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Glory era has faded into a lovely today; Uniontown visitors treated to glimpses of vibrant past

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There was a time when Uniontown in Carroll County was known as a thriving commercial center. But nowadays the area -- overshadowed by Westminster -- can only show visitors what an incredible turn-of-the-century rural village it once was.

The town blossomed in the early 1800s, but "then progress bypassed the town," said Joseph M. Getty, a member of the House of Delegates and former president of the Carroll County Historic Society. "In the mid-1800s, the community tried to attract railroad transportation, and the Western Maryland Railroad did cut through the center of Carroll County, but it went through Westminster and points west, instead."

Uniontown was also in the running to be named the county seat when parts of Frederick and Baltimore counties were used to form Carroll County, but the town lost out again to Westminster, said Getty, who wrote "A Walking Tour of Uniontown" while head of the Carroll County Historic Society.

Uniontown has managed to remain sufficiently intact to be placed as a historic village on the National Register of Historic Places.

"There are no interstate highways or major turnpikes, so it has stayed free of commercial subdivisions and 7-Eleven stores, and all the modern-day signs of progress have bypassed the town," said Getty. "It's very well preserved."

Most of the homes date to the 1800s. There are examples of just about every period of American architecture up until the Frank Lloyd Wright era.

"It's a whole mixture of styles dating from the 18th century up to this past decade. However, most of them are before World War II and the great majority date before World War I," said Hank Johnson, who specializes in the sale of older homes. He is an agent in the Westminster office of Long and Foster Real Estate Inc.

Colonials, log cabins and Victorian-era styles, among others, all grace the less than 1 mile stretch on Uniontown Road that makes up Uniontown. There are also a few post-World War II homes, including a few Cape Cods and Colonials. The houses, generally valued from $150,000 to $250,000, are close to the road and close to each other, with large porches decorated by hanging plants.

"One of the more interesting things about Uniontown is you could teach a course on American architecture using that little town as a classroom," said Johnson. "It hasn't changed much.

"Carroll County has a very aggressive, very successful farm-preservation program, and the land on both sides of the town -- and we are talking about a one-street town -- tends to be in preservation. So there is no building pressure that way."

Uniontown, about 30 miles northwest of Baltimore, is dotted by a couple of antique shops, two churches and a Farmers and Mechanics National Bank. But residents don't have to go far for their shopping needs, with Westminster six miles to the east, New Windsor four miles to the south and Taneytown four miles to the northwest.

The rural village also has a one-room schoolhouse that dates to 1810 and a bank that dates to 1907, both of which are preserved by the town's historic committee.

"We have a house tour every other year during the second Sunday of December, to help raise money to maintain those buildings," said Nick Vincent, a blacksmith whose house is on the tour this year.

"It's a pretty quiet community, depending on the time of year. We do have farmers going up and down [the road] and many times their tractors are the biggest noise we have."

Vincent and his wife, Chris, moved to Uniontown 13 years ago, after she passed through the town on a field trip with her students.

"We had lived in Reisterstown all our lives, so we are only about 20 miles up the road," said Vincent, who added that after going on the house tours they became enamored of the homes on the "one street that isn't even one mile, end to end."

"The street is a wonderful little tree-lined street, and we are surrounded by farmland."

The town, until two years ago, had its own country store that also served as the post office. Caroline Devilbiss, with her brother Robert, ran the store. When her brother became ill, she stopped the postal service and earlier this year closed the store that had been in her family since 1908.

"The town has changed quite a bit; it used to have a lot of older families that lived in town for years, and now you have younger people and sometimes they stay for a good while and sometimes they decide to move again," said Caroline Devilbiss, 79, a lifelong Uniontown resident.

"On Saturdays, we always had a lot of visitors through the town," she recalled. "When I owned the store, they would pass through and tell me how beautiful [it] was. I lived here my whole life, so I guess I took it for granted."

Several community activities help keep everyone acquainted. In addition to holding the house tour, Uniontown residents play host to a town picnic in the autumn, a caroling party at Christmastime, an Easter egg hunt and a Memorial Day parade.

Because the town is a national historic district, there are guidelines that must be followed when making changes to the exterior of a house. While this causes friction from time to time, for the most part everyone is willing to follow the guidelines, the town's improvement association president says.

"Everybody pretty much adheres to the codes as far as historic preservation. That's always a point of contention in all historic towns. You always have somebody who wants to put on vinyl siding or something, and you have a battle with the historic commission," said David Bennett, who has headed the improvement association for four years. "We had a few minor difficulties here and there, but we managed to straighten them out."

Bennett moved to Uniontown five years ago from Howard County, with the sole intention of renovating an older home.

"We had looked at about a half-dozen homes that we turned down. We were looking for a place that hadn't been [renovated]. The home we are in, we are the second owners since 1879. So no one had messed with it and we were able to start from ground zero.

"We love it. It's very quiet out here, and all the folks are very nice. Uniontown has stayed a great little microcosm of the past."

UNIONTOWN

ZIP code: 21158

Average commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 50 minutes

Public schools: Runnymeade Elementary School, New Windsor Middle School, Francis Scott Key High School

Shopping: Cranberry Mall; shoping in Westminster, Union Bridge or Taneytown

Homes on market: 1

Average listing price: $177,950*

Average sales price: $173,625*

Average days on market: 88*

Sales price as percentage of listing price: 97.67%*

* Based on four sales in the past 12 months as recorded by the Metropolis Regional Information System.

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