Commuters pass Elkridge every day, speeding past it on the highways that border it. They may see it as a commercial area, full of stores and industries, but nestled between the highways in this Howard County community is an unexpected pocket of Maryland history.
In the historic district, founded in 1734, there are homes that have stood for more than 200 years with families who have lived there for generations.
"It's not unusual that a lot of the people we've known while we've been here, their children also live in Elkridge," said Jack Bateman, co-president of the Elkridge Historical Society. Bateman, who moved to Elkridge 36 years ago, still lives there with his wife. Three of his five daughters live in the area -- in fact, one lives in the building that houses the historical society, and another has moved into her husband's grandfather's house.
Houses in this part of Elkridge rarely go on the market, noted Bateman, who said they are often sold by word of mouth. "A lot of times the older homes are either sold very quickly or they're not for sale," said Marty Rouse, a Realtor for Long & Foster. "What I've found in Elkridge is it's an older community and you'll find a lot of older and lifelong residents."
"It's a coveted neighborhood," Bateman said. "It's an enjoyable place to spend your life." Elkridge, which has grown up around U.S. 1, is bordered by Interstate 95 to the northeast, Interstate 895 to the north and Route 100 to the south.
Bateman described the area where he lives as private. "The only people that come down our street are the United Parcel Service man and the mailman. You have to be lost to come down our street."
Activity in this part of the community centers around the churches and the volunteer fire department. About a month ago, the Elkridge Ladies Auxiliary presented the fire department with a new firetruck, replacing one that was destroyed last year in a collision with a dump truck.
"We have all been working quite hard for about a year," said Yvonne Zimmerman, a member of the auxiliary, which has been raising the funds with pancake breakfasts, craft fairs and bake sales. Zimmerman, who has lived in Elkridge for 36 years and raised her children there, moved her parents to the neighborhood when they retired.
"Unfortunately, I think a lot of the new communities around here do not realize that the fire department is not completely funded," she said. "But we're getting them educated." She has watched Elkridge change over the years. "It has grown very rapidly and sort of sprawled," she said.
As the developments have been built, stores have followed. "All vTC of us remember skating on the pond behind the Super Fresh," said Rosemary Ford, the historical society librarian.
"We used to go to Arbutus," Bateman said of shopping outings before local stores were built. "We thought nothing of driving seven or eight miles. When you moved here, you just accepted that. Now we can go a half a mile."
"All of what were farms is housing now," he said. The most rapidly growing area in Howard County, Elkridge has new developments springing up alongside the historic district. It has grown so much -- from 7,400 in 1980 to 24,900 in 1995, according to Howard County planning data -- that July 1, Elkridge got its own ZIP code, 21075.
"Historically, it was a more affordable area for housing in the county; it remains so, but it has really expanded to include a variety of housing opportunities," said Joe Link, consultant to the builders of New Colony Village, a gated development built in south Elkridge. "Now there's a whole breadth of housing available."
In Elkridge, for the first six months of 1997, the average cost of a newly built townhouse was $125,874, with new detached homes selling at an average price of $171,202, according to Housing Data Reports, a Washington firm that tracks the cost of new homes. In contrast, in nearby Ellicott City, the average price for a townhouse was $152,455, and the average detached home cost $290,121.
Elkridge is a 15-minute drive from downtown Baltimore, but it is an easy commute to Washington as well. "I think that's one of the strongest points about Elkridge," said Rouse, the Realtor, citing the different routes people can take to both cities.
Evan and Angela Woods are among the many people who have been attracted to Elkridge by its location. "I work in Washington, and she works in Towson, so this is almost exactly a midpoint," said Evan, who said each has a 40-minute commute. However, when they originally bought their townhouse in Dartmoor Woods, an Elkridge development, Evan's job was in Jessup. Living in Gaithersburg at the time, they considered homes in Anne Arundel and Howard County before deciding to buy in Elkridge.
"You're close to things, but you can still feel secluded," Evan said. The Woodses have found their neighborhood to be social -- on summer nights, the area is full of children playing and people walking their dogs. "We've met most of our neighbors through our dogs," said Angela, who has two Siberian Huskies.
Running through Elkridge is U.S. 1 -- Washington Boulevard -- which is lined with small motels, truck stops and stores. At the southern end are a golf course and industrial buildings, while the northern end features the older parts, including Lawyers Hill. A historically upscale area, Lawyers Hill features some of the oldest homes in Elkridge. The area was named because many lawyers and judges spent summers there during the 19th century. The homes there are on secluded roads and surrounded by trees.
Elkridge has not always been as well known as it is today. Thirty-six years ago, the Batemans just happened to see the listing for their house. "I had never been to Elkridge in my life," said Bateman, who had to ask a real estate agent for directions to the area. "I came and bought the house that day."
Recently, a former Elkridge resident called Bateman from North Dakota to ask if he could stop by the historical society while he was visiting Elkridge.
"Once you get to know the people in the area, even when you leave, you tend to come back," Bateman said.
Population: 24,900 (1995 Howard County Planning Data)
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes
ZIP code: 21075
Public schools: Deep Run, Elkridge and Rockburn Elementary; Elkridge Landing and Mayfield Woods Middle; Hammond, Howard and Long Reach High
Shopping: Elkridge Crossing Shopping Center, Lyndwood Shopping Center
Point of Interest: The Timbers at Troy golf course
Average Price of Single-Family Home: $147,565 *
* Based on 67 sales during the last 12 months from the Metropolitan Regional Information System.
Pub Date: 8/31/97