Not so easy to find, but very easy to like

Special to The Sun

As easy as it is to find references to Milford Mill -- the high school, the swim club, the road -- it is not all that easy to find the neighborhood.

That's because it's a street, not a defined neighborhood, say many of those who live in the vicinity of what is traditionally thought of as Milford Mill.

"When we first moved here, the name Milford Mill was much more known to us than it is now. Milford Mill Road was just a very little, narrow, two-lane road," said Wendall Sisler, vice president of the nearby Silver Creek community. "The area called Milford is not as big as it might seem, but it's surrounded by mostly historical places."

The history of the area, combined with the age of the road and old mill from which it gets its name, may have given Milford Mill more of an identity then it deserved, residents say.

"I can remember way back we always thought of the area as the Milford Mill community. But when the Beltway was put in, that sort of cut us in half from the Milford area," said Sisler, who has lived in Silver Creek since 1963.

The section that houses the high school -- Milford Mill Academy High School, Milford Mill Swimming Club and Milford Mill Road, located to the north of Liberty Road and just outside the Beltway, is often thought of as Rockdale, residents say. To make matters more confusing, there is also a neighborhood just to the south of the Beltway and along the northern section of Liberty Road that is simply called Milford. But in the Milford neighborhood there are no Milford Mill references to be found.

"We always called the area Rockdale," said Patsy Souspek, who graduated from the high school in the 1960s and still lives and works in the area. "I'm a hometown person. I just like the convenience to everything that the area offers."

Souspek, who works part-time at the swim club and went there every summer growing up, says the facility is once again becoming a focal point of the surrounding neighborhood.

"It had hundreds of members back in the '60s; people would park at the high school on Saturday and Sundays, and the line to get in would be backed up to Milford Mill Road," Souspek said.

"We have people that stop in all winter. They come in from out of town and want to show their kids the swim club. We have someone from Florida that comes and brings a group there every year.

"It's a lot of life to a lot of people," Souspek said. "It's something that, once you did it, you just don't forget it."

The feeling of a traditional, well-established neighborhood is what has kept many long-time residents in the area.

"There are still a lot of original neighbors on my street," said Rose Mary Lewis, who has lived in the community for nearly 35 years. "It's a comfortable area. We always had a lot of friends here. And at one time there were close to 40 kids that lived up and down this block."

For real estate agents, locating Milford Mill is not so complicated. They say the area lies anywhere along Milford Mill Road, between Liberty and Reisterstown roads.

"Milford Mill is an overall area that borders on the Lochern and Villa Nova communities to the south," said James Pinn, who has worked for 22 years in the Security office of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty. "It's made up of a lot of little neighborhoods. And it is a very stable area."

Just about any kind of home can be found in Milford Mill, says Pinn. Streets are lined with ranchers, split-levels, small Colonials, Cape Cods and even duplexes. Most homes are in the 35- to 40-year-old range. With prices for single-family homes in the range of $90,000 to the low $100,000s, many people come to the area as first-time buyers.

"It's just a large mixture of houses, not any dominant style although a lot of the homes are brick," said Pinn. "And it's not a rapidly changing neighborhood. It's a very nice, very beautiful area."

Although there is not much room for expansion in the community, at least two new developments, Al-Hannah Park and Jenmar Homes at Pineland, are being built. These developments offer new, single-family homes starting in the $120,000-to-$130,000 range. Apartment complexes also dot the area.

Donnell Spivey, an agent in the Re/Max Columbia office agrees that the area -- wherever the boundaries may lie -- offers just about every style house one might think of.

"It's not a defined area; Milford Mill can stretch all the way from Reisterstown Road to Liberty Road," Spivey said. "And in between there's a big variation of houses. The biggest advantage to Milford Mill that buyers have expressed to me, is the convenience. It's very close to a lot of things, including the Beltway, subway and shopping. And the other thing to point out is the homes are still moderately priced for first-time homebuyers."

Historically, the name Milford Mill dates to 1728. Records show that the mill was sold in 1782 and the property was described as 83 acres along the Gwynn Falls and above Liberty Road. The mill was used to grind flour, as a bag factory and later as a cider mill.

In the late 1950s, students at Milford Mill High dug up the iron turbine from the mill and placed it on display in front of the school.

The Milford Mill Methodist Church has also been a staple in the neighborhood, dating back more than 50 years and boasting a membership of 800.

"One thing that makes this community unique is that about 50 percent of the community has been here a very long time -- residents that have lived here for more than 20 or 30 years.

"And then the other 50 percent is much newer to the community," said Laura Easto, the pastor of Milford Mill United Methodist Church for the past six years. "And the community is very diverse. It is almost exactly half African-American and half Anglo. With all the ethic diversity, it brings the potential for folks to not work together, but that's not what I have experienced in this community."

And, Easto said, the Milford Mill community, made up of several smaller neighborhoods, is an active area.

"There are at least five community associations that border the church. And they have their own identity and they are all very active and very welcoming to everyone. Even to those that have not lived here for a long time."

Milford Mill

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 20 minutes

Public schools: Bedford Elementary, Hebbville Elementary, Milbrook Elementary, Scotts Branch Elementary, Old Court Middle, Sudbrook Magnet Middle, Milford Mill Academy High School

Shopping: Reisterstown Road Plaza

ZIP codes: 21207, 21208

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