Overshadowed by the government, historic and Naval Academy features of Maryland's capital city are intertwined communities that lie along Weems Creek. The development of the West Annapolis area dates to Elizabeth and Catherine Giddings, each of whom received a section of their father's land, now the sought-after neighborhoods of West Annapolis and Wardour.
Though distinct, the neighborhoods join together for such activities as holiday caroling, the West Annapolis block party and a July Fourth parade. Residents say they love the big trees, pedestrian-friendly layout, camaraderie and conveniences.
If West Annapolis and Wardour single-family homes and the adjacent Mariners Cove condos - collectively known as West Annapolis - seem like a separate hamlet with more than 350 residences, an eclectic shopping district, professional offices and a school, it's because the area once was. The city of Annapolis annexed the partial peninsula in 1951.
Boundaries are Weems Creek, the Severn River, the Naval Academy and Rowe Boulevard. Each section has its own identity: Waterfront Wardour, with large homes along winding roads and a community beach, borders the Severn and is the upscale sister. West Annapolis, with its vernacular homes on sidewalk-lined, grid-patterned streets, has the area's three dozen boutiques and a city boat launch. Adjacent Mariners Cove has a waterfront swimming pool for its residents.
"When I moved in, my neighbor across the street described it as Mayberry. It's not quite like that, but it is very friendly," said Matt Meldorf, a West Annapolis resident and member of the West Annapolis Jamming Group, a mix of local musicians who play once a month at b.b. bistro, a neighborhood cafe.
West Annapolis has a cooking club, which holds themed dinners, and a moms group.
Wardour has a garden club with the motto "No fees, no dues, no reason not to come," said its president Janet Rogers. The club and the community association maintain the circle and triangle, two of the areas owned by the association.
Housing stock : The West Annapolis neighborhood "is more hometown, and has houses that have undergone renovations," said real estate agent Barbara Tower of the Tower Team, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage at Church Circle, Annapolis. She noted some homes have been gutted, while others have additions.
Wardour has more expensive homes, including multimillion-dollar waterfront estates.
"Once people get settled here, it's their intention to stay. It's not a transient atmosphere at all," Tower said.
Crime: There's so little that word of the occasional theft from a car or rare burglary flies through the area. Current concerns include parking by businesses, speeding on the straight streets and what will happen to the nearby shopping center property with Graul's Market, said Alderman Frederick M. Paone.
Transportation: "West Annapolis has ready access to the highway," said John Johannes, who heads the Wardour Improvement Association. Adjacent thoroughfares include Rowe Boulevard, Maryland 450 and Route 50. A public bus runs nearby.
Shopping: Family and individually owned stores, from a canine boutique to antiques shops, sit mostly in converted bungalows and in a small shopping center. Among them: the Cottonseed Glory Quilt Shop, whose owners say it has the most quilting fabrics in Maryland - 6,000 or so bolts - and also teach quilting; Art Things, where walls are papered with hundreds of Mona Lisa takeoffs courtesy of customers; and the Wild Bird Center, whose owner Bill Herald is the president of the merchants association and lives over the store. Offices include alternative health, physician and professional suites.
The Westfield Annapolis mall is a five-minute drive, the Annapolis Harbour Center a little farther.
Kids and schools : Pride and involvement in West Annapolis Elementary, a National Blue Ribbon School, are high. People move to the area for the school, and nearby offices and stores work with parents and kids.
Bates Middle School fell a little below the state averages on standardized exams; the school is scheduled to become a performing and visual arts magnet next fall. Annapolis Senior High School performance was below the state averages on three of four subject exams; the school has an International Baccalaureate program.
Kids can use the playground at the elementary school and join in city rec activities.
Dining in: West Annapolis is home to Graul's Market. Other major grocers are a short drive away.
Dining out : Local eateries include the homey b.b. bistro, Regina's for more substantial fare, Canton Restaurant for Chinese, and, often for take-out and ice cream, Annapolis Gourmet and Deli, aka Gus's, the name of the owner.
Nightlife: Heroes, a tavern across Weems Creek, draws a local crowd; area residents enjoy downtown Annapolis minus the parking problems.
"I don't even drive my car that much. We can walk to downtown," said Heidi Petras, the West Annapolis Civic Association president.
Recreation: Jonas Green State Park, a small park with a pier on the other side of the Maryland 450/Naval Academy Bridge, offers a quiet place to relax. The hiker-biker Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, which starts near BWI Marshall Airport, ends there.
WEST ANNAPOLIS AND WARDOUR BY THE NUMBERS
ZIP code: 21401
Houses on the market: 18
Average sale price: $1,893,751*
Average days on market: 317*
*Sales information based on a single home sale in the past year. Listing information based on current listings and sales from the past 12 months from data of the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., compiled by Barbara Tower, the Tower Team, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Church Circle, Annapolis.