For those not from Anne Arundel County, Crownsville may represent a crowded, fast-paced community known mostly for the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival.
It is during those few weekends a year in September when the rural community, northwest of Annapolis, is bombarded with thousands of people wanting to experience 16th-century life.
One traveling to Crownsville at most any other time , finds a quiet, peaceful area where the residents enjoy crabbing on the Severn River.
"I'm happy with the way Crownsville has evolved through the years," said Robert Hopper, a Crownsville resident since 1963 and former president of the Severn River Association and the Generals Highway Association. "People here keep their homes maintained, but just as important, they do their best to keep the river clean."
One of its oldest landmarks is the Crownsville Hospital Center, built in 1911. Originally, a segregated mental hospital, the hospital had more than 2,000 patients when it reached its peak in the mid-1950s.
In the early 1980s, the hospital, which sits on 200 acres, began to lease space to other mental health, educational and community organizations. Today, the Anne Arundel County Police Department has a station there. Also on the hospital grounds are a food bank and a number of drug-and alcohol-treatment centers. The hospital itself still has 212 beds and sees between 500 and 800 patients a year. "We are a modern behavioral health hospital," said Ronald Hendler, superintendent of Crownsville Hospital Center. "In the older days, patients would come here and stay. Today, we treat them and help them get back into society."
Older communities such as Arden on the Severn, Palisades on the Severn and Herald Harbor were originally designed in the 1950s for summer vacation homes. Today, Crownsville has evolved into a bedroom community, with homes that sell for approximately $125,000, said Mary Hoffman, broker for Hoffman Realty.
"People love the water privileges they have in Crownsville so they can go sailing, swimming, fishing or whatever," Hoffman said. "Plus, there is so much history here. For example, Generals Highway is named after George Washington, who camped here during the Revolutionary War. Plus, the Scotch Broom, a flower found along Generals Highway can also be traced to the Revolution when the soldiers used it as feed for the horses."
Hopper, 65, a retired elementary school teacher, was one of the original residents of Palisades on the Severn. He designed his home in 1967, and has lived in the home ever since with his wife, Nancy. The Hoppers have three grown children who live within an hour of Crownsville.
"The children still love to come over, especially in the summer, so they can be by the water and go crabbing off of our pier," Hopper said.
Joddi Akers has lived in Crownsville her entire life. The 39-year-old mother of two is the secretary at Shore Elementary School in Crownsville; the same school she, her husband and children all attended.
"I'm a very community-oriented person who met the boy next door and never left," said Akers, referring to her husband, Teddy.
The Akers live on Generals Highway right by the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds. That property was originally owned by Joddi Akers' great-grandparents, Neddie and Leonard Coale, who gave each of their eight children a piece of the property. Her homestead farm was eventually sold by one of the children to the state, which moved the county fair from Sandy Point to its current location 15 years ago.
Because of its proximity to the Severn River and its rural atmosphere, Crownsville has seen a number of luxury home communities developed in the area in recent years.
Martha Brown, an agent in the Crofton office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., said homes in Fairfield Estates, a community of Colonial-style, single-family residences, sell for $300,000 to $400,000. Homes in other communities such as Belvoir Farms and Cranberry Woods sell for $600,000 to more than $1 million.
"People like Crownsville's rural feel, as well as its proximity to Annapolis and Baltimore," Brown said.
Two years ago, Koch Homes built Penderbrooke -- a 57-home community located on St. Stevens Church Road. The 3,000- to 5,000-square-foot Colonial homes sit on lots of one to five acres and sell for around $500,000. Only two of the original homes are still for sale.
Koch Homes is also in the process of planning a 40-home community similar to Penderbrooke on Route 178.
"If you were in Crownsville, you wouldn't know if you were in the middle of the country in Maryland, Virginia or even West Virginia," said Rich Pezzullo, director of sales and marketing for Koch Homes. "In fact, Crownsville is in the center of a cosmopolitan area, which is why it is so attractive."
Don Yeskey, president and co-founder of the Generals Highway Council of Civic Associations, has lived in Crownsville since 1959 and has fought to make sure Crownsville does not become overpopulated.
"There have been challenges by people to have the zoning changed to allow for higher density in the area," said Yeskey, 63. "So far, we have been successful in keeping our community basically the way it is. This is our lifestyle and we are going to protect it."
ZIP code: 21032
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 40 minutes
Public Schools: South Shore Elementary, Old Mill Middle South, Old Mill High
Shopping: Annapolis Mall, Hopkins Place Shopping Center, Benfield Village Shopping Center
Homes on the market: 59
Average listing price: 280,284*
Average sales price: 275,760*
Average days on the market: 300
Sales price as a percentage of listing: 98.39*
* Based on 146 sales in the past 12 months as recorded by the Metropolitan Regional Information System (www.homesdatabase.com).