Anneslie, parade's featured community, is 'wholesome'

For the last seven years, the Towson Area Fourth of July Parade has spotlighted a local neighborhood to remind people of the history of Towson.

"It's a community of neighborhoods," Jackie Sims, 2013 parade co-chairman, said.

The parade committee's choice this year is Anneslie.

Nestled among tall shady trees just south of Stoneleigh and east of Rodgers Forge, Anneslie's 500 homes include brick colonials, cozy bungalows and English-style cottages.

Jim Dobson, the "unofficial mayor of Anneslie," moved his family there 41 years ago and never found a reason to leave.

"It's beautiful, it's 20 minutes to downtown and 20 minutes to horse country and we just love the neighborhood," said Dobson, who has served on the board of the Anneslie Community Association for about 30 years, half a dozen of them as president. 

"It's a friendly kind of place. When I had back surgery and it snowed, five guys showed up at my door to help," Dobson said.

That's what Scott McGovern, the current association president, likes about the neighborhood.

"It's friendly as well as comfortable and affordable," he said. "Like all other neighborhoods it's not perfect — some people don't curb their dogs and some lawns don't get mowed as often as they should, but we don't go after them. We ask if they could use some help.

"It's a great community of people who look out for each other," McGovern said. 

Anneslie was created from a 110-acre estate on which stood Villa Anneslie, an Italianate two-story mansion with a central three-story tower above its entrance that was built as a summer home in 1855. 

The villa, which remains a private home and is a local landmark, was officially added to the National Historic Register in 1978.

Anneslie itself was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in March of 2012. Like Rodgers Forge and Stoneleigh, its homeowners now qualify for tax credits.

Even the neighborhood association has some age on it. Anneslie Community Association was established in 1944.

Former association President Molly Glassman once wrote in the neighborhood newsletter that Anneslie "isn't one of those sterile suburban communities that's deserted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as two-income couples hustle off to work to pay the mortgage."

It's a mix of senior citizens, working parents, stay-at-home mothers, young educated professionals, young couples working on renovations on weekends and "the guy three doors down the street who mows his neighbors lawn because his neighbor's wife is in the hospital," she said.

"It's also a great place to raise children," Arthur Smith, said. He still lives in the same house in Anneslie that he came to 76 years ago as a baby.

"It's a wholesome neighborhood, quiet and beautiful," said Smith's wife for 52 years, Adele. "You sit on the front porch and everybody says, 'Hi.' " 

The association holds an annual picnic and community crab feast, and there are block parties, jazz concerts and cocktail parties. The "Souperbowl" party in Dobson's immediate neighborhood  involves judging homemade soups.

On July 4, Dobson and wife Judy, the Smiths and McGovern and wife, Susan, will be riding in a convertible during the parade, leading a large group of Anneslie families and kids on foot.

"We're really grateful to the parade committee and very excited," McGovern said. "We've ordered 55 blue T-shirts with the Historic Anneslie logo on them. We're very proud of our neighborhood."

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