Shhhhh. The residents of Arnold are keeping a secret. They have found a place that has it all.
There's rich history, a good school system, friendly people, affordable housing and luxurious homes all within a reasonable commute to Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington.
Tucked between the Magothy and Severn rivers and several creeks, Arnold has approximately 20,000 residents. Its accessibility to Annapolis (5 minutes away), Baltimore (20 minutes away), and Washington (25 minutes away) has attracted the county headquarters for the YWCA and Anne Arundel Community College.
Just to the north on Ritchie Highway is Severna Park. Minutes south is Pendennis Mount, where many Arnold residents go to catch a breathtaking view of Annapolis.
While residents admit that development has snowballed in the past 10 years with the construction of several new communities such as Bay Hills and Cape St. Clair, and the construction of College Parkway, they say commercial growth throughout Arnold and development along the highway are limited.
So Arnold successfully clings to its simpler way of life.
"Development took off as one community popped up after another. And it's not over yet," said longtime resident Barbara Ann Shields, who owns The Depot Liquors, one of the town's landmark businesses.
When Shields moved to Arnold, there were 13 homes on the Magothy River. Now she estimates there are 260.
"I have watched Arnold grow from a sleepy, rural community to an upper-middle-class, prosperous community in the last 30 years," Shields said. "It's like the opening of the West, but Arnold still has that small-town personality. No matter how many people move in, it will always have that feel."
Arnold's residents represent the harmonious mix of the young and the old, the wealthy and the middle class. Older residents hold on to the town's rich history which includes farming-family names like Pettibone and McPherson.
Shields and many of the town's longtime residents are proud of the days when the railroad came to Arnold in 1887, and local landmarks included The Little Store.
The Little Store, which at times housed the post office, sat on the corner of a dirt road facing the railroad station, and residents enjoyed the potbellied stove there as much as a variety of goods, including penny candy and locally produced blackberry brandies, Shields said.
Vacant during the 1940s, The Little Store eventually became a liquor store before it was torn down in 1986. Shields still has one of its hand-hewn timbers with "H. Eliot -- 1897" inscribed, and as a tribute to the old business she named her store The Depot.
Around her wrist Shields often wears another Arnold treasure as tribute to the rural farming community and the immigrants who came from Baltimore during the early 1900s to help harvest the crops or work at a small cannery where local produce was processed and shipped by rail to Baltimore.
Shields has a bracelet made of "pickers' checks," which are medallions that immigrants received instead of cash. Each pickers' check has a family initial plus a symbol representing the crop the immigrants picked (peas, strawberries, for example). Workers traded the medallions at the store for bread, milk and other items.
A blend of these memories -- farming, The Little Store, and pickers' checks -- join with new landmarks that make up Arnold's charm today. Ask anyone to name a well-known area now and they'll answer either the Safeway, which opened in the late 1960s, or Arnold Station.
On cool Saturday mornings, families walk, bike or roller blade on the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, which is behind Arnold Station.
Then there's the Broadneck Little League Field on spring Saturdays, or the quaint residential communities where there's an egg hunt or some other organized event happening.
"I really like the interest that neighbors have in each other," said Carol Williams, manager of allocations and fund distribution for the United Way and an Arnold resident for five years.
"When it snows, we shovel together," Williams said. "On Saturdays, you can see the local banker, or the guy at the car wash or people you've worked with all week cheering for their children during a Little League game."
Williams, who owns a townhouse in Bay Hills, says she enjoys the fact that Arnold "has 70-year-old houses with mature trees. My children can still appreciate the farmland, the horse farms. We find that there is a little bit of every- thing in a small area."
"It's the people in Arnold; they are all so friendly," said Mary Marsh, past president of the Broadneck Federation, a civic organization of more than 40 community associations within the Arnold/Broadneck area.
A resident since 1989, Marsh said her family came for the school system and the easy commute.
"We found out how nice the people are. Everyone wants to keep Arnold and the Broadneck area a comfortable place for children to play."
Population: 19,201 (1990 census).
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 20 minutes
Public schools: Broadneck High School; Magothy River Middle School; Severn River Junior High Arnold Elementary; Belvedere Elementary; Broadneck Elementary; Jones Elementary; Cape St. Clair Elementary
Shopping: Arnold Station; Bay Hills Shopping Center
Zip code: 21012
Average price of a single family home: $170,000*.
*Based on sales during a 12-month period by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.
Pub Date: 4/06/97