Ralston is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Pikesville, an area in northwest Baltimore County.
The Bromley Atlas of 1898 shows only Ralston and Sudbrook Park, the first of many communities to grow in Pikesville, according to the 1982 book, A Pictorial History of Pikesville by Beryl Frank.
The book notes that the name Ralston has "gradually been forgotten" - a fact borne out by many who had to consult their maps to locate the boundaries of the neighborhood. Ralston is bordered by busy Reisterstown Road on the east, Sudbrook Road on the north and west and Slade Avenue on the south. But residents have no trouble finding their way around the area, which is easily accessible by walking.
"You don't need your car," says Lorna Diaz, president of the Ralston Community Association, who describes the neighborhood as a quiet treasure within reach of the heart of Pikesville. Diaz says many residents stroll over to the nearby Giant Food to shop for dinner or have someone else make it, at what residents have dubbed Restaurant Row.
Residents are getting a kick out of the Elvis impersonator who serenades cars on Thursdays in front of the Pikes Diner. The 1930s-era former movie theater has been converted into an eatery.
The Suburban House, a Jewish deli and restaurant, has been a mainstay of the community for the past 24 years. Its placemats feature a Yiddish food glossary, in homage to the large Eastern European Jewish community in the area.
The restaurant caters and even ships food out of state to former Pikesville residents. Some meals have traveled as far as Las Vegas and California, said Joseph Stowe, who co-owns the restaurant with Mark Horowitz.
"I feel like we're the anchor of Pikesville," Stowe said.
Housing stock : The tiny community has many frame houses that date to the early 1900s, but it also has a mix of architectural styles. In the past 12 months, eight properties have sold, including a Colonial house that dates to 1921 and a rancher from 1955, said Anne Lyon, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Pikesville. An A-frame from 1911 also sold, along with a contemporary-style house from 1990, she said.
"It's just one of those nice mixed neighborhoods that you find," Lyon said. "It's well cared for."
Schools: The residents of Ralston are served by Milbrook Elementary School, Pikesville Middle School and Pikesville High School. There are a number of Jewish private schools nearby, including the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore. Built in 1917, it advertises itself as one of the oldest Jewish day schools outside of New York City. The independent Park School of Baltimore is another nearby option for students.
Crime: The neighborhood has little crime except for the occasional stolen bike, Diaz said. Police credit that in part to the active Citizens on Patrol unit, which acts as a deterrent to crime, said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department. Noisy kids have been the biggest problem, he said. "It's a remarkably safe place to live," Toohey said.
Transportation: Many destinations are a short walk away. However, for those commuting to Baltimore, the metro subway stops of Milford Mill or Old Court are nearby. Public buses also run along Reisterstown Road and Slade Avenue.
Shopping: Locally owned Couture Moda offers imported clothing for men and women. Residents also can drop off their shoes at the drive-in shoe repair shop, Heels & Soles Etc. Owings Mills Mall is a short drive away.
Dining in : Ralston is close to a farmer's market, a Giant Food, Safeway and a kosher grocer, Seven Mile Market.
Dining out : Restaurant Row features several restaurants within walking distance: The Suburban House, Pike's Diner, Mr. Chan's Chinese restaurant and Vernisage, a Russian/Eastern European restaurant. Mari Luna is scheduled to open one of its Mexican grill restaurants there this month. Down the street, the Subway chain features one of its few kosher eateries.
Nightlife: Jilly's Sports Bar offers the closest entertainment and food, but Ralston is a stone's throw to the city line. The Maryland National Guard Armory features boxing matches, a circus and other events during the year.
Recreation: Downtown Pikesville has a combination library and senior center that underwent a $3.6 million face-lift last year. The library added a children's activity and story room and a bigger browsing area for large-print books. The senior center on the floor above used the added room for a bigger lobby, more classrooms and a 1,500-square-foot fitness center.
Residents can play ball at any of the local schools' fields. A quiet picnic can be had in Sudbrook Park. Golfers can head to the Suburban Club of Baltimore County.
Ralston by the numbers
ZIP code: 21208
Homes currently on the market: 3
Average listing price: $246,914*
Average sale price: $239,550*
Average days on the market: 41*
*Information based on sales in the past 12 months as compiled by Anne Lyon of Long & Foster Real Estate and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.