell my neighbors to watch my house."

Part of the Greater Govans area, Richnor Springs got its name in 1986 from the neighborhood association. The name combines elements of the three streets that make up most of the community - Richwood Street, Radnor Avenue and Cold Spring Lane.

"It used to be called the Govans Community Civic Interest Group, and we thought that was pretty boring," Bevans said. "We wanted something that would set us apart."

Characterized by two-story houses, a few cottages and familiar Baltimore rowhouses, Richnor Springs was one of the last communities in the city to be developed before World War II.

Most of the homes sell for $40,000 to $80,000, said Long & Foster agent Carole Murphy-Adams.

Jason Canapp is president of the York Road Partnership, an umbrella organization that includes Richnor Springs.

"It seems to me to be the best of both worlds," Canapp said. "You are living in the city with access to urban amenities. But at the same time you are buried away behind the commercial quarter and can ... have kids playing in the street."

Many of Richnor Springs' 659 residents are senior citizens who have lived in the neighborhood most of their lives. Like many who live in the Govans area, residents have struggled to stabilize their neighborhood during the past few decades.

"I have spent my 20s to my 70s here," said Louise Whitfield. Recalling the neighborhood's past, she said, "We would go on back and run our mouths and hang across the fence gossiping. It's like a family situation."

City Councilman Robert W. Curran, 50, is a native of Richnor Springs, having spent the first nine years of his life at 603 Radnor Ave.

"There were not that many hot-button issues back in those days. It was a lot slower living," he said, recalling the confectionary stores and taverns on every corner.

Residents socialize informally through gardening and community activities sponsored by the neighborhood association. Fun Day, a carnival-like event, is held every June.

"We get a gathering of about 100, and sometimes we even block off Radnor to Richwood for Fun Day," said Bevans. "Everything sells for 25 cents. I tell people, `Where else can you buy that?'"

Bevans often finds her home at the center of neighborhood activity.

"People will call me and ask about a broken street light or when is the snowplow [going to] come?" she said. "Sometimes I feel like my house is like the mayor's substation."

Selena Rodgers owns one of the few businesses in Richnor Springs. She said her auto repair shop has been in the neighborhood for 31 years. Although she does not live in Richnor Springs, Rodgers is a regular at monthly neighborhood meetings and volunteers with her mechanics at events such as Fun Day.

"We need to keep the community up to keep the business up," she said.

Glenn Maxey, who lives in Richnor Springs with his wife, Tonya, and their three children, ages 15, 14 and 5, said, "It's a pretty tight neighborhood, and we look out for each other. Occasionally there will be riffraff that come through, but we keep our eye out and keep them moving along out."

The neighborhood is not visible from the main thoroughfares nearby. Many real estate experts who have sold houses along York Road were puzzled by the name, saying they had never heard of the neighborhood.

Community leaders hope to change that in coming years, saying the neighborhood has a lot to offer, including the camaraderie of its residents. The neighborhood group has been encouraging residents to keep their porch lights on during the evening as a sign of unity.

"The main focus of the neighborhood association is to learn our neighbors, be supportive and keep things stable," Bevans said. "We might not have the problems of drugs and crime on the intense scale that other neighborhoods in this area face now, but if we don't stay on top of it, we will have problems."

Richnor Springs

ZIP Code: 21212

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes

Schools: Western High School, Polytechnic Institute, Chinquapin Middle School, Winston Middle School, Walter P. Carter Elementary School

Shopping: Belvedere Plaza, Alameda Shopping Center, Towson

Homes on the market: 13

Average list price: $60,209 *

Average sales price: $58,156 *

Average days on the market: 265 *

Percentage of sales price based on list price: 96.59 % *

* Based on 20 homes sold during the past 12 months in the Govans area as compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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