Originally advertised as "The Ideal Suburb," Towson Estates developed as an upscale, single-family rental community in the 1930s for area executives, including those from the nearby Black & Decker Corp.

Homes were eventually sold off to private owners starting in the 1960s, leaving a striking neighborhood of quality stone homes nestled along tiny, curved streets. Old-growth trees and thick landscaping almost completely conceal the neighborhood from travelers along busy Joppa Road, which runs adjacent to the community.

"You almost have to look for it in the summer. We're well hidden," said Chuck Manchester, president of the Towson Estates Association. "It's amazingly quiet. Much quieter than people would think."

Located in the back of the Baltimore County neighborhood is a substantial drop-off into the Cromwell Valley. It's this topographical feature that keeps much of the noise from nearby businesses and roads out of the neighborhood, say residents.

The close proximity to downtown Towson, local colleges, hospitals and the Beltway offers residents an amazing amount of convenience. At the same time, there are no through streets in Towson Estates, meaning it has an incredible amount of privacy.

"You're very centrally located," says Manchester.

At one time Towson Estates had fountains, community gardens and was a stop on the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad.

"It's just a beautiful neighborhood," said Donna King, a resident of nine years and a board member of the Towson Estates Association. "But even more so than the houses, it's the people. I just love my neighbors."

Housing stock Old-World charm comes to mind when describing most of the houses found in the Towson Estates neighborhood.

Tucked away on narrow, tree-lined streets, the 64 homes that make up the community include Colonials, A-frames, Cape Cods and cottages made from Butler stone, as well as a few modern "flat-top" houses. Most of the structures date to the 1930s and many have drive-in garages on the basement level.

Resident Pat Hillman, a real estate agent with Re/Max Greater Metro in Towson, calls it one of Baltimore's best-kept secrets.

"They are just very charming homes," said Hillman. "They're very well-built homes with wonderful floor plans with nice lots."

No two houses are the same; however, each house has a mirror or "sister" home. The developer, added Hillman, designed the neighborhood to resemble a small village from the old country.

Houses don't come on the market that often in Towson Estates, but when they do, they typically start in the $400,000 range.

Crime "It's a very quiet neighborhood," said Baltimore County Police Department spokesman Bill Toohey. Two burglaries and a handful of minor violations have occurred in Towson Estates during the past nine months of 2008. The neighborhood also had six calls for suspicious vehicles, meaning residents are aware and proactive, he added.

"In my opinion, it's a very safe, enjoyable neighborhood where you don't just pull your car into your garage and go in your house. You wave to your neighbors and talk to your neighbors," said Hillman.

Most of the police presence near Towson Estates includes traffic stops along Joppa Road, which wouldn't count as neighborhood crime.

Schools The public schools that serve the neighborhood are Hampton Elementary, Cromwell Valley Elementary Regional Magnet School of Technology, Loch Raven Technical Academy and Loch Raven High School.

The two elementary schools scored high marks on state assessment testing, surpassing state proficiency levels. Seventh graders at Loch Raven Technical Academy scored 76 percent proficient in reading and 48.4 percent proficient in math.