Quality of life lures many to countryside


Lots of Hampstead folks -- including the hardware store owner, a PTA mom and even the part-time mayor whose full-time day job takes him well outside the Carroll County limits -- describe their town as a quiet bedroom community.

Black & Decker Corp. and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. have facilities here, and four banks are also prominent employers. But Hampstead is better characterized by its small, unique businesses.

A wooden Native American guards the entry to The Wooden Indian on 1011 S. Main St., a hardware store that has all-wooden floors and bins. Bauerlein Meats, at 1046 Carroll St., just three doors down from Town Hall, still slaughters and butchers meats in the store.

To promote her lamb business, Diane Hale does specialized on-site catering at customers' homes. If someone buys a lamb and admits they don't know how to prepare it, chances are she'll show up to fix her favorite: butterflied leg of lamb rolled with spinach.

Councilwoman Jackie Hyatt conducted tours to the sites of some of the area's former one-room schools and mills and working farms. Her itinerary offered a quirky Who's Who in Hampstead -- from the orchid grower to the mini-horse breeder, from the flower farmer to the fish farmer.

"You've got places to see in your own back yard you never see," Ms. Hyatt says of Hampstead, her home of 25 years. "There really are quite a lot of interesting farms and businesses tucked away here. And they're not so private that someone couldn't call on them and visit."

"This area has a lot to it, and still, in my eyes, even with the growth, is rich. We have no movie theater and no video game hall, but we have more little country roads that aren't paved than anyone realizes."

The lifestyle is so inviting that many outsiders are coming to settle here. Some longtime residents complain about listening to sirens and speeding traffic and worry that too much is being tucked too quickly into this once rural hamlet.

The traditional Hampstead of Galloping Goose Farm and Windswept Farm is being squeezed out by the likes of Small Crossings, Brandywine Station and Robert's Fields, one of the largest developments in town.

"It's a big change, if you've lived here for a while," says Ms. Hale, a 49-year-old lifelong Hampstead resident who runs a lamb business and herb garden center from her 100-acre Galloping Goose Farm. "It's dreadful now; the difference is, people don't know people. It used to be one community; now it's lots of little communities."

The feed store now sells garden supplies, she laments, and sirens drown out the hooty owls. Her land is suffering from increased runoff, a result of paved-over farmland. She no longer ventures out to the sawmill on her tractor; it's now confined to the farm. Same with the horse and buggy. She used to drive her two boys to school in it. Not anymore, not in the traffic that lines Route 30.

"City people move to the country and want city conveniences," Ms. Hale says. "They complain if farmers spread manure [when they're home] on a Sunday. There is a conflict, and I think it's a lack of appreciation and understanding -- on both sides."

Mayor C. Clinton Becker, who lives in an older section of North Carroll Farms, is among the vocal majority dismayed by all the development.

"I think it needs to grow," Mr. Becker says, "but at a slower rate. The planning commission addressed that issue and imposed a limit of 50 lots a year per development."

Hampstead's population has more than doubled in the past decade, according to John A. Riley, town manager for 10 years. Now approaching 3,500, it was just 1,300 in 1984.

"A little cigar on Route 30"

The first white man to settle in Hampstead was Edward Richards, an English Quaker; he was granted a piece of land known as Rattlesnake Ridge on July 27, 1739.

Hampstead was laid out in 1786 by Christopher Vaughan, a son-in-law of Edward Richards. The town name came from the English town by the same name.

Incorporated in 1888, Hampstead "was originally just like a little cigar on Route 30," says Mr. Riley. The town was a 600-foot-wide corridor, extending 300 feet back from Main Street on both sides. "Now, the boundaries are really tricky; they're all over the place. It goes by property lines. There are some places -- islands in town -- that are out of town."

In fact, due to annexation over the years, a driver proceeding up Route 30 would literally travel in and out of Hampstead twice. Almost all of Hampstead -- more than 99 percent, says Mr. Riley -- is in Carroll County. But a small chunk of the corporate boundary does extend into Baltimore County.

When Interstate 795 came along, Mr. Riley says, Hampstead became just a hop to Baltimore. City-dwellers as well as those from Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard counties were attracted by an easy commute to downtown plus available affordable housing in every price range -- from town homes in Robert's Fields that sell for less than $100,000 to $300,000 homes in the golfing community of Oakmont Green.

In addition to that influx, Hampstead natives tend to settle where they are raised.

Rusling D. Blackburn, an agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn in Hampstead, thinks that trend to stay put indicates a healthy community.

But as a result of too many suddenly wanting that quality life, slow-moving Hampstead changed. Fast. Once quiet streets jammed; classrooms burst at the seams.

Although skeptical, residents keep their fingers crossed that a Route 30 bypass, on the books since the 1960s, will materialize. They have built two new elementary schools and plan to build a third in neighboring Manchester as well as a new North Carroll Middle School and a high school.


Population: 3,500 (Hampstead Town Hall estimate for 1994)

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 50 minutes

Commuting time to Washington: 1 1/2 hours

Public Schools: Spring Garden Elementary and Hampstead Elementary; North Carroll Middle and North Carroll High School.

Shopping: North Carroll Shopping Plaza; Festival Foods Shopping Center.

Nearest mall: Cranberry Mall, 6 miles southwest.

Points interest: War Memorial; four municipal parks; entertainment pavilion, municipal swimming pool.

ZIP code: 21074

Average price of single-family home*: $121,100; condo, $57,725

* Average price for houses sold through the Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service over the past 12 months.

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