If it weren't for a generous gift by Baltimorean William Patterson in 1827, the Patterson Park neighborhood might look a little different in the 21st century.

Patterson donated nearly 6 acres to the city in hopes of creating a "public walk" like those he had seen in Europe. After his death, his heirs sold some of the adjacent land to the city and in 1853, Patterson Park was born. Patterson's family leased the remaining acres that they inherited to speculative builders, who then built rowhouses on it. Many of those houses are still standing -- as is a neighborhood that has experienced a host of changes in its long history.

According to Marisa Vilardo, president of the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association, the crime rate and level of redevelopment has traditionally gone in cycles, but recently the neighborhood seems to be moving in a positive direction. A surge in PPNA participation and the presence of the Patterson Park Community Development Corp. has facilitated a lot of the change.

"Dramatic improvements have been made to the neighborhood in the past five years," says Vilardo. "Now, things are pretty stable. There's a lot of redevelopment and most of the crime is petty and non-violent."

Houses in the area are generally two and three-bedroom rowhouses. Although an abundance of houses are Victorians, the style of house can differ block by block.

According to Mark Tough, director of the Patterson Park Community Development Corporation, the price of a house depends on whether it is newly rehabbed or if it was previously inhabited by tenants.

"The price of a newly gutted and rehabbed house will run between $230,000 and $380,000," says Tough. "Houses that were recent rentals run from $130,000 and $200,000.

According to Joe Hudson, rental manager at the PPCDC, two and three-bedroom houses run between $800 and $1200 a month. "The price can fluctuate a bit," says Hudson, "rent is usually $100 more per month if there is a washer and dryer in the house."

Residents and police officials agree that neighborhood safety has improved significantly in the past two years. According to Deputy Major William Davis of the Baltimore Police Department, direct communication between police, residents and the PPCDC has made crime reduction more effective.

Davis says that the most common crimes in the neighborhood are burglaries from residences and larceny from automobiles. Burglary and larceny-focused police squads now work directly with the district detectives and keep close contact with neighborhood victims, according to Davis.

While the neighborhood has improved in recent years, violent crime has still occurred sporadically. According to Sgt. Fred Dillon of Baltimore Police's Southeastern District, there was a string of random assaults, committed by juveniles in groups of 3 and 4 against other juveniles and adults during 2006. Dillion says that those assaults stopped after a series of arrests.

The Patterson Park neighborhood is served by three elementary schools -- William Paca, Highlandtown No. 215 and the Patterson Park Public Charter School. According to mdreportcard.org, while William Paca and the charter school have met Maryland State proficiency levels in reading and mathematics, Highlandtown Elementary No. 215 has not met the same proficiency levels in either reading or mathematics.

The middle school that serves the neighborhood is charter school Hampstead Hill Academy (grades K-8), which has met Maryland State proficiency levels in reading but not mathematics.

Patterson Senior High (grades 9-12), the area high school, has an attendance rate above 79 percent and a graduation rate of 80 percent.

Although shopping options within the neighborhood are sparse, there are many options nearby, including Canton's O'Donnell Square, Fells Point and the Inner Harbor.

Although most residents travel by automobile, Vilardo says the No. 40 bus is a speedy way to get downtown and avoid parking complications.

A host of corner stores in the neighborhood offer basic groceries. For greater selection, nearby food stores include Santoni's Supermarket on Lombard St., Aldi's Food Market on Fayette, DiPasquale's Italian Market on Gough St. and Safeway on Boston Street in Canton.

The neighborhood is home to two notable restaurants. Three offers more upscale cuisine and specializes in small plate entrees. Roman's is a longtime neighborhood bar and restaurant that offers diner and pub fare.

While the neighborhood lacks a strong nightlife, many clubs and bars in Canton, Fells Point and Harbor East are a short drive or bus ride away. The Creative Alliance at the Patterson organizes and holds regular, affordable arts events and classes as well.

Because the neighborhood borders the northeast corner of the 185-acre Patterson Park, residents have prime access to tennis and basketball courts, baseball diamonds, scenic walking paths, ponds, a pool, an ice rink and the famous Pagoda, an observation tower designed in 1890 by Charles H. Latrobe and completed in 1892.

brad.schleicher@baltsun.com