The sign at the entrance to the town reads "Welcome to Aberdeen -- A Friendly Place to Live and Work."
Former Baltimore Orioles coach and manager Cal Ripken Sr. couldn't agree more. After all, Aberdeen is where Mr. Ripken learned to swing a bat and where Cal Jr. and his brother Billy hit their first balls.
Deeply rooted in Aberdeen for generations, the Ripkens have never considered living anywhere else, even after baseball took them on the road for long stretches at a time.
"I was born and raised here and after I went away into baseball, it always felt good to come home," Mr. Ripken said. "Everything you want in a town, we have right here."
"Aberdeen is our home, the people are very friendly and loyal, and there has always been a real sense of community," adds Mr. Ripken's wife, Vi.
Situated in Harford County about halfway between Baltimore and Wilmington, Del., Aberdeen is bordered by Interstate 95 on the west and on the east by the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a 72,000-acre Army weapons testing and research installation along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The town is bisected by railroad tracks and U.S. 40, a busy, four-lane highway that not long ago enabled Aberdeen to boast more filling stations per capita than any other town in the United States.
Some sections of Aberdeen are more gritty than pretty, others are known for their spacious yards, tree-lined streets and homes that run the gamut from townhouses to single-family and restored Victorian frame houses with large wraparound porches.
Though its history is rich, Aberdeen is not known for many historic landmarks. But its reputation for being a friendly town filled with civic pride reaches well beyond the borders.
Residents of Aberdeen truly care about their community.
"Aberdeen has a real hometown atmosphere, a warmth that I haven't found anywhere else in the county," says Billie D. Landbeck, an Aberdeen native, community activist and local Realtor.
Active in community
At age 74, Mrs. Landbeck is just as involved in the community as she was 30 to 40 years ago when her children were attending local schools.
Last fall Mrs. Landbeck watched with pride as new lights illuminated the Aberdeen High School football field. She helped raise funds for the project, just as she did some 30 years ago when she headed a group of volunteers who put on a variety show to raise money for the first set of football field lights.
Aberdeen incorporated in 1892, but its history dates back to the early 1600s when Capt. John Smith set out to explore the region north of Virginia and mapped out the rivers and bays of Harford County.
The town became a thriving and prosperous shipping point with the advent of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railroads in 1835. From the new railroad station, which was called Aberdeen after its stationmaster's native town in Scotland, large quantities of milk were shipped to Baltimore City.
By 1870 the village of Aberdeen had grown to 300 residents. Most lived in a square bounded by Plater Street, Edmund Street, Front Street and West Bel Air Avenue.
The original town map hangs in the Aberdeen Room, a museum started in 1987 by Charlotte Cronin.
Mrs. Cronin, an eighth-generation Aberdeen native, wanted to share her collection of historic family memorabilia. Other volunteers joined her efforts and, as a result, the community museum has grown from a small basement room in the old elementary school building to the first floor of the former district court building on North Parke Street.
Along with Indian artifacts collected by Mrs. Cronin's father, Clinton Sterling Garrettson, the museum contains old phone books, high school yearbooks, and pictures and newspaper clippings that tell the story of the town and its people from the humble beginnings to modern day.
With more than 13,000 residents today, Aberdeen has become the 12th-largest city in the state.
"We are a full-service municipality, operating with an annual budget of about $7 million," said Peter Dacey, the city administrator. "We provide our own water, sewer and police protection."
Once known for its booming canning industry, Aberdeen became a predominantly residential community when the canneries died out during the But with a residential and commercial boom on the outskirts of the town in the 1980s, Aberdeen also began to attract industry.
With easy access to Interstate 95, hotels opened and beckoned weary motorists to make Aberdeen their rest stop on their travels north and south.
"Aberdeen has 70 percent of all the hotels in the county," Mr. Dacey said. "And when 500 acres were annexed to the city and zoned industrial in 1987, Aberdeen became attractive for other industry."
Pier I Imports opened a 633,000-square-foot warehouse; Frito Lay built a $20 million snack manufacturing and distribution plant; a Wal-Mart store opened on U.S. 40; and Clorox operates a 400,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center just outside the city limits.
To provide a more effective form of government for the growing town, Aberdeen converted from a commission to a city government in 1992. And in commemoration of its centennial, a new seal was designed.
The seal includes the words "transportation" and "technology" and features an eagle's head and a shield with pictures of a helicopter, a MARC train and a historic house.
But despite its growth in the past 10 years, Aberdeen has not lost its village atmosphere.
People still walk along the streets and take time to talk or wave to each other. They help plan the annual Christmas parade and Daffodil Festival, organize outdoor summer concerts and raise funds for an active recreation council.
"We are trying to provide institutions that are helping the community," Mr. Dacey explained. "Just recently we opened a Boys and Girls Club facility to teach children the value of civic responsibility, and a new senior citizen center opened in April."
The city's small-town charm combined with good schools drew Randy and Diane Robertson and their two children to Aberdeen four years ago.
"We had outgrown our house in Edgewood and were looking for a larger home," Mr. Robertson said. They found their all-American dream house, an affordable two-story Colonial home, in the Windemere subdivision.
Surrounded by woods just a short distance from the downtown area, the Robertsons feel they have the best of both worlds -- a country atmosphere with city conveniences.
Mr. Robertson is an active volunteer for Aberdeen's recycling program and hopes to get involved in other city matters.
"If I am going to enjoy the benefits of the community, it's my duty to help run it right," he said.
Many military families have stayed on in Aberdeen after retirement because they also want to put their roots down in a friendly community. "We had planned to head for a warmer climate when we retired but became so involved in the community, we just couldn't leave it," Elaine Miltom said. Mrs. Miltom helped start the Tremendous Tree Program in Aberdeen, a state project that surveys trees on public grounds and identifies their needs. Her husband John, a retired Army colonel and researcher, is a volunteer with the county's planning department.
* Population: 13,087 (1990 census)
* Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 45 minutes.
* Commuting time to downtown Washington: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
* Public schools: Bakerfield, Hall's Cross Roads and Hillsdale elementaries; Aberdeen Middle; and Aberdeen High.
* Shopping: Beards Hill Plaza, Route 22; Mars Shopping Center, Route 22; Aberdeen Plaza, West Bel Air Avenue; downtown business district; Wal-Mart, U.S. 40.
* Nearest malls: Harford Mall in Bel Air, 17 miles west; White Marsh Mall, 20 miles southwest.
* Points of interest: Aberdeen Proving Ground and its Ordnance Museum; Festival Park, Howard Street; Aberdeen Room, Parke Street; Senior Citizen Center, Franklin Street.
* Average price of a single-family home*: $111,554.98 (based on 58 sales)
* Average price for homes sold through the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies' multiple listing service since January.