Real Estate

Oakenshawe is a treasure in the middle of Baltimore

Tucked between Greenmount Avenue and North Calvert Street along University Parkway in the center of Baltimore is a small city neighborhood that residents say provides a mix of suburban life and the conveniences of an urban setting.

Oakenshawe offers single-family homes, rowhouses and semidetached dwellings that often are in high demand among city real estate shoppers.

Residents have watched home prices double in this neighborhood during the past five years to an average of $234,269, according to the 14 sales recorded during the past year and compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. No homes are on the market in the neighborhood, and some real estate agents report that potential buyers are waiting for homes to go on sale there.

"People are finally starting to realize the beauty of the neighborhood and the quality of the craftsmanship," says resident Rebecca Bridger.

Most of the houses of Oakenshawe were built from 1916 to 1925 on land that once belonged to James Wilson, an affluent Baltimore merchant. Wilson purchased the land in 1800 and erected his "cottage" on the Oakenshawe land.

The area was passed on to James Wilson's son, Henry R. Wilson, who sold the land to Phillip C. Mueller Co. early in the 20th century, according to a history compiled recently by neighborhood leaders.

The first houses in Oakenshawe were built in 1916 by Flournoy and Flournoy, an architectural firm owned by two brothers. Most of the homes are made of brick and have slate roofs.

Wayne Curtis of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. says Oakenshawe was one of the first Baltimore neighborhoods to be laid out in the style of a modern suburb. "It's green, and many of the houses have garages, but at the same time it is in the city," says Curtis, who has been a resident of Oakenshawe since 1997.

The homes were built in the style of the 1920s Arts and Crafts Cottage, according to the neighborhood history.

Residents say they like the area and the ability to live within an urban setting while enjoying the comforts of suburban life.

"It's nice, and the people are friendly," Bridger says.

Bridger and her husband, Perry, have lived in Oakenshawe since July 1999 with their three children. Perry Bridger is president of the Oakenshawe Improvement Association, and Rebecca Bridger organized the first annual Oakenshawe House and Garden Tour, which was held in October.

Curtis says many of the homes may look small from the outside but that several have up to five bedrooms and include more than 3,000 square feet.

"They were built as a reaction to the long, dark rowhouses that were being built in the Charles Village area," Curtis says.

The community consists of young families and people who have lived in the community more than 30 years, Rebecca Bridger says.

Though pleased with this city enclave, residents acknowledge that there are some inconveniences. Rebecca Bridger says city snow crews have not been able to plow the community's small streets during major storms. Residents often shovel the streets themselves, Rebecca Bridger said.

And the Oakenshawe Improvement Association has worked with nearby Johns Hopkins University about strengthening relations between students living in the neighborhood and other area residents. One of the school's fraternities is located in the neighborhood.

"A disciplinary code is in place that allows for anything from a gentle reminder to expulsion from the school for community offenses," says Salem Reiner, director of community affairs for the Johns Hopkins University. "Steps have been taken recently to better educate students on being respectful of their neighbors, especially in regard to things like having parties late at night and taking out their trash."

Despite those issues, residents such as Rebecca Bridger believe the neighborhood is one of Baltimore's secret hot spots.

"Things are only improving," she says.