In Monkton, it's not just about what is there: diverse housing, lush fields, wooded hiking trails, convenient shopping and top-ranked schools. It's about what is not.
The absence of dense development, crime and noise is striking, residents and real estate agents say. Much of the land in the rural, northern Maryland community has been preserved as open space or has been designated for agriculture by zoning designations.
"I think that's a big part of the appeal," says Frank H. Durkee III, a Realtor with O'Conor & Mooney in Phoenix and a 36-year Monkton resident. "The number of acreage in preservation is significant."
When people buy homes in Monkton, they like knowing that the view from their bedroom or kitchen window won't be blocked by another house in a few years, Durkee and other residents say.
Today, more than 10,000 acres have been preserved, says James Constable, president and chairman of the Manor Conservancy, a local land-preservation organization.
"It goes back many years to a core group of landowners who began working together to preserve the rural lifestyle of the area," Constable says. "Some of it grew out of, 'If you'll preserve your land, I'll preserve mine.' "
Some property owners have donated development rights; others have sold the easements to open-space programs.
Historic designations protect some of the property, which can be traced back to the 10,000-acre My Lady's Manor tract, a gift from Charles Calvert to his fourth wife in 1713.
Monkton also has a historic district that includes the former Monkton Hotel, which houses several local businesses, and the Monkton Hall, home to a local art gallery and craft shop, near the old Northern Central Railroad Trail and station.
Outside the real estate market, Monkton is known as the center of Maryland's horse country.
The Elkridge-Harford Hunt and the Blessing of the Hunt at St. James Church on Thanksgiving are important events for residents and the equestrian community.
"I can ride for hours and it's all virgin territory," says Montgomery McCausland, a Monkton native and the general manager of the O'Conor & Mooney real estate office in Jacksonville.
Forests, corn and soybean fields sweep across the horizon. Monkton is also home to Roseda Beef, a local cattle farm known for its gourmet meats.
Most of Monkton is in Baltimore County, but a sliver, which contains Ladew Topiary Gardens, is in Harford County.
Housing stock : Single-family homes range in price from $350,000 fixer-uppers to multimillion-dollar estates. Styles also vary from contemporary ranchers to 19th-century Colonials.
"There are new houses, old houses," says Durkee. "There are 1-acre properties and 300-acre properties."
In addition to historic and custom-built homes, there are several subdivisions, including Henderson Hill and Chesterfield.
Schools: Students in the area are served by Sparks Elementary (a 2005 Blue Ribbon School), Jacksonville Elementary, Hereford Middle School (a 2007 Blue Ribbon School) and Hereford High, which was ranked last year as among the top high schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
St. James Academy, a private Episcopal day school, accepts students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Crime: Crime is rare, according to Baltimore County police statistics. Fire and emergency medical service is provided by the county's new Parkton station and volunteers at Hereford Volunteer Fire Company and Jacksonville Volunteer Fire Company.
Transportation: Monkton is just a few miles off Interstate 83. Drive time to downtown Baltimore and to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is about 45 minutes. The light rail stop in Hunt Valley is about a 10- or 15-minute drive.
Shopping: The historic Monkton Village Center, formerly the Monkton Hotel, is home to several local businesses, including Monkton Yoga, Harmony Cafe, photographer Jodie Otte's Black Horse Studio and Monkton Village Market. Across the street, at the historic Monkton Hall, Diddywopps & Keeffers sells work of American and local artists and craftspeople.
Hunt Valley Towne Centre includes a mix of local stores and national chains, such as Sears, Greetings & Readings and Ulta.
Dining In : Graul's Market in Parkton, Wegmans in Hunt Valley and Klein's in Jacksonville offer prepared gourmet food, freshly baked goods and other grocery items.
Dining Out : Manor Tavern, across from the restored Slade's Inn, offers Maryland favorites. Milton Inn in nearby Sparks is a special-occasion restaurant. For everyday dining, there's the Pioneer Pub in Hereford, the Wagon Wheel, offering breakfast and lunch, in Parkton, and Michael's Pizza, which delivers in the area.
Nightlife: Choices include Manor Tavern, Pioneer Pub and Friday night football games at Hereford High.
Recreation: The Northern Central Railroad Trail runs through Monkton like a wooded Main Street, offering neighbors a place to catch up, walk dogs and teach children to ride bicycles.
Gunpowder Falls State Park offers tubing, hiking, fishing and horseback riding.
Maryland steeplechasing season runs from March through September. Polo matches are played on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons on the grounds of the Maryland Polo Club, off Mountain Road, east of Jarrettsville Pike.
monkton by the numbers
Zip code: 21111
Homes currently on the market: 38
Average sales price: $730,000 *
Average days on the market: 102 days *
*Information based on sales in the past 12 months as compiled by Montgomery McCausland, Realtor and general manager, O'Conor & Mooney in Jacksonville, and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.