Insiders' Guide To Havre De Grace

October 21, 2007|By Katy O'Donnell | Katy O'Donnell,Sun reporter

A charming riverfront town that traces its roots back to Captain John Smith, Havre de Grace once vied with Washington, D.C., for the seat of the U.S. capital. Today, the quaint city, which again nabbed the national spotlight in the 1920s for its horse racing prestige, could never be mistaken for a hub of political activity.

Quirky, cozy shops line Washington Street, downtown Havre de Grace's version of Main Street. The town projects a 1950s-era ambience, quietly luring visitors with antiques, books and homemade candy.

But what is most striking about the community, located in Harford County at the mouth of the Susquehanna River on the Chesapeake Bay, is its proximity to the shore. A boardwalk skirts the river, boats fill neighborhood yards, and it's only a few short steps from the shops to the water's edge.

"Havre de Grace is a beautiful place to live, a beautiful place to raise your children, a beautiful place to work and play," said Jim Newby, public information officer for the office of the mayor. "It's probably the best-kept secret in the country."

The housing stock --Havre de Grace offers a variety of houses ranging from townhouses to Colonials.

The Bulle Rock development -- a gated community of approximately 2,000 homes circumscribed around the Bulle Rock golf course, one mile from historic downtown -- forms a large part of the housing market and attracts a diverse mix of buyers, said Dan Carson, Realtor for Long and Foster. "It's really catering to both local people but also to out-of-state and out-of-town people," he said. "I think all of the grass-cutting is taken care of. It's very leisure-oriented."

Carson added that a large portion of buyers are attracted to Havre de Grace's proximity to two metro areas. "You're within an hour of Philly and Baltimore both," he said. "It's really in a strong location for either the professional or the family."

Rentals --"The rental market is very mixed with a combination of single family homes, townhomes and semi-detached homes in and around town," says Carson. The average month's rent is about $1,850.

Kids and schools --The public schools in Havre de Grace, including Meadowvale Elementary and the Havre de Grace elementary, middle and high schools, all produced math and English test scores below county averages. Students also attend the private schools in the area, Monarch Montessori Children's School and Bethel Christian Academy.

Crime --Havre de Grace sees little violent crime, said Maj. John Van Gilder, a spokesman for the Havre de Grace Police Department. "We enjoy an extremely high quality of life," he said. "It's been so many years since we've had a homicide. You could probably count the armed robberies on one hand."

Dining out --Seafood and American-fare restaurants predominate; town favorites include Coakley's Pub, Tidewater Grille, Aquatica, and MacGregor's Restaurant and Tavern, among others. The Seafood Dealer, off nearby Pulaski Highway, is known for its takeout crabcakes, steamed crabs and shrimp salad.

Shopping --Havre de Grace is filled with local and family-owned shops. Bomboy's Home Made Candy is a local favorite. Chocolates of the nearly 30-year-old store are made from recipes that have been handed down over generations.

Recreation --Many residents simply head to the shore when it's nice out -- the Tidewater Marina launches boats and holds about 340 in the summer, while the city docks keep 252 in tow. Havre de Grace is also full of parks and museums. Hutchins Park at the foot of Congress Avenue offers public fishing space and restrooms; the Jean Roberts Park has a public boat ramp and a picnic area; and the eight-acre Tydings Memorial Park has a playground and a pavilion and also overlooks the entrance to the Promenade, a recently reconstructed boardwalk on the shoreline of the river. Other attractions include Bulle Rock Golf Club, the Maritime Museum, the Decoy Museum and the Concord Point Lighthouse.

katy.odonnell@baltsun.com

HAVRE DE GRACE BY THE NUMBERS

ZIP code

-- 21078

Detached homes on the market

-- 351

Detached homes sold in the last year

-- 92

Average sale price

-- $322,542

Average days on the market

-- 106 *Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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