Tiny lakeside area is well-kept secret

Tucked away in many parts of Baltimore are small, hidden neighborhoods that are usually only discovered because of a wrong turn, word of mouth or by visiting a friend who lives there.

Mayfield is one of those neighborhoods. Bordered by open space with Lake Montebello, Clifton Park and Herring Run Park on three sides, the tiny community of Mayfield is often a surprise to those who have never visited.

"That's a real special neighborhood," said Melvin Knight, an agent in the Roland Park office of Coldwell Banker brokerage. "It's a small, wonderful neighborhood and a real bargain. It's always been a neighborhood that when I tell someone about it, they say no at first, then they drive through. About 90 percent of the time they call back and want to know what's for sale."

Houses in Mayfield include a wide range of home styles, including Georgian, Victorian, Tudor, English country, duplexes and brick rowhouses. Many are built of stone, stucco, wood or brick and have extensive woodwork throughout. The homes are found on large lots with mature landscaping and tree-covered streets.

It is not easy to find a home for sale in Mayfield, but when you do, they can be a bargain. The average price of a home there is in the low $100,000 range. However, single-family homes have recently sold above $200,000.

"There are a lot of people who live in the same house for generations," said Knight. "And many times the really nice, big houses sell by word of mouth and are many times bought by someone who already lives there in a smaller house."

That's just what happened to Jonathon Scott and Julie Fuqua.

'Just mesmerized'

"We didn't know that much about Mayfield, but we had a friend who lived there. When we started looking for a house, a real estate agent took us through Mayfield and we were just mesmerized by the neighborhood," Jonathon Scott Fuqua said. "It's just a wonderful neighborhood design, and with Lake Montebello right in front of you, its incredible to look at and is like being on the water."

After living in their Mayfield rowhouse for seven years they decided it was time to move to a larger house. But instead of leaving the neighborhood, they waited until the right house in Mayfield came on the market, and bought it. They will move into that house, a large duplex with a nice-sized yard, in mid-June.

Fuqua agreed that it isn't easy to find a house for sale in Mayfield. In fact, they looked for more than a year. And the house they are leaving sold in one day.

"It is just an amazing little neighborhood. It's like a gem tucked into the northeast section of Baltimore," he said.

Mayfield is bounded by Erdman Avenue on the south, Chesterfield Avenue on the north, Lake Montebello on the west and Crossland Avenue on the east. It is situated on land that belonged to the 500-acre Montebello estate of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Samuel Smith. A northern portion of the property became Clifton, Johns Hopkins' country estate.

Much of the property eventually became part of Judge John J. Dobler's estate. His house, which dates to 1895, is still part of the neighborhood.

Jack and Betty Frech grew up in Mayfield and never left. They have lived in their house for almost 35 years now, just a block away from each of their childhood homes.

"It was a lot of freedom growing up in Mayfield. For both of us, it was a wonderful experience," Jack Frech said. "It really hasn't changed much since then."

They say the neighborhood remained strong throughout the years because of an active community organization that dates to the mid-1940s.

"What is so nice about this neighborhood is the homes are lovely and there are a wide variety of homes," Betty Frech said.

"When we got married we were so familiar with the neighborhood, and all of our friends and family were here. When we bought this house we felt this was the most comfortable and we still feel that way."

Dorothy Dobbyn first learned of Mayfield by visiting a friend. She admired her friend's house and the view it offered of Lake Montebello from the second floor. So years later when her friend decided to move, she jumped at the chance to buy the house.

"I think hearing of Mayfield by word of mouth is typical of how people learn of the houses for sale here," said Dobbyn, now president of the Mayfield Improvement Association. "People are surprised to discover it and often ride up and down Harford Road without realizing what's on either side."

Dobbyn said the neighborhood is full of beautiful gardens, winding streets and mature trees.

Home and garden tours

Each year the neighborhood organizes a home and garden tour. This year will be the sixth annual tour and will be held next Sunday. Its organizers, Randy Woods and Dwayne Harrison, say the tour is a chance to show off the neighborhood.

"All of the houses in the neighborhood are different from each other," Woods said. "They are all very individual homes and each house can stand on its own."

Woods and Harrison bought their home after going through an open house with friends. They lived about a mile away and were not looking to buy a home, but after viewing the large duplex with a fantastic yard, they immediately knew it was meant to be.

"This was a much larger house and we felt it was a step up. With the neighborhood being surrounded by parks, you have the feeling that it's secluded, but yet you still have access to everything," Woods said. "You just have the feeling you're not in the city. It seems like a suburban neighborhood."

Even though the community consists of less than 500 homes, it has within its borders five churches, a parochial school and public elementary school. One of the churches, Cathedral Church of St. Matthew houses the Maryland State Boychoir.

"It's interesting that over 100 boys from about eight different counties are drawn into this little neighborhood," said Tom Rybczynski, whose son is a choir participant.

Rybczynski said he always remembered Mayfield from when he was a child and had friends that lived in the neighborhood. When it was time to buy a house, he and his wife, Mary, decided Mayfield was a good fit.

"I always knew it was here and that it was a neat little place. We are very close to work and it very much has a neighborhood atmosphere," said Rybczynski, a Mayfield resident and real estate agent in the Fells Point office of Coldwell Banker.

"As a broker you don't think much of Mayfield because the neighborhood really never has a lot of properties for sale," Rybczynski said. "But it's one of those pockets of homes. It's a well-kept secret."


Commute to downtown Baltimore: 10 minutes

Public schools: Montebello Elementary, Northeast Middle, Thurgood Marshall Middle, Lake Clifton-Eastern High

Shopping: Belair Edison Marketplace, Erdman Shopping Center, Northwood Shopping Center and shops along Harford and Belair roads

ZIP codes: 21213, 21218