Twenty-six years ago, Larry and Patty Nottingham were a young couple living in a Dundalk townhouse with their 3-year-old daughter when they decided it was time to make a move.
There was nothing wrong with the townhouse, but nearly all of the residents on their block were older and had no children Tricia's age.
The couple drove up and down Belair Road looking at homes and neighborhoods in Perry Hall and farther north into Harford County.
Then the Nottinghams saw a sign near Silver Spring Road that caught their attention. It read "Nottingham Woods."
Larry Nottingham turned to his wife and said, "That sounds like a nice place to live."
Nottingham Woods turned out to be a new Ryland community of 154 homes near the site where White Marsh Mall now sits in the larger area of Nottingham. Neither Patty nor Larry, who both lived in the Baltimore area for years, had ever heard of Nottingham. They thought they were in Perry Hall or White Marsh as they searched for a home.
"When we went to look at the model, there on the wall in big mirrored letters, was the word 'Nottingham,'" she said. It was a sign, they said, that told them to buy the house, and within hours they did.
The area was still rural and only 10 homes had been built in Nottingham Woods when the Nottinghams looked at the model home and available lots. But the community had big plans, the salesperson told the young couple.
"They showed us a map with a layout of everything that was going to be built," Larry said. "They showed us our house and where the mall was going to be and where everything else would be."
"They billed it as a sort of mini-Columbia," she said, referring to the planned community in Howard County. It sounded like a nice place to live and raise children.
"We knew that there would eventually be condominiums and townhouses and apartments nearby," he said, "and we liked that. When you're building a community you have to have a mix of people and housing."
Larry Nottingham had his doubts that the mall, restaurants and stores would actually be built. "I thought, yeah, sure, they're going to put this huge mall right here," he said. "But sure enough, within six years, there was White Marsh Mall."
Coincidentally, White Marsh Mall isn't in White Marsh; it too is in Nottingham. Perhaps "Nottingham Mall" sounded a bit too medieval.
Like the Nottinghams, Melody and Don Huebel were a young, married couple looking for a home to raise a family in when they looked in Nottingham 22 years ago.
However, unlike the Nottinghams, the Huebels had no idea that a new mall, acres of housing and apartment buildings would spring up not many years after they bought their home.
"We moved here because we wanted to live out in the country, away from everything," Melody Huebel said. "We were young. What did we know? We never asked what was going to be built."
Larry Huebel remembers going to some of Nottingham's first community association meetings where residents were angry and upset that the area was becoming too dense. "They kept asking why was it necessary to build all of these new roads," he said. "Some buyers weren't informed about what was coming. They were very surprised. They thought they were moving to a rural area."
But the Huebels stayed.
"We had really great neighbors and it was a wonderful place for our children to grow up," she said. The Huebels raised a son and daughter in Nottingham. "There were many children around," she said.
"It was kid haven," Patty Nottingham said. In addition to their daughter Tricia, the Nottinghams raised two more children in Nottingham, sons Eric and Brian.
"At one time there were 32 kids just in our court," Larry said. The Nottinghams' children have all left, but the couple are content to stay.
"We go back and forth on it, but really, we're happy here, so we'll stay," he said.
The Huebels agree. Even though their children are now 17 and 19 and will soon be out of the house, the couple say they will likely stay in the neighborhood. "Now that we're older we like the convenience of having everything so close by. ... Now it doesn't matter that we're not in the country," Melody said.
The community has easy access to the Baltimore Beltway and Interstate 95.
As some of the original residents leave, or downsize into nearby Nottingham condominiums, new waves of young couples, such as Chrissy and Eric Alves, are moving in.
For the Alveses, Nottingham seemed a logical place to move. Both grew up near Parkville and liked living close to their families and to their jobs. She works in Towson. He works in Nottingham.
Previously, the couple rented an apartment in Timonium.
"We were used to having everything close by, so we wanted to live in a place that was convenient," Eric said. The two looked as far away as Virginia and Pennsylvania for their first home, but in the end decided on Nottingham.
"We did a lot of research on the Internet and we wanted an area with a low crime rate," Eric said. "Of course no place is crime-free, but Nottingham looked very safe," he said.
"It reminded me of the neighborhood that I grew up in, where everyone knew each other," Chrissy said.
The Alveses remember when they first moved into their townhouse two years ago.
"Right off the bat, we were over at other people's homes having dinner, meeting our neighbors; it was great," Chrissy said. "There's a real sense of community here."
"It's a good place for someone just starting out," Eric said.
Prices for homes in the area range from as little as $80,000 for an inside-group townhouse from the 1970s to single-family homes for $250,000 and more. Several new condominium and townhouse communities are being built along the expanded Franklin Square Drive across from the Nottingham Square shopping center. There are also several apartment communities and rental townhouses mixed in.
"I would recommend this area to just about anyone," Eric said. "Go out for a drive and come by and take a look at our neighborhood."
Commute to downtown Baltimore:25 minutes
Public schools:Fullerton Elementary, Gunpowder Elementary, Perry Hall Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary, Perry Hall Middle, Perry Hall High
Shopping:White Marsh Mall, Nottingham Square, The Avenue at White Marsh
Homes on market:6
Average listing price:$$137,524*
Average sale price:$133,768*
Average days on market:71*
Sale price as percentage of listing price:97.27%*
*Based on 16 sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.