Insiders' Guide To Centreville

November 25, 2007|By Ellen Uzelac | Ellen Uzelac,Special to The Sun

With its pleasant tree-lined streets and historic architecture, Centreville has genuine curb appeal. A classic example of "Small Town America," this community of 2,900 in Queen Anne's County has never enjoyed the cachet of trendier spots on the Eastern Shore -- but that could be changing.

Between 2000 and 2004, according to state figures, Centreville's population grew by 28.6 percent, outpacing the county, at 11.1 percent. The prevailing reason: Centreville is just 15 miles from the Bay Bridge, making it attractive to people who work in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington.

It's a family-friendly town with a rural sensibility, says town manager Bob McGrory, who adds, "Folks want the lifestyle here, and they're moving their families over. There's a huge quality-of-life benefit."

Who's moving to Centreville?

"Everyone -- who isn't?" says Karen Marshall, an agent with Champion Realty. Among the newcomers: retirees, people who have bought second homes here and military families. Marshall herself is a good example. "I work here, my husband works in Washington," she says. "There are a lot of families where one or both spouses cross that bridge every day."

Located at the headwaters of the Corsica River, Centreville was incorporated in 1794, when it became the Queen Anne's County seat. It boasts Maryland's oldest courthouse in continuous use, erected between 1791 and 1796. In the heart of town is a grassy square that is the site of a twice-weekly farmers' market during harvest. The architectural palette in the oldest part of town ranges from simple Colonial homes to Victorian-era dwellings with wraparound porches.

Residents cherish their community's stuck-in-time personality. Consider: Town Hall's most recent neighborhood walking guide dates back to 1983. As Pat Herold Nielsen, whose husband's family has owned a farm here since the 1940s, puts it: "I'm partial to this oddball little town."

Housing stock --There's a large inventory of homes available, mostly new construction. That's not to say there aren't some sweet old waterfront homes in the mix, as well as classic houses in Centreville's historic district, listed since 2004 on the National Register of Historic Places.

Two annexed developments lie on either side of town: North Brook, priced at roughly $300,000 and up, tends to appeal to younger families. Symphony Village, an "active adult community" catering to the 55-plus crowd, offers seven styles of single-family homes typically priced between $349,990 and $449,990.

Kids and schools --Centreville has four public schools: Centreville Elementary, kindergarten to grade two; Kennard Elementary, grades three to five; Centreville Middle, grades six to eight; and Queen Anne's County High School, grades nine-12. The Maryland State Report Card generally rates students as proficient or advanced, particularly at the lower levels. Kennard's fourth-graders, for example, scored above 93 percent on math and reading tests.

Crime --The Centreville Police Department responds to calls within the town limits. The primary problem: opportunistic crime. "We've had cases of houses being left open and purses taken. The other big thing is cars left unlocked and change being stolen out of the car cup holder," according to Centreville Police Chief Dino Pignataro. "We're very fortunate around here. I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

Dining in --There are two supermarkets, Food Lion and Acme.

Dining out --For such a small town, Centreville has surprising depth when it comes to restaurants. First and foremost, the Zagat-rated Julia's has an inspired menu, including pan-seared Arctic char and Cuban pork. Haydens Alley Coffee Cafe offers coffee from Chesapeake Bay Roasting Co., with 5 percent of profits from coffee sales going toward bay restoration. Joshua's, a family-style restaurant, opened recently in stylish digs in, of all places, a former supermarket.

Shopping --There are two retail centers, anchored by grocery stores. Beyond that, there's not much in the way of shopping. The Prime Outlets center is 6 miles from town.

Nightlife --A Center for the Arts operates on a limited basis. Doc's Riverside Grille is also something of a draw with live music, a DJ and karaoke and trivia nights.

Recreation / Outdoors --There's easy access to the Corsica River, with a public landing right in town. The town recently bought the historic wharf and is considering developing amenities such as dinghy docks and rentals for paddlers. Millstream Memorial Park, with a playground and walking path, is pleasant. There's a 4-H facility, popular for its horseback riding, nearby. It's also the site of the county fair.

CENTREVILLE BY THE NUMBERS

ZIP Code

-- 21617

Homes on the market

-- 183

Average sale price

-- $310,128*

Average days on the market

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

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