An old sign for Dickeyville once proclaimed it "the most interesting development in America." But "development" is not what comes to mind when looking at this quaint 200-year-old historic district, complete with winding cobblestone streets, white picket fences, towering trees and generations of landscaping.
Residents call Dickeyville a village.
Longtime residents Joan and Sam McCready said the area is reminiscent of the old village green in their home country of Ireland. "It's the place where everyone comes together to celebrate as a village," Sam McCready said.
The McCreadys own a house in Ireland and had thought they might retire there.
"We didn't plan to stay, but we can't bear to leave Dickeyville," Joan McCready said, adding that she's impressed that recent residents share the feeling. "When new people move in, they join the association and immediately begin working for the neighborhood. They're concerned about keeping this nice."
The neighborhood's roughly 130 old houses add to its charm, and, except for the brownstones, the homes are painted white.
"The Architectural Committee [of the Dickeyville Community Association] oversees exterior renovations and allows only subdued Williamsburg colors for shutters and seven shades of white for house paint," said Izzy Patoka, president of the community association. "It keeps the neighborhood historical."
About six miles northwest of downtown, Dickeyville is within the city limits while bordering Baltimore County.
Gwynns Falls Park backs onto the four-street village, and the Gwynns Falls runs through its collective back yard.
The town is named after William Dickey, who bought three cotton and wool mills in 1871, along with 300 acres and a number of houses that were built for the mill workers and supervisors.
It's not unusual for today's homeowners to know the lineage of their homes. A local sculptor bought the former mill warehouse; a family lives in the building that once served as both the meetinghouse and jail; another couple lives in the former Quaker church; and the old Indian trading post -- now a brownstone mansion atop a hill -- is renowned for being the oldest, continually inhabited house in Maryland.
Peter Bloom and Gale Burstein Bloom, both physicians, bought the former village surgeon's house three years ago.
"We were attracted to the house because this was where the doctor took care of millworkers and had a dispensary," Peter Bloom said.
The Blooms said they love the peaceful country setting and the convenience of being so close to the city. "In other places, neighbors maybe said 'hi' to each other and that's it," Mr. Bloom said. "Here, people are really very friendly -- they invite you to their homes, and vice versa."
"Driving down Forest Park Avenue, you'd have no idea this was here," Gale Bloom said, explaining that they'd never heard of Dickeyville despite having lived in Bolton Hill for two years. "We moved after going to a dinner here -- we were so enchanted with the neighborhood."
Patoka said many residents, even lifelong Baltimoreans, weren't aware of Dickeyville until visiting someone there. "They fall in love with the area and then wait for the right house to come on the market," he said.
Because it's such an unknown enclave, homes for sale tend to move at a slower pace than some of the city's well-known hotbeds, according to Susan Wiest, a Realtor with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA. "People just don't know it's here," she said.
But on May 16 the community association is hoping to change that by sponsoring a house-and-garden tour of the area from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Visitors will receive a firsthand look at about a dozen houses -- many of them on the market -- and get a chance to walk along the streets, through the gardens, and beside the stream.
The stretch of green along the stream is a common area where the neighborhood gets together for volleyball games, crab fests, concerts, and its July 4 barbecues and Halloween bonfires.
The Rev. Tom Speers of the Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church moved from New Hampshire to join the church in 1988.
"This felt like being back in New England with the white houses and picket fences," he said. "And the church is very much like a parish church in that it's open for community events and meetings."
Speers added that two of the oldest Dickeyville residents, Miriam and Luther Sieck, are well known among neighborhood children for always having cookies.
The Siecks bought their home in Dickeyville 61 years ago. "It was one of the first homes to have indoor plumbing and central heating," Mrs. Sieck said.
Luther Sieck remembered the trolley car service. "You used to be able to ride the trolley car into Baltimore for a nickel," he said.
The couple also recalled the neighborhood grocery store. "Half of the store was a grocery and the other half was sort of a country supply store," Miriam Sieck said, adding that the owners allowed customers to run weekly and monthly tabs.
Even though the trolley service stopped in the 1950s and the store has since been renovated into a house, Dickeyville has retained its charm for them.
"It's not a modern suburb," Luther Sieck said. "It's an old village."
ZIP codes: 21208, 21209
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 20 minutes
Public schools: Wellwood Elementary, Summit Park Elementary, Milbrook Elementary, Fort Garrison Elementary, Pikesville Middle, Pikesville High,
Shopping: Pikesville Shopping Center, Festival at Woodholme, Club Center, Colonial Village Shopping Center and Owings Mills Town Center
Homes on the market: 11
Average listing price: $169,483
Average sales price: $165,791
Average days on market: 124
Sales price as a percentage of listing: 97.8 percent
*Based on 6 sales in the past 12 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.