The rapid growth of Laurel has not reached Savage, Shipe said. "Laurel grew too quickly," he said. "It used to be 20 minutes from one end of Laurel to the other. Now, it's 20 minutes from one traffic light to the next."

The Savage Community Association, organized in 1960, studies development issues and arranges community events, including the Savage Festival, an ice cream social and a community cleanup day.

"We're not a homeowners association," said Corrine Arnold, the group's acting director. "We don't tell people what doors to put on" their homes.

The 80-year-old Carroll Baldwin Memorial Hall, built by the owner of the mill and deeded to the community, has been used for such activities as nickel movies, plays and bowling. A section of the imposing stone structure nestled in a park in the heart of town housed the local library before a permanent facility opened in 1991 on the North Laurel side of Gorman Road.

"From a social standpoint, Ma's Kettle is definitely the place to gather," Arnold said. "When there's focused activities, it's the hall."

Mary Ann Mitchell has owned Ma's Kettle for 25 years. She said her customers come from the nearby National Security Agency, from the industrial park on the east side of U.S. 1 and Laurel, three miles south.

Mitchell's son, Bobby, oversees Puttin' on the Ritz, the family's catering business in North Laurel.

Savage preserves a flavor distinct from the tonier parts of Howard County, she said.

"The planned communities don't have the history or the feel," Arnold said. "It's not a town you go through, it's a town you come to."

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 25 minutes

Public schools: Bollman Bridge Elementary, Patuxent Valley Middle, Hammond High

Shopping: Savage Mill, Weiss Market on U.S. 1, Kings Contrivance Village Center, The Mall in Columbia, Laurel Mall

ZIP code: 20763