Kingsville is lush, lovely and a bit pricey

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE

Homes there often sell before going on market

March 28, 2004|By Amy Ratner | Amy Ratner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Paul Muller wanted very much to come back to the Kingsville area to raise his family.

So that he could afford a home in this historic and bucolic corner of northeastern Baltimore County, he bought an 80-year-old house 10 years ago, gutted it except for the floors, tore off the roof and added a second floor. He paid $89,000 for the house and three-quarters of an acre of land.

All the while, he could not believe his good luck.

"This is just home," said Muller, 38, who grew up in the area. "I had a great opportunity to buy here."

The Kingsville area, adjoining Gunpowder Falls State Park, boasts the combination of proximity to Baltimore and a natural setting. The area is named for Abraham King, once the owner of a 260-acre farm on Belair Road.

"If there is anything better than Kingsville in natural beauty, God kept it to himself," said Bill Button, a Greater Kingsville Civic Association board member and 26-year resident.

The Big and Little Gunpowder Falls, which run through the state park, border the area on three sides. Interstate 95 and Belair Road are easily accessible.

"We are a rural community, and we are so close to everything," said Bettye Morris, a Long & Foster real estate agent and longtime Kingsville resident. "It's so restful, and people can still get a little land with their house."

But it does not come cheap.

The average price of homes sold in Kingsville and adjacent Upper Falls last year was $327,000. The average price of active listings is $548,000.

Another stumbling block, say area real estate agents, is the small number of houses available. Many of the homes - including Muller's - are sold before they go on the market.

Chris Mathews and his wife, Linda, jumped at the chance to buy their 1880s home on Franklinville Road in Upper Falls about seven years ago. They were living nearby and had often admired the house.

"The community is close-knit and rustic," Chris Mathews said. "It's a great place to live with great neighbors."

Those neighbors are spread through Kingsville and Upper Falls, where Census figures show a population of 5,814. The two communities share everything except a ZIP code.

Irene Whalen, postmaster at the tiny Upper Falls post office on Bradshaw Road, described her approximately five-street coverage area as a "generational place."

She said the post office serves as a meeting place, especially because about half of Upper Falls residents have opted to pick up their mail instead of having it delivered. Their daily stop at the post office gives them a chance to catch up on area news.

"They socialize here," Whalen said, adding that the vestibule is where many people learn about deaths, birth and divorces in the community.

Although Kingsville has its own post office on Sunshine Avenue, Whalen said, many Kingsville residents bring their business to Upper Falls because they want to see it remain open.

Also, the Upper Falls branch is close to the knot of Belair, Bradshaw and Jerusalem roads that forms Kingsville's main business intersection. The house next door to the Upper Falls post office has a Kingsville address.

Scenic roads with historic Colonial and Queen Anne-style homes dip from one ZIP code to another. The Upper Falls School, which dates to 1890, has been converted into a residence. But its role in educating children who long since have become adults is recognized by a red sign and old-fashioned school bell on the lawn.

Not everything in Kingsville is traced through several generations.

Mark and Mary Finn built their home in Kingsville nine years ago because they were looking for a large lot with easy access to Interstate 95.

Mary Finn said that at first, the large lot made it difficult to get to know her neighbors. But once her children started attending Kingsville Elementary School, she found the community warm and welcoming.

New developments have emerged off Harford and New Cut roads. Most of the homes sell for $400,000 to $600,000 and include 3,500 square feet or more. Some longtime residents acknowledge that some ground has to be given to the future as the past is preserved.

The biggest preservation effort started nearly 20 years ago, when residents formed an organization to restore Jerusalem Mill, a flour mill built in 1772 as part of a bustling Quaker settlement. The mill, which operated continually until 1961, and several surrounding buildings are part of Gunpowder Falls State Park and house its headquarters. They sit along Jerusalem Road on the Harford County side of the Little Gunpowder Falls but are largely claimed by Kingsville-area residents.

The mill, a gun shop and a blacksmith shop have been restored and are open Sundays for free tours and period demonstrations. Work is under way to restore and reopen the general store that served the settlement of Jerusalem. "Years ago, Jerusalem was the economic center," said Harry Sanders, a Long & Foster real estate agent. "Two hundred years later, it's the gathering spot again. To get the flavor of Kingsville, you go to the mill."

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