First up on the hidden-gem list: Ashburton.
Location: Northwest Baltimore.
Average sales price: $141,000 (January-June).
Notable features: Beautiful single-family homes -- some brick -- and lots of mature trees. An old-money feel without the price tag. Directly to the south is Hanlon Park, with Lake Ashburton.
A 2002 study of city neighborhoods, prepared by Johns Hopkins University graduate students, called Ashburton "a well-defined enclave in northwest Baltimore that has established itself as the home of Baltimore's black elite." In fact, I almost disqualified Ashburton from this list because I thought it was an unhidden gem, a place most people know about. Until I started asking around and got puzzled looks, that is.
Here's the view down Ellamont Road:
And more Ashburton greenery:
Wonk reader Alonzo LaMont Jr. said in his nomination of the neighborhood, "There are PLENTY of big old homes in this area, and it's very close to Loyola, Hopkins, Notre Dame (even Morgan [State University] is a stone's throw away). People are paying all those big bucks to live in Charles Village (upper and lower), Homewood, and Hampden when they could have alot more house in Ashburton."
When I visited to get photos, I chatted with resident Alfred Nkere and heard how he came to live in Ashburton seven years ago: "One day I was driving in this area and it just struck me," said Nkere, who owns an import-export business. He moved to a street lined with big trees, a place so green and suburban that "we have this idea that we're not in the city."
Nkere, a father of six, said the neighborhood is a good place to raise a family. "We can have the kids play in the back without worrying," he said.
Here he mows his lawn while 6-year-old daughter Amini rolls by:
Another thing Nkere likes about the neighborhood: It's just north of Hilton Street, and thus much quicker by car to Interstate 95 than it might appear.
The Johns Hopkins study notes Ashburton's "architecturally diverse houses," and you've probably gotten some idea of that from the pictures. Here's another example:
Do you have personal experiences with Ashburton? Please share.
Want to see all the photos I took? Check out the hidden-gem gallery.
(All photos: Jamie Smith Hopkins / Baltimore Sun)