Tucked away in a shady glade overlooking the Severn River in Annapolis, Epping Forest provides its residents with a sense of seclusion and quiet that most suburbanites would envy.
A gatehouse becomes the dividing point between a bustling mall that's minutes away and the serenity of a community by the water.
From there, narrow roads twist up and down hills, past an eclectic mixture of houses that peek out between the trees.
At some points, the roads are so narrow that only one vehicle at a time can pass.
Unfamiliar cars and their occupants are eyed suspiciously by residents.
"The chances are that anybody you see in a car in the community lives in the community," said Terry Phillips, a real estate agent who lives in Epping Forest.
"There's no through traffic here," he said. "There are no security issues."
Epping Forest is well named -- trees dominate the neighborhood. Residents even drop the "Epping."
To them, it's just "the Forest."
"I can't imagine where I'd go that I'd like it better," said Michael Anderson, who lives in Epping Forest with his wife, Kathy, and their sons Christopher, 16, and Tommy, 14.
The property taxes of the Andersons and everyone else in Epping Forest go to the community association instead of the city of Annapolis. Epping Forest is a bit of an oddity -- a private community that is a special tax district. As such, the community provides most of its own services.
Epping Forest owns and operates a waterworks and marina and maintains its roads. Anne Arundel County provides police and fire protection.
"It's a fairly close-knit community; just about everyone knows everyone else," said Brad Mudd, head of the 10-member board of directors that governs Epping Forest.
The community started as the private estate of an English doctor, Arthur Drevar, who bought land along the Severn River in 1874. One of the community's roads -- Drevar Trail -- is named after its first property owner.
In 1926, a development firm called Severn Shores Inc. bought the parcel and dubbed it Epping Forest because of its proximity to another neighborhood called Sherwood Forest. In England, two communities with the same names share a common boundary.
In the beginning, Epping Forest was strictly a summer community.
By 1928, residents had decided to make Epping Forest a private community. To that end, they formed the Epping Forest Club -- the precursor to the community association that now runs Epping Forest.
At the end of 1928, the residents built the first waterworks to serve the community. The water was turned off at the end of the summer.
It was not until the 1950s that Epping Forest began a slow conversion to a full-time place of residence. In 1957, the state legislature passed a measure making Epping Forest a special tax district.
"They're pretty much self-sufficient," said Susan Boyer, a real estate agent who lived with her husband in Epping Forest until their divorce six years ago.
"I loved it there. It's really secluded," she said.
Today, the community has about 240 homes in a diverse mixture of styles -- from small converted summer cottages and ranchers to sprawling homes complete with boathouses and piers jutting into the Severn River.
"Each house is different because they were built over the last 70 years," Mudd said.
Because of the mix of sizes and styles, there is no typical Epping Forest house and any attempt to set a median price for homes in the community would be misleading.
Among homes for sale in Epping Forest, prices range from $155,00 to $799,000.
Usual rules don't apply
"The typical rule of real estate doesn't really apply here -- you're not in a community of like homes to protect your property values," said Phillips, the real estate agent.
He fell in love with the community the first time he drove through it.
"Just to drive in here and see this totally different topography from anywhere else -- I called [his wife] Rita on the cell phone and told her she had to see this."
Epping Forest residents are as eclectic as their houses.
"We have everything from old hippies to professional people, and everybody gets along," Phillips said.
"There are a lot of generations here," said Kathy Anderson. "The older people stay and their kids come back."
Margaret Shea, the neighborhood's historian, said she particularly likes the fact that residents' children often return to Epping Forest to buy or build homes.
"We have a lot of families here that have been here for four generations," she said. Her parents owned property in Epping Forest, and now her son, Richard, does.
Epping Foresters reinforce their community spirit with activities ranging from tennis and volleyball to a communitywide Labor Day party. There are also many activities designed specifically for children.
"It's just really special here; people look out for each other," said Kathy Anderson.
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 25 minutes
Public schools: Rolling Knolls Elementary, Bates Middle, Annapolis High
ZIP code: 21401
Points of Interest: Private beach, clubhouse, community piers, community garden, chapel.
Shopping: Annapolis Mall
Average price of a single-family home: $295,981*
Based on 13 sales in 1997 by the Anne Arundel Multiple List
Pub Date: 5/24/98