All roads lead to Kings Contrivance, but few go through this village in Columbia. And for resident Vic Baffa, that's one of the things that makes the area special.

At the southeastern edge of Columbia, Kings Contrivance is easily accessed by U.S. 29 and Route 32 as well as Interstate 95. But once off the highways, it's a different story.

"Most of the roads are not through roads," Baffa said. "You drive into a neighborhood and eventually you have to turn around at a dead end. It tends to slow people down."

Baffa also listed the variety of stores and restaurants in the village center, plus a network of walking paths, among the benefits of living in Kings Contrivance.

Four years ago, Maria Sousa and her family moved to Kings Contrivance from California when her husband, Jeff Casey, was transferred to Baltimore. He wanted to keep his job options open in Washington, so they decided to live in Columbia. After five months of house hunting in several of the villages, the family settled on Kings Contrivance.

"Kings Contrivance is quainter," Sousa said. "The people are very friendly. They're always out in their yards."

She also likes the convenience. The family lives within walking distance of the village center, and the children have many neighborhood friends. "Everything is so cozy and available," she said. "You can just cross streets and cut through back yards and nobody minds."

Kings Contrivance, the third largest of Columbia's 10 villages, has a population of more than 11,000. The first homes were built in 1977.

The village was named for Kings Con- trivance Restaurant, a local landmark and former home of Howard County Circuit Court Judge James Macgill. It was converted to a restaurant in 1962 and is a popular place for upscale dining.

"Contrivance," which means "an ingenious scheme," comes from the original land grant name from one of the Lords Baltimore, and "kings" comes from the restaurant's original owner, Kingdom Gould, a former U.S. ambassador who lives on an estate off nearby Murray Road.

As in most of Columbia, the neighborhood street names have a theme to them.

Macgill's Common was named for the Macgill family on whose farm it was built. The street names of Macgill's Common take their names from "The Folk Songs of North America," compiled by Alan Lomax.

The street names in Huntington were inspired by the works of Carl Sandburg. The third neighborhood, Dickinson, is the only one in Columbia named for a woman, American poet Emily Dickinson. The street names come from her works.

There is a wide range of housing types, sizes and prices. Barbara Seely, president of the Kings Contrivance Village Board and an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., said prices start at about $60,000 for condominiums and $140,000 for townhouses, and go from $200,000 up to $500,000 for single-family detached homes.

"The homes move very quickly, almost as soon as they go on the market," Seely said, adding that the inventory of homes for sale on the market "is at its all-time low." In her 18 years of living in the village, she has seen a lot of turnover.

Seely finds that many of the couples looking for homes in Kings Contrivance commute to Baltimore and Washington, both about 30 minutes away.

The village, with its pools, parks and pathways, is almost completely residential. The few commercial buildings are one-story and tucked out of view.

Because of the village's age, the mature trees and shrubbery add color as well as privacy to the many winding streets and cul-de-sacs.

Without question, the hub of the area is the village center with its grocery store, drugstore, banks, dry cleaner, gas station, cobbler, barber and hair salon. The stores also sell some of life's luxuries -- jewelry, formal wear and cigars.

"You can't beat the village center," Baffa said.

"There are enough places there for the day-to-day things; you really don't have to go anywhere else."


Kings Contrivance

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 30 minutes

Public schools: Atholton, Bollman Bridge and Guilford elementary schools, Hammond and Patuxent Valley middle schools, Hammond High School

Shopping: Kings Contrivance village center, Snowden Square, Columbia Crossing, the Mall in Columbia

ZIP code: 21046