Mention Aberdeen to most Marylanders -- especially Baltimore Orioles fans -- and its most famous native son, Cal Ripken Jr., typically comes to mind.
Indeed, the baseball Hall of Famer and his family have deep roots in this tight-knit community of nearly 15,000 residents, and they've left their imprint with Ripken Stadium (home of the Minor League team, the Aberdeen Ironbirds) and philanthropic works.
Yet there's more to this small, incorporated city of 6.5 square miles, bordered by the Chesapeake Bay and the Bush River. Town lore says that Aberdeen -- once a tiny rail stop where agricultural goods were shuttled to Baltimore and Philadelphia -- was named circa 1835 by its first stationmaster, who hailed from Aberdeen, Scotland. Actually, local historians say, the credit goes to Edmund Rogers, who laid out the original plat of the town.
Today, this Harford County enclave is perhaps best known for the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the military installation that draws people from around the world. The forthcoming military base relocation and closure (BRAC) is expected to fuel additional growth and development in Aberdeen, local officials say.
"Historically, we've built about 75 new dwellings each year," said Mayor S. Fred Simmons, who lost his battle for re-election last week. "Now, we have contracted 1,000 dwellings over the next three years." The mayor, who was credited with revitalizing neighborhoods since he was elected in 2005, hopes that despite future growth, Aberdeen can preserve its small-town look and feel. "You can see every house, and everyone knows each other," said Simmons. "We want to keep it quaint."
Housing stock // Aberdeen's housing style tends toward single-family ranchers, colonials and bungalows, plus a smattering of townhouses. Prices range from $119,000 to $1.9 million.
Don Curry, a broker with Century 21 Curry Agency in Aberdeen, said the renovation of the once-blighted Swan Meadows neighborhood is another bright spot. "Many of the homes were rentals and run-down," said Curry, noting that the two- and three-bedroom cottages now sell in the $150,000 range -- more than twice their previous market value. "They've really infused a whole new life into that community."
Average month's rent // Due to the transitory nature of military families from the Proving Ground, at least five large apartment complexes exist within Aberdeen's city limits. The median rental price is about $1,300.
Kids and schools // Aberdeen's public elementary schools include George D. Lisby at Hillsdale, Hall's Cross Roads and Bakerfield. Higher grades attend Aberdeen Middle and Aberdeen High School, which boasts a Science/Math Academy. In its fourth year, the 200-student magnet program draws applicants from across Harford County, admitting just 50 students annually. Its curriculum of science, math and technology is aided by partnerships with the Aberdeen Proving Ground and defense contractors. Private schools include St. Joan of Arc.
Crime // Aberdeen law enforcement officials say crime has declined in the past year, thanks to a new community policing philosophy. "In the last couple of years, we've done more checks of residences and businesses, like banks," said Sgt. Frederick Budnick, of the Aberdeen Police Department. There were 897 reports of violent crimes last year, down from 981 in 2005.
Transportation // Both Amtrak and MARC trains service Aberdeen, which is also strategically located near major thoroughfares, including Interstate 95 and Route 40. Aberdeen is about 30 miles from Baltimore.
Dining // The New Ideal Diner on Route 40 is popular with locals; the Johnson Family Pharmacy on West Bel Air Avenue has coffee and tea; while Scoops Corner Cafe & Deli has sandwiches and hand-dipped ice cream.
Shopping // Curry says the local WaWa and Wal-Mart Super Store are not only places to buy groceries, but they also serve as informal community gathering places. "You see everyone," he said. Shoppers can find antiques, a florist and a bakery on North Parke Street.
Recreation // Besides Ripken Stadium, Aberdeen boasts several golf facilities, including the Beechtree Golf Club, twice named the second best public golf course in Maryland by Golf Week. The city's numerous parks include Aberdeen Festival Park, which has free summer concerts.
Attractions // The U.S. Army Ordnance Museum has a large collection of tanks and other artillery. The Aberdeen Room Archives & Museum charts the city's history.
Nightlife // Favorite happy-hour spots include The Olive Tree and Grumpy's.