The Baltimore Sun

Wedged between Catonsville and Ellicott City, Oella is no more than a sliver on a state map.

About 3,500 people live in the hilly town on the southwestern edge of Baltimore County. But that number should grow significantly at the end of the year, when a slew of new apartments and some renovated stone rowhouses hit the market.

A historic mill town, Oella is home to Washington Quality Foods, Maryland's only remaining commercial mill. The town has a strong sense of community and history, which is deepened by institutions such as the Country Corner Store and the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum.

"It's like one big family," said Jay Patel, president of the Greater Oella Community Association. "We keep an eye on each other."

The housing stock --Oella has a variety of home styles, from early-1800s stone dwellings to Colonial buildings and more modern houses. A two-bedroom townhouse could sell for $300,000 and a larger Colonial home with three or four bedrooms and a 1- to 2-acre yard might go for $600,000.

"We attract many different ages, many different types of buyers and many different tastes," said Ann Whelan, an associate broker with Remax 100 in Ellicott City. "We have something for everyone in Oella."

Average month's rent --Though Oella has few rentals available, that should change when luxury apartments being built on the site of the historic Oella Mill are finished. The project converts artist studios into apartment spaces and should be completed this year or early next year. Monthly rent for the nearly 150 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments will be between $1,078 and $2,019.

Kids and schools --Since Oella has no schools, students attend Westchester Elementary School and Catonsville Middle and High schools. Westchester and Catonsville Middle's reading and math test scores are above county averages, and Catonsville High's scores are just below average.

Crime --Oella has the occasional robbery, but little violent crime, county police said.

"There's hardly anything ... in the way of any crime at all in Oella," said administrative officer Christopher Prugh of the Baltimore County Police Department's precinct one.

"Every once in a while you might get a burglary down there," he said. "But for the most part, Oella is very quiet."

Dining in --For fresh meats, residents head to J.W. Treuth & Sons, a local meatpacker on Oella Avenue. The Country Corner Store - farther north on Oella Avenue - takes care of simple needs. Otherwise, supermarkets on Route 40 are easy to find.

Dining out --The Trolley Stop on Oella Avenue offers American fare in an 1833 stone building and the neighboring Old Mill Bakery and Cafe covers breakfast and lunch. Nearby Ellicott City and Catonsville offer more options.

Recreation/outdoors --The Trolley Trail No. 9, a roughly mile-long paved route for bikers and runners, cuts through Oella. The Banneker museum on Oella Avenue is dedicated to the life of the African-American scientist. It sits on Banneker's former estate, which is now a 142-acre park and wildlife preserve. Visitors can have picnics and hike the trails in the park from dawn until dusk.

Nightlife --Virtually nonexistent in town, though nearby Ellicott City and Catonsville offer both high-end and more divey bars.


ZIP code

-- 21228 and 21043

Homes on the market

-- 15

Average sale price:

-- $350,000*

Average days on the market:

-- 47* *Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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