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Hidden gem: Lauraville

Neighborhood: Lauraville

Location: northeast Baltimore

Average sales price: $184,000 (January through June)

Notable features: Single-family homes -- some quite large -- on streets with a quiet, off-the-beaten-track atmosphere. Yet the eastern boundary is Harford Road, a major artery. Businesses in the area include a Safeway grocery store and Main Street-style independently owned shops.

Lauraville was mostly built in the 1910s and '20s, but it became a village with a post office just after the Civil War, according to the Lauraville Improvement Association. Much of the neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It recently got a nod from This Old House magazine as the "Best Old House Neighborhood" in Maryland. (I pondered whether to disqualify it as a "hidden" gem for that reason, but I think it's still off most folks' radar.)

Here's the clincher: Residents here are super-enthusiastic about their neighborhood. I say that because lots of people put in nominations for Lauraville and the whole "Greater Lauraville" area, which includes the surrounding neighborhoods of Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Hamilton Hills, Mayfield, Moravia-Walther, Morgan Park and Waltherson.

Wonk reader bex gushed: "great people + open space + old growth trees + booming businesses + diverse homes + new restaurants & bars + local markets + organized, collaborative and progressive thinking = baltimore's best kept secret! and for you commuters out there, there's fairly simple access to 95/895/695."

Rob Walshe wrote: "Great new restaurants, pubs, friendly neighbors and a small town feel."

And sean noted in July, "In the past week alone, I've been able to walk a few blocks from my house to get a 3/8" - 1/2" shower adaptor, Harold McGee's book On Food and Cooking, and Sylvan Beach ice cream (honey graham and fudge brownie, no less). We have great neighbors who share food and flowers with one another, and my wife is teaching art lessons to a couple of the neighborhood kids this summer. I've lived in several neighborhoods in Baltimore, but buying our amazing house in Lauraville 6 years ago was the best decision we ever made."

There are more nominations, but you get the idea. You can really feel the love. Now -- take a look at the homes. This one, for instance:

Or this:

Here's an example of a Lauraville street, with a few of the grand old trees bex was talking about:

"I think some of these houses are comparable with what you can get in Guilford," said Mark Tough, executive director of the Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville, a nonprofit community-development corporation. (Guilford, for you non-Baltimoreans out there, is one of the city's most expensive neighborhoods.)

Stroll through, and you'll find public art celebrating the place:

Greater Lauraville is part of Healthy Neighborhoods, the organization that focuses on "strong but undervalued" sections of Baltimore. That means most residents can get home-improvement loans with below-market interest rates, and home buyers on some blocks -- ones that could use more rehabbing -- qualify for free design advice along with low-interest-rate mortgages.

Do you have personal experience with Lauraville or its environs? Please share.

Want to see all the photos I took, including some in the Greater Lauraville area? Check out the hidden-gem gallery.  

Next up -- on Monday: Loch Raven Village and Knettishall.

(All photographs by Jamie Smith Hopkins / Baltimore Sun)

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