Generations grow up in Thornleigh


Residents form tightknit bonds with community of 1950s-era homes

August 08, 2010|By Nancy Jones Bonbrest, Special to The Baltimore Sun

The original brochure advertising the neighborhood of Thornleigh in the Riderwood area of west Towson described the community as "a new way of living," boasting that "never before has such an area been developed with so much care and foresight."

More than 50 years later that feeling of a traditional 1950s neighborhood, built by developer James Keelty & Co., remains intact.

"It's an old-school type of neighborhood," said Chris Kennedy, president of the Thornleigh Improvement Association. "Everyone knows everyone."

Kennedy and his wife, Michelle, moved to the neighborhood three years ago and are raising two young children. Nearby are Kennedy's sister-in-law and cousin, who also live in Thornleigh. On his court of 12 houses, he estimates there are more than 20 children under the age of 14.

"It's a very family-friendly neighborhood," he said.

And with a variety of community events, including an Easter egg hunt, outdoor movies, Halloween parade and progressive dinners, it's little wonder that residents say they live in a special neighborhood.

Thornleigh, an area that is roughly bordered by Thornton Road, Interstate 695 and Essex Farm Park, consists of about 230 homes that surround the Valley Country Club. It was subdivided in 1955 and originally called Valley Green, according to "A Glossary of Place Names in Baltimore County" by John McGrain. The site was once known as the Thornton Farm and owned by the Rider family.

Residents say there's a closeness in the tightknit neighborhood that attracts multigenerational owners.

Amy Black is a third-generation Thornleigh resident. Her grandparents were original homeowners, buying their house in the late 1950s, and her parents bought a home in Thornleigh in 1973. In 2004, Black moved in with her young family, only four doors down from where her sister lives.

"I'm very nostalgic. Times have changed but the neighborhood has kind of remained the same," said Black. "It's such a neighborly place."

Also, you can't beat the convenience, she says. "There's very little in Baltimore that we can't get to in 15 or 20 minutes."

Housing stock: The original housing styles consist of four models: a three-bedroom Colonial, a four-bedroom rancher and two styles of split-levels, both with three bedrooms. There are also duplexes found in the neighborhood.

Since the original homes were built, many residents have made additions to expand living space, says Bob Simon, who moved to the neighborhood 27 years ago and is a real estate agent with the Towson office of Long & Foster.

The well-built Keelty homes offer smart floor plans, spaciousness and good flow, says Simon. The neighborhood is easily accessible to Interstates 695 and 83, making Towson and York Road, as well as downtown, within easy reach. Riderwood Elementary School and Valley Country Club are within walking distance.

In the past year, most homes that sold were in the upper $200,000 to the upper $300,000 range with an average sales price of about $355,000.

Houses in the neighborhood are sometimes sold by word-of-mouth, never hitting the open market, said Simon.

"Thornleigh is a very family- and community-oriented type of neighborhood," said Simon. "There are a lot of activities. It seems we're always doing something that's geared toward families."

Schools: The public schools that serve the neighborhood are Riderwood Elementary and Dumbarton Middle, both National Blue Ribbon-awarded schools, and Towson High. Riderwood, located just a few blocks away from the neighborhood, scored well in state testing. The school had high marks in the mid- to upper 90 percent range in reading and math, including 100 percent of its fourth-graders passing math. Likewise, Dumbarton Middle scored mostly in the mid- to high 80 percent range. Towson High hit in the upper 90 percent range with a 94.5 percent graduation rate.

Crime: No serious crimes were reported in 2009 in Thornleigh, according to Cpl. Mike Hill, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department. There were a handful of less-serious crimes, such as destruction of property, during the same year.

"It's not abnormal and is actually low in contrast to some other neighborhoods in Baltimore County," said Hill, who credited the neighborhood with being proactive when it comes to reporting suspicious activity and keeping an open dialog with the Police Department.

Shopping: Towson Town Center, The Shops at Kenilworth and Green Spring Station are within easy reach for Thornleigh residents.

Transportation: There's no public transportation within the neighborhood, but light rail stops in Lutherville and just south on Falls Road are minutes away.

Dining in: There's no lack of grocery stores in the area, including Graul's Market on Bellona Avenue, Mars Super Market on York Road and Super Fresh on West Aylesbury Road.

Dining out: Residents have lots of options to choose from, including heading to Towson, the York Road corridor or even into Baltimore City.

Recreation and parks: Come summer, many Thornleigh residents join the Valley Country Club pool. The neighborhood is also bordered by Essex Farm Park with 13 acres that include fields, open space and woods. Roland Run, part of the Jones Falls Watershed, runs through the park property.

Thornleigh by the numbers

ZIP code: 21204

Homes on the market: 4

Average sales price: $355,400*

Average days on the market: 111*

*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Bob Simon, a real estate agent with the Towson office of Long & Foster and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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