John Brooks' veterinary practice has been a good barometer for the changes that have taken place in Kingsville throughout the years.
"When I started 25 years ago, my practice was 80 percent large animals and 20 percent small ones; now that's completely reversed," Brooks said. "They're growing houses where they grew cows and horses."
Kingsville is no longer all farmland but the northeast Baltimore County community still retains much of its rural character. The town has the fortune -- or misfortune depending on whom you ask -- to possess the two prerequisites most important to many people looking for a place to live: a quite country setting and an easy commute.
Kingsville's location, 14 miles from Baltimore and seven from Bel Air, makes it a very desirable place to live.
"It's like a rural island," said John Gontrum, an attorney who's lived in the area all his 48 years. "But it's so close to Baltimore, there're three different ways to get into the city and all take the same amount of time."
Ann Kemp, an agent with Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. in White Marsh, agrees.
"It's a very popular area because there's room to breathe, but you're not out in the boonies."
As a result of this convenient, rustic setting, there's a constant balancing act going on between reasonable development and the preservation of a way of life that dates to the 18th century.
"It's painful to see prime agricultural land turn into homesites, but the fact is that it will continue to diminish," said Brooks, who remembers six dairy farms in the area.
But the most interesting aspect, according to Gontrum, is that those residents who have lived in Kingsville the longest are often the most tolerant of change. Elmer Kurrlie, owner of the Kingsville Market and a 50-year resident, is one of them. "There's been a higher density, but it hasn't hurt anybody," he said. "It's come gradually, and you get used to it."
A comprehensive plan for Kingsville was prepared a few years ago that was incorporated into Baltimore County's master plan. It spelled out the long-term goals the community wished to see with respect to development.
"It recognized there would be development, but at the same time recognized there would be preservation of farmland," Gontrum said. The consensus was that the business center of Kingsville, at the junction of Belair, Sunshine and Bradshaw roads, did not need to expand. The plan also called for upgrading the community's roads and bridges.
Major development in Kingsville has really occurred only in the past 10 to 15 years, according to most residents. There is already a built-in restraint to large-scale building; the lack of municipal sewer and water.
"Because of this, we've escaped the scale of development you see in Perry Hall to the south of us," Gontrum said.
The sizes of the new homes, which range in price from $300,000 to $500,000 on lots of 1 to 3 acres, amaze the longtime residents. "We accept the castles with good grace," said Hammond Brandt, owner of Brandt Nurseries, a business his mother and father started in Kingsville in 1904.
"The neighborhood is appealing because of the custom houses," Kemp said. "With the variety of styles of homes, there isn't a
cookie-cutter look." Those styles range from the town's oldest Colonial homes to late 19th-century Queen Anne to 1960s ranchers. At present, 15 houses are on the market with an asking price averaging $296,000.
The town gets its name from Abraham King's 260-acre farm on Belair Road. When the property was auctioned off in 1856, the notice in the newspaper boasted that droves of cattle passing from Philadelphia to Baltimore could be pastured on the land, providing a very profitable business. The King House, a 16-room stone structure, was turned into the Kingsville Inn in 1915 when automobile travel came into its own on the Belair Road. In 1969, it became a funeral home.
Because of the importance of Belair Road as an early commercial route, many historic homes were built in the vicinity and some still stand, including Walnut Hill from the late 1700s and Fluharty's Folly from 1760. "The residents here are very proud of Kingsville's history and are very involved in preserving it," said Betty Morris, an agent with Coldwell Banker Grempler in White Marsh and a lifelong resident.
Their efforts resulted in the rehabilitation of the most significant historic structure in Kingsville, Jerusalem Mill. A flour mill built in 1772 on the Little Gunpowder River, it is now partly used for county offices, and tours are conducted showing the operation of an 18th-century blacksmith shop. A short distance away on Jericho Road is one of the last remaining covered bridges in Maryland, dating from 1865. Both the mill and bridge are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Already rural in character, Kingsville is surrounded by Gunpowder Falls State Park to the north, giving residents a tranquil setting in which to hike and picnic. "If you want peace and quiet, just go to the Gunpowder," Gontrum said.
Kingsville's rural charm will continue to attract new people. "It offers the best of two worlds," said Gontrum, whose family's farm was subdivided for both development and open land preservation. "I can look at farmland but I don't have to work it."
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 35 minutes
ZIP code: 21087
Public schools: Kingsville Elementary, Perry Hall Middle School, Perry Hall High School
Shopping: White Marsh Mall, The Avenue at White Marsh
Homes on market: 15*
Average listing price: $229,238*
Average sales price: $218,488*
Average days on market: 169*
Sales price as a percentage of listing: 95%*
* Based on 16 houses sold in the last year as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.
Pub Date: 12/20/98