No one comes to Davidsonville for the shopping. Not that the local general store doesn't carry a wide variety of goods. It's just that those who settle in the southern Anne Arundel County community have other priorities.
People come to Davidsonville, at the intersection of Routes 424 and 214, to escape the din of the city and lose themselves in pastoral charm. Washington-area physicians, at least one actress and Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall live in the community.
"I tell people Davidsonville is more of a way of life than a place to live," said George Pearce, a real estate agent with Davidsonville Realty.
The real estate market, which exploded in the 1970s and 1980s, has cooled, leaving many homes for sale lacking buyers. Prices range from $150,000, on quarter-acre lots in the Patuxent Manor development, to $2.5 million for "gentleman" farms.
Rural zoning has preserved area farms and forests and helped keep the population density low. Davidsonville had a population of 6,125 residents in 1990.
The large lots also give horses places to roam. Davidsonville is horse-and-hound country, with an estimated one horse for every three people in the area. It is the site of the Marlborough Hunt Races, a steeplechase race attended by thousands each April.
Davidsonville's rolling hills have attracted settlers since the mid 1600s, when woodlands were razed to till tobacco plantations.
After the Revolutionary War, James Davidson bought 900 acres at the intersection of Central Avenue and Birdsville Road. His son, Thomas, an abolitionist, built a house in 1837 and a community store in 1842, both of which are still standing.
Thomas' son, Benjamin, was a town physician. Eventually, the community took the name Davidsonville.
During the Civil War, emotions ran high in the area. Federal troops patrolled the roads by day. Confederate sympathizers took control at night.
While retaining an air of gentility, Davidsonville has changed from a farming community to a bedroom community for Washington and Baltimore commuters.
"Overall, there is a sense of community, but it's kind of ill-defined," said R. Graydon Ripley, a lifelong resident. There is a community association, for example, but it meets only once a year.
The real estate boom in the 1970s and 1980s replaced dairy and tobacco farms with subdivisions. The prices of land and houses skyrocketed and did not fall drastically despite the recession.
The result, Mr. Pearce said, was that houses lingered on the market, giving buyers a wide range of housing options, if they are willing to pay for them.
"Properties are sitting here months and months and are not sold," Mr. Pearce said.
The slow market has not deterred one company from marketing the newest Davidsonville development -- 37 estate-size building lots just off Central Avenue. William Natter, developer of Cottage Farm Estates, said sales have been slower than expected, but traffic through the development has been good since the project opened in the summer.
"We're marketing for people looking for a little more elbow room and upscale housing," said Mr. Natter, who has developed 20 projects in Davidsonville in the past 20 years. Cottage Farm Estates offers building lots ranging from 2 to 8 acres, with list prices between $156,000 and $275,000.
"It's difficult for a young person to start out unless he inherits land or is wealthy to begin with," said Martin Zehner, vice chairman of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association and a local farmer.
Mr. Zehner said the community tries to take a sensible approach toward development by allowing some development but still trying to preserve the rural character.
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 30 minutes.
Commuting time to Washington: 25 minutes.
Public schools: Davidsonville Elementary; Central Middle, 3 miles east; South River Senior High, 3 miles east
Shopping: Davidsonville Supply Co., small general store; Annapolis Harbour Center, 7 miles northwest; Safeway and Giant Food in Edgewater, 5 miles northwest.
Nearest mall: Annapolis Mall, 8 miles northwest.
Points of interest: The historic All Hallows Episcopal Church, Davidsonville United Methodist Church and Union Memorial Church; Marlborough Hunt Races, a steeplechase race held each April at Roedown Farm.
Average price of single-family home: $305,859 *
ZIP code: 21035
* Homes sold through the Anne Arundel County Multiple Listing Service from January through October.