A century ago, Murray Hill was prized as a breezy hilltop retreat from hot, crowded downtown Annapolis and the smelly waters of the Spa Creek basin.
Today, it is the place to live if you want to be able to walk to City Dock and all the shopping, dining and waterfront delights of the state's capital.
Bounded by West Street on the north and Spa Creek on the south, Shaw Street on the east and Amos Garrett Boulevard on the west, Murray Hill has a rich history.
In 1650s, a carpenter named Richard Acton purchased 100 acres on what is now Spa Creek.
More than 100 years later, the son of merchant Phillip Hammond, who had purchased the rights to the property, built Acton Hall, the imposing Georgian-style residence that continues to be a landmark and a showcase home and garden. It is now 1 Acton Place, the center of the community.
By the mid-1800s, James Murray Sr. had purchased the house and the surrounding farmland. After his death in the early 1900s, his heirs arranged for the subdivision of the 95 acres.
The neighborhood was typified by wide lots, deep setbacks and grand homes in a variety of styles, many built in the 1920s and 1940s.
Today, even grander new homes have been shoe-horned into every available spot with a water view, and many older homes have been elaborately rehabbed.
The housing stock --Real estate prices have benefited from Park Place, a new $250 million complex at West Street and Taylor Avenue that includes a Westin Hotel, 200 high-end condominiums and a Morton's Steakhouse. But the enormous complex has Murray Hill residents worried about traffic congestion.
In addition, a nearby 5-acre parcel of land where the old county hospital used to sit has been developed into a lavish condo and townhouse complex called Acton's Landing.
Patsy Oertli of Long and Foster on Sixth Street said the average sales price in Murray Hill is between $900,000 and $1 million, but prices range from $700,000 to $3 million.
Average month's rent --The transitory nature of Naval Academy and government work in an attractive area such as Annapolis means that lots of families come and go, but Oertli said they hang onto their homes in hopes of returning.
"So they rent them out," she said. But rentals in Murray Hill are few and expensive. Oertli said she knew of only three homes available in the past year, and the rent was between $1,700 and $3,000 a month. There are no apartment complexes in Murray Hill.
Kids and schools --Murray Hill children can walk to Annapolis Elementary and Wiley Bates Middle schools, but many families in this neighborhood opt for private schools: St. Mary's Catholic schools, the Key School or Severn School. While Annapolis Elementary students score very high on math and reading tests -- with some scores in the 90s -- students at Bates Middle, do not perform as well, often scoring in the 50s and below.
Crime --Murray Hill residents have experienced what might best be described as overflow crime from West Street, where bars and restaurants are a block away from family homes. Lt. Brian Della, commander of community services for the Annapolis Police, said he expects to see a drop in robberies and purse-snatchings in the stretch of West Street that borders Murray Hill as the development of Park Place takes hold.
Dining in --The closest grocery store is Graul's, at Taylor Avenue and Rowe Boulevard.
Dining out --The Park Place development has meant lots of new restaurant openings along West Street, just outside Murray Hill. And it is an easy walk to Annapolis' City Dock and cafes, saloons and fine dining. Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant, and 49 West, a coffee shop, are popular spots for residents.
Nightlife and culture --Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is home to the Annapolis Chorale, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Annapolis Opera and the Ballet Theatre of Maryland.
Rams Head Tavern -- a short walk up West Street -- offers an array of musicians and bands. Colonial Players, also downtown, produces an annual slate of live theater.
Recreation/outdoors --Amos Garrett Park, named for the first mayor of Annapolis, is a small park and garden with public access to the water for small water craft, one of several launches in the neighborhood. Monticello and Lafayette avenues also have small street-end parks that offer a view of Spa Creek. And water taxis from downtown Annapolis ferry residents to the neighborhood.
MURRAY HILL BY THE NUMBERS
Homes on the market
Average sale price
Average days on the market (for 27 houses sold during 2007)
[*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.]