Close-knit community with a relaxed way of life

The Baltimore Sun

Originally known as Deer Creek, the Harford County neighborhood of Darlington did not get its current name until the mid-1700s, after Quakers built a meeting house there and named the area in honor of Darlington, England.

Today, Darlington is a quiet, rural community nestled along rolling country roads with a preserved village center. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 as a designated historic district, the historic area includes 2,500 acres and 81 buildings with several architectural styles, including Victorian, art deco and Colonial.

"It's a charming little village," said resident Jane Howe. "Darlington has a reputation as being civic-minded, close-knit and [having] neighbors that watch out for one another."

Howe serves on both the Darlington-Dublin Community Association and on the county-appointed Dublin-Darlington Community Council. She said increased residential growth in the area is a major concern for residents because of its potential impact on area farmers and agricultural services. However, she points out that the community is not "anti-growth" but instead favors smart growth.

"People move here because of the ambience, the historical significance and the rural nature of the area," said Howe. "I refer to Darlington as a step back in time."

Located in northeastern Harford County near the Susquehanna River and Deer Creek, the historic village consists of about 750 residents, but Darlington is also a designated ZIP code serving a much larger area.

With large canopy trees, historic houses and a relaxed way of life, it's easy to see why residents work hard to keep the area preserved.

Jim Calcutt lives in the town's original hotel, which dates to 1795, and is working on a book about the rich and diverse history of Darlington.

"In 1608, Capt. John Smith came up the Chesapeake and Susquehanna and got as far as Deer Creek," said Calcutt. "He wrote in his journal it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen."

When Calcutt is not researching Darlington or hanging out at the local gathering spot of McCurry's Garage on Main Street, he's busy serving as chairman of the town's annual apple festival. Held on the first Saturday of October, the festival is reportedly the largest single-day event in Harford County, with as many as 60,000 people descending on the tiny village.

"It's just unbelievable. You literally can't see the sidewalks," said Calcutt.

Housing stock : Options and prices of housing in Darlington vary greatly, from smaller Cape Cods and bungalow-style homes starting around $200,000 to million-dollar estates. In between is a mix of historic houses of varying styles, ranchers on large lots, split levels, farms and newly built, sprawling Colonial-style houses.

"It's a small-town setting," said John Wensell, a real estate agent with the Harry Hopkins Co. and a Darlington resident for more than 30 years. "It's a very quiet place to live."

Wensell said residents enjoy life in the country, but have the convenience of being only a few minutes from busy Harford County commercial corridors.

"Most of the farmland around here is protected and can not be developed," Wensell added.

Schools: Darlington is served by Darlington and Dublin elementary schools, which continually surpass state proficiency levels in reading and math. Fifth- grade students at Darlington scored 100 percent proficient in both reading and math, according to recently released 2008 Maryland State Assessment data. At Dublin Elementary, fifth-graders scored 93.5 percent proficient in math and 100 percent in reading.

After leaving those schools, students attend Havre de Grace middle and high schools or North Harford middle and high schools. These schools have also surpassed state proficiency levels. The graduation rate at Havre de Grace High School is 82.9 percent and at North Harford High School it's 92.9 percent.

Crime : Darlington is served by the Harford County Sheriff's Office. During the first half of 2008, some of the crimes in the Darlington ZIP code included five assaults, 16 burglaries and two thefts from motor vehicles.

Shopping : There are a few local businesses on Main Street in Darlington, including a hair salon, garage, convenience store, pharmacy and professional offices. The area is also close to shopping in downtown Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Aberdeen.

Dining In : Darlington residents can find convenience items in town, but must travel a bit to do weekly grocery shopping. Popular choices include the Mars Super Market and Klein's Supermarket, both in Aberdeen.

Dining Out : There are no restaurants within the small-town village of Darlington, but a few are located on the outskirts. The Ballpark Restaurant on Conowingo Road is a popular choice, as are waterfront dining spots in Havre de Grace and Port Deposit.

Nightlife: There's not a bustling nightlife in Darlington, but residents can head to the waterfront in Havre de Grace and Port Deposit or to downtown Bel Air for a night out.

Recreation: Two county parks are located in Darlington. Francis Silver Park offers 19 acres in the heart of the village with tennis courts, pavilions, playgrounds, picnic tables and open space. Just north of town is Emma Rockey Park, which consists of 43 acres and includes a ball diamond, tennis courts and soccer and lacrosse fields.

Darlington is also only minutes away from Susquehanna State Park. Located right on the Susquehanna River, the park offers a great spot for fisherman and boaters. The park also includes a bow-hunting area and a campground, and is home to the Rock Run Historic Area and privately operated Steppingstone Museum.

Darlington by the numbers

ZIP code: 21034

Homes on the market: 18

Average sales price: $324,200*

Average days on market: 155*

*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, complied by John Wensell, a real estate agent with the Harry Hopkins Co., and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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