Long before the developers of Columbia dreamed up their village neighborhoods, there was the subdivision of Hammond Village. Started in the early 1960s, this subdivision of brick ramblers and split-level homes forms the core of the Hammond community.
"It isn't your typical bedroom community neighborhood where much of the residents' social life is conducted outside of the community," said Judy Eastman, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. "In Hammond, the sense of community is very local and centralized around its schools, the churches nearby, and, in the summer, the community's pool."
In fact, the sense of community among the residents of Hammond Village is what has driven the neighborhood's evolution into a tight-knit community of diverse subdivisions along Gorman and Leishear roads.
Their desires for a solid neighborhood in which to raise their families has made the neighborhood precisely that and, thus, one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Howard County.
Eastman, who lives in a nearby neighborhood, is familiar with the demand for this "very stable neighborhood where the homes are often bought for the schools."
Last spring, she had a couple of clients who were extremely interested in purchasing homes within the Hammond area. But, she explained, "there are very few homes that come on the market in that area, and the ones that do, sell quickly.
"I'm booking appointments for a showing, and being told that they already have offers accepted on the home," she added.
Eastman said much of the demand filters from the Washington suburbs. However, it's evident that many residents come to live in Hammond from a variety of areas.
And, sometimes, luck plays a part in finding this desirable niche of southeastern Howard County.
Such was the case for Greg and Gayle Hoover. Four years ago, they were looking to move from their Prince George's townhouse and, while house-hunting one afternoon, they turned into a development they thought was all townhouses. Instead, they discovered a clutch of modest single-family homes that had been built at the insistence of the Hammond Village Community Association to serve as a buffer between the older neighborhood homes and the townhouses of Leishear Village.
"I initially wasn't crazy about the floor plan," Gayle Hoover said. "But I have come to realize that it [the house] has lots of features you really learn to appreciate."
Some of those features include half-acre lots, quiet streets where you can walk, lots of open spaces, including a park and a playground area, and an active neighborhood filled with families with children and linked by strong ties to the elementary and middle schools.
A chance to chat
"Because everybody walks to school in this area, you really get a chance to see and talk to your neighbors," she said. "The playground by the elementary school ends up being a hangout for the moms -- and some dads -- at the beginning and end of the school day."
Valerie Fraser, whose family has lived in one of the older homes of Hammond Village for seven years, also pointed to the schools as "what really drives the neighborhood.
"The volunteer lists are full, and the parents take a real pride in the schools' high quality," Fraser said.
But, while schools certainly form one point of the triad of Hammond's desirable traits, price and location are the neighborhood's two bigger attractions, Eastman said.
'A really nice location'
Said Gayle Hoover: "There are very few homes in this price range [of $180,000 to $210,000]. You have either the townhouses or the [single-family] homes in the mid-$200,000. Plus, it's a really nice location -- just a hop, skip and a jump to either Columbia or Laurel."
Location and price were what attracted Rogers and Sue Engle from the Timonium area to Hammond Village 33 years ago. At that time, Mr. Engle, now retired, worked for the Navy in Washington.
"It [Timonium] was just too far of a commute," he said. And, he added, "at that time, Howard County schools were just as good as Montgomery's. Plus, the housing was cheaper."
Although their home officially was built as part of the second section of the subdivision, the Engles along with many of Hammond Village's original owners have seen the area grow and change.
For instance, the homes in the area originally were on well and septic systems, hence, the large lots. But in the early 1980s, the county brought in public water and sewer. The result was a minor building boom in the area, as lots which did not percolate became buildable.
A few years later, the townhouses of Leishear Village were built on the other side of Hammond Park.
The beginning of the building boom in the mid-1980s saw the sale of farms on the north side of Gorman Road that eventually became the higher-end, single-family subdivisions of Warfields Range and Hunters Creek. Homes in these two subdivisions, which are primarily four-bedroom Colonials, range from the mid-$200,000 to the low $300,000.
Hunters Creek also featured yet another amenity that had finally come to Hammond -- gas heat. It was this amenity that attracted the Bakers to their home in Hunters Creek in 1991.
Pat Baker also noted the convenient location as one of Hammond's biggest draws, creating a neighborhood with "a good mix of people -- lots of professionals and lots of kids. You also get the amenities of Howard County without having to pay the Columbia Association dues," she continued.
However, Hammond's residents may no longer be able to avoid Columbia and what they perceive as one of its chief faults -- congested overbuilding. Recently, the Rouse Co. acquired a large parcel immediately to the east and south of Hammond.
Concerns, of course, swirl around several issues that such a development would bring to the area. These include the high density of housing proposed for the area, as well as whether Rouse would be able to construct roads that, first, provide adequate access to Route 216, and, second, do not overwhelm an already overburdened Gorman Road.
Nevertheless, any downside to living in Hammond is lost on Valerie Fraser.
"We came from a postage-stamp yard," said Fraser, who moved here from California. "Here, we have this huge yard with privacy and lots of space for my husband to garden. By California standards, when we came here, we thought we had died and gone to heaven."
ZIP code: 20723
Population: 990 Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 25 minutes
Public schools: Hammond Elementary, Guilford Elementary (Kindler Road), Hammond Middle, Hammond High
Shopping areas: Main Street Laurel, downtown Laurel, Columbia Mall, Snowden River Parkway, Cherry Tree Shopping Center
Points of interest: Hammond Park, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Average listing price: $156,420
Average sales price: $155,255
Average days on the market: 123
Sales price as a percentage of listing price: 99.26%
*Based on 28 sales in the last twelve months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.