A mystery wrapped in loveliness


The biggest mystery in Butler may be how the area got its name. No one in the quaint village in northwest Baltimore County seems to know how or when the name first came into use.

"It wasn't the name of the first postmaster, for example, or anything like that. So it remains quite a mystery," said John McGrain, a historian for Baltimore County.

"I have heard that before," said Margaret Worrall, who has lived in Butler most of her life. "But I have not researched that myself," said Worrall, who has written several books on the area.

"They have been hunting for it for years," said Ann "Pat" Parks, owner of the Butler Store and Liquors since 1985. "No one has ever been able to figure it out."

But not knowing how the area got its name is far less important than maintaining an area known for its beauty and tranquillity as well as its million-dollar estates, horses and farms.

"I am very biased about Butler; it's a wonderful community and we have wonderful people," said Parks, whose father in 1948 purchased the store that has been the center of the rural community since 1905.

Located just 9.5 miles north of the Beltway, Butler remains one of the county's untouched areas. Butler itself only occupies about a half-mile radius around the village center found where Butler Road ends at Falls Road.

There are no official boundaries for the greater Butler area. But residents who travel to the post office to pick up their mail, and thus enjoy the prestigious Butler ZIP code, come from as far as six miles away.

The post office, attached to the general store, also acts as the unofficial town center with a quick trip to pick up the mail many times turning into a 15-or 20-minute chatting session with neighbors.

"The best thing I can say about Butler is that it is almost exactly the same from when I first moved here," said Steve Edelen, an agent with O'Conor, Piper and Flynn ERA in Hunt Valley and a Butler resident since 1957.

"Everybody knows each other, but at the same time they respect each other for their privacy and just wanting to live in the country and enjoy it. There are some pretty important people in the area, but they enjoy their privacy."

One thing that makes Butler so desirable, said Edelen, is the ability to remain rural and unspoiled even though it is so conveniently located to downtown Baltimore. A 15-minute drive can take you to any of three interstates - 695, 83 or 795.

"You can be anywhere in the area quickly. I can get to the Beltway in 15 minutes and never see a red light until I get there," said Edelen.

The Butler community first sprang up around flour and grist mills on the Western Run during the early 1800s. The Western Run remains an active trout stream and has been the center of much of the preservation efforts in the area.

The town center consists of various small commercial buildings, some of which date to the early 19th century. Included in these businesses are the general store, a saddle and bridle shop, a boutique, a graphics studio and the post office.

The Butler Stone Quarry also has been a staple of the community, producing stone that is known around the world for its quality. Located near the quarry is the Butler Volunteer Fire Company.

Homes in Butler range from three-bedroom Cape Cods that go in the $150,000 range up to elaborate estates that command well over $1 million. In between are varying styles of ranchers, farmhouses, contemporaries and Colonials with prices ranging between $250,000 and $500,000.

"I've sold everything from a 200-acre farm for $2 million to a 3-acre home for $1 million to a 1-acre property for $200,000," said Edelen.

However, he added, "because of the convenience and because a fair amount of homes go from generation to generation, there is a very slow turnover."

"Land preservation is an over-riding thought of people in the area. They want to preserve open space," said Charles Fenwick Jr., who moved to Butler in 1978.

"This part of Baltimore County is quite unique in that you can live on 140 acres in Butler and be within 35 minutes of a major metropolitan area."

Each April since 1946 Butler's biggest event, the Grand National Steeplechase race, has been run over what is now Fenwick's property. To help ensure that the tradition will continue, he placed his 140-acre property into an agricultural preservation program that will permanently protect the land from development. "I think the open space is worth preserving," said Fenwick.

Another property owner, Andre Brewster, placed nearly 200 acres into permanent preservation more than 10 years ago.

"I like the country, the land, and my family all lives around here," said Brewster, who moved from the Greenspring Valley 30 years ago to find more land for his horses and to be closer to relatives who live in the area. "I like that it's not crowded and that it is underdeveloped. I love the openness of the place."

For many, the attraction of Butler centers on horses and equestrian events.

"It's a popular activity and a reason why people move here," said Worrall. "We do all the things that people in the country do. I have fox-hunted with the Greenspring hounds and now I basset [hunt] with a pack of foot hounds."

But the best thing about Butler, said Worrall, is the country living.

"To be able to walk out my door and walk through the woods and across the streams - or to ride over them - is just a wonderful, renewing and fulfilling way to live," Worrall said.


ZIP code: 21023

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 35 minutes

Public schools: Sparks Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Glyndon Elementary, Hereford Middle and Hereford High

Shopping: Hunt Valley Mall, Owings Mills Mall, Shawan Plaza, Glyndon Square

Homes on market: 6

Average listing price: $546,610*

Average sales price: $494,473*

Days on market: 173

Sales price as percentage of listing price: 90.45%*

*Based on 15 sales in the past 12 months compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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