Nestled along the outskirts of a woodsy park and a large lake are streets lined with charming homes that form a group of small neighborhoods collectively known as Lake Roland.
The community backs to Robert E. Lee Memorial Park and is named for the lake, which a few of the secluded homes border. The boundaries loosely associated with the area include those streets along Lake Avenue, east of Falls Road and west of Charles Street and Bellona Avenue. The park serves as the northern boundary.
The upscale, highly sought-after location is within Baltimore County but sports the well-known city ZIP code of Roland Park, as well as small sections of the Mount Washington and Govans ZIP codes.
Some of the neighborhoods that call Lake Roland home include Dembeigh Hill, Lakehurst, Woodbrook and Buckingham Manor.
"Lake Avenue is almost the demarcation line between the city and the county. We're not really Roland Park and we're not Ruxton, we're in between," said H. John Bremermann III, president of the Lakehurst Community Association. The area is a short commute to the city and major thoroughfares.
"There's all this undisturbed wooded area, yet a minute's drive puts you on [Interstate] 83 and into the heart of the city," Bremermann said.
Lake Roland is named for Roland Run, a nearby streambed that feeds the lake along with the Jones Falls. The lake and surrounding Robert E. Lee Memorial Park were designated as a National Register historic district in 1992, according to information on the Maryland Historical Trust Web site. The dam dates to the mid-1800s, when it began service as part of the city's municipal water system. It was used until 1915, when it was abandoned because of silting problems.
The Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association serves the Lake Roland area.
For Helga Morrow, who is on the board of the improvement association, Lake Roland offered the perfect transition when she moved to Baltimore from her former home in Switzerland.
"We're totally hidden away. We're nestled right inside the park," said Morrow, who has lived in the Lake Roland area for 17 years. "There's a pass right into Robert E. Lee Park that we can walk to and go for miles."
"It really is a lovely area," said Marsha Ramsay, who also serves on the board and who moved to the Lake Roland area 30 years ago. "We liked the park being down the street because we're walkers. It was very important to us to have a recreational area there."
Housing stock : The area may be best known for private, stately homes with $1 million price tags, but that's not all there is to Lake Roland.
The area offers quite a diverse range of housing, including secluded town houses, unique condominium units, traditional Colonials, split-levels and ranch houses. Updated homes in the community are likely to cost in the $400,000 range and up.
"It's a very attractive area. One of the big factors about that little neighborhood is that you are still in Baltimore County," said Sonja Philips of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Roland Park Cross Keys. "Yet you still have all the conveniences of living in the city. That just automatically gets attention."
Philips said homes with lake views or those that back up to the park demand top dollar. There are currently three houses on the market in Lake Roland for more than $1.5 million.
Crime: "It's generally a very peaceful area," said Bill Toohey, spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department.
An occasional burglary is the most prevalent crime, but overall there are no consistent or chronic problems.
"There's a very strong community association and Citizens on Patrol, and both of those are real assets in controlling and preventing crime," Toohey said.
Schools: Rodgers Forge Elementary, Dumbarton Middle and Towson High serve most students in the Lake Roland area. All three schools have surpassed state proficiency levels in reading and math. Fifth-graders at Rodgers Forge scored 100 percent proficient in math and 98.8 percent in reading, while seventh-graders at Dumbarton scored 81.3 percent proficient in math and 87.9 percent in reading. Towson had a graduation rate of 92 percent in 2007.
All three schools have met the state's Adequate Yearly Progress requirement, a tool used to track academic progress and make accountability decisions.
Lake Roland is close to several private schools, including Boys' Latin School of Maryland.
Dining in : Residents can take advantage of Whole Foods Market at Mount Washington Mill, Eddie's of Roland Park on Charles Street or Graul's Market on Bellona Avenue.
Dining out : Lake Roland area residents are within a short drive of many restaurants and eateries. The closest would include Pepe's and Bonjour French bakery and cafe on Falls Road and those found in the Lake Falls Village, such as Al Pacino pizza, Sushi Hana and Glasz Cafe.
Shopping: Mount Washington Village and Mount Washington Mill offer specialty shopping. The Village of Cross Keys and Towson Town Center are also short drives.
Transportation: The Falls Road light rail stop is only minutes away.
Parks and recreation : It's easy to point out the recreational advantages of the area with the city-owned Robert E. Lee Memorial Park, which contains Lake Roland, within walking distance for many residents.
Open space and walking trails are highlights of the historic park.
Although residents closest to the lake and park trumpet its amenities, they also say they are fighting hard to protect the resource so it can be used for many more years to come.
"This park is a treasure," said Morrow, who serves on the park committee for the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association. "What the park needs above all is protection. That's what we're hoping for."
There are also several clubs and athletic centers within a short drive, including Gerstung Inter-Sport Center, Merritt Athletic Club and the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Club.
The Elkridge Club, a private country club, is at North Charles Street and Lake Avenue.
lake roland by the numbers
ZIP codes: 21209, 21210, 21212
Homes on the market: 8
Average sale price: $507,740*
Average days on the market: 126*
*Information based on sales during the past 12 months, compiled by Sonja Philips of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Roland Park Cross Keys and Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.