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Amazingly eclectic, lushly livable; Stoneleigh is like a lovely island that no one wants to leave


Houses in a neighborhood such as Stoneleigh are like snowflakes, say the residents: No two are exactly alike.

Perhaps that's why taking a walk down Stoneleigh's tree-lined streets can be a bit overwhelming.

"I grew up in a cookie-cutter neighborhood where you knew your house only by the color of the door," said Stoneleigh resident Pam Somerville.

"It's just amazing to walk down the street and see every kind of home imaginable."

The Towson-area neighborhood was a country estate before the turn of the century, and then in the early 1900s developers purchased the land and began to subdivide its 230 acres.

However, lots for the Stoneleigh community were sold off individually to a variety of different builders and, by 1927, the neighborhood already had a diverse collection of 100 homes.

The original mix of Tudors, Colonials, Cape Cods and ranchers were built in a circle around the majestic Stoneleigh mansion. The community continued to grow throughout the first half of the century, with the final 50 coming after the mansion burned to the ground in the 1950s.

"The homes are completely unique," said Joe Sawyer, a Stoneleigh resident for the past eight years.

"You see brick, stone, wood, stucco -- just about everything. It really is amazing."

But the architecture in the community of 510 homes isn't the only thing that brings back memories.

"When you come home at night, you feel like you are escaping the hustle and bustle of the outside world," said Margaret Clemmens, who moved to Stoneleigh about a year ago.

"It's really separate from everything else."

Residents say that once they make the turn off York Road and proceed into the shade of the ancient oak trees that mark the beginning of Stoneleigh, it's like going back in time. And perhaps, they're right.

Each morning the children walk to the neighborhood's elementary school, which is right in the center of the development. During the summer, residents gather at the community swimming pool, which was once a pond in the northeast corner of the Stoneleigh mansion. Backyard gardens and lawn furniture are as common in Stoneleigh as mailboxes.

"It's kind of like a 'Leave it to Beaver' neighborhood," Sawyer said. "The moms stay at home, the fathers go to work, the kids walk to school and everybody takes care of their lawns."

That gentle throwback atmosphere is what Walter McGuire, manager of O'Conor, Piper and Flynn ERA's Towson South office, says attracts buyers to Stoneleigh.

According to the Metropolitan Regional Information System -- the multiple-listing service for Realtors -- 19 homes have sold in the last 12 months, with an average sale price of $268,863. And homes in the area sell almost in the blink of an eye, staying on the market for an average of just 19 days.

"The community is enjoying unparalleled popularity right now," McGuire said. "People are lining up to live there, and the people who move in don't want to leave."

McGuire should know. He's lived in Stoneleigh for the past 20 years and purchased three homes in the neighborhood.

"People don't leave Stoneleigh," McGuire said. "They either buy another house in the neighborhood or just add on to their current house. I added on to two of my old houses in Stoneleigh."

Sawyer said he and his family decided to stay in a house in Stoneleigh even though they could have afforded a larger house elsewhere.

"Even if I spent another $200,000 on top of what I have now and move out to a bigger home, my family wouldn't be as happy," Sawyer said. "Our house may be smaller here, but it's worth it."

Just east of York Road and only a mile north of the Baltimore City line, Stoneleigh is generally bounded by Dunkirk Road to the south, Banbury Road to the east, Hatherleigh Road to the north and York Road to the west.

With Towson Town Center and access to Interstate 695 only a few miles away, residents say, Stoneleigh provides them with all the perks of city living without the hassle and congestion.

"You can be downtown in 15 minutes or out in the country in 15 minutes," Clemmens said. "It's just ideally located for us. And you don't have to put up with the inner-city traffic."

But a few years ago, many residents thought that Stoneleigh's proximity to the city had finally brought petty crime to the neighborhood.

"Some of our neighbors have had lawn furniture stolen or had break-ins," Sawyer said. "But I think all the residents agree that it's now getting better, not worse."

The Stoneleigh Neighborhood Watch was formed five years ago by stalwart residents and signs went up throughout the neighborhood warning against criminal activity. But, more important, the residents themselves now patrol the streets of Stoneleigh each night as a deterrent to unwanted visitors.

"We're about living so close to the city," Clemmens said. "The residents have taken a stand against criminal activity."


ZIP code: 21212

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 15 minutes

Public schools: Stoneleigh Elementary, Dumbarton Middle, Towson High

Shopping: York Road Plaza,Towson Town Center.

Homes on market: 5

Average listing price: $272,373

Average sales price: $268,863

Average days on market: 19

Sales price as a percentage of listing price: 98%

*Based on 19 sales in the past 12 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

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