Sherwood Forest still a merry place

Special to The Sun

On the southern banks of Round Bay on the Severn River, just a few miles northwest of downtown Annapolis, lies the deeply wooded community of Sherwood Forest.

Named for the woodland home of Robin Hood and his merry men, the rambling gated community has provided a pristine playground for generations of youthful explorers whose parents live in the "forest," as residents call it. They also learn to swim and sail and become naturalists as they explore native flora and fauna just outside their front doors.

Developed by the Sherwood Forest Club in 1915 as a summer camp for urban families hoping to experience country life, the 467-acre camp began with 35 wooden cottages built in the mission style. Most had one or two main rooms, a red-brick fireplace for the occasional cold snap and many porches for enjoying summer afternoons.

Life in the rustic community was strictly a summer affair back then.

"They locked the gates on Labor Day," says Sherwood Forest resident Larry Kendrick. "They turned the water on in April and off in October."

The developers were determined to keep the cottages unobtrusive. Owners could choose from three house colors: brown, white or the favorite, a deep forest shade called Sherwood green that was developed by Bruning Paint Co. of Baltimore. Of the 341 homes in the forest today, most are Sherwood green.

Although the earliest cottages had running water and bathrooms, they were without kitchens. Meals were prepared and served by a staff of cooks in five dining halls. The halls were built throughout the forest with one each on Friar Tuck Hill, Edgehill, Clopston Hill, Nottingham Hill and Maid Marion Hill.

Families were assigned a table and paid for their meals by the week, but a single breakfast or lunch could be had for 60 cents and a dinner for $1.

The only phone in the community during the early days was in the camp office. At the clubhouse, built the year after the camp opened, residents danced, played cards and participated in variety shows on the stage.

The residents preferred to keep lighting to minimum. Hochschild Kohn & Co., a Baltimore department store, was roundly criticized for a brightly lighted display window in the summer shop it maintained at Sherwood, according to a history of the neighborhood titled, Smothers, Open Those Old Brown Gates.

James and Rebecca Beveridge, who lived in Washington, decided that Sherwood Forest would be the perfect place for their children to learn to swim, sail, play tennis and hike through the hilly woods with other children.

In 1933, they paid $500 for the cottage at 525 Little John Road. They sold it in 1959 for $5,000. Today, the cottages sell for $500,000 and more.

Kendrick's wife, Marianne, is one of the many current residents who grew up in the forest. The Beveridges were her grandparents, and she spent her childhood summers at their cottage.

She remembers big windows and doors. The windows swung out and were propped open with wooden poles. When the windows and doors were open, the cottage was wide open, she says. The only cooling was provided by small, metal table fans and any woodland breezes.

As interest in Sherwood's informal lifestyle continued to grow, more cottages were constructed.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s, residents began to winterize their cottages for year-round living, says Marianne Kendrick. Insulation was inserted between the exposed studs and covered with wallboard.

Porches were enclosed and converted into interior space, then new porches were added. Rooms on the lower level, often reached via outside stairways, were finished. Kitchens began to appear, along with furnaces.

In 1970, Larry and Marianne Kendrick, he a loan officer with the Export-Import Bank, she a second-grade teacher, were living in Bethesda.

Every time they vacationed on the Eastern Shore, the ocean rekindled her happy memories of the Severn River, and as he approached retirement, they felt the time would be right to buy a summer cottage in the forest.

In 1971, the Kendricks paid about $13,500 for the cottage at 124 Edgehill so that their children could share in the forest's legacy.

In the winter of 1984, deciding it was time to make the forest their permanent home, the Kendricks leveled the original summer cottage and hired Annapolis architect Paul Warner and contractor John Greco to create their dream home.

Warner designs a lot of churches, Marianne Kendrick says, and she feels that her home "has a spiritual quality" enhanced by the great room's collection of original art, a dry-stack stone fireplace and 19-foot ceilings. The view from the hilltop house is of Long Point near Little Round Bay.

The 2,900-square-foot house has four bedrooms and two baths and sits on a lot of a little more than 14,000 square feet.

Much of the land in Sherwood Forest is hilly, with steep slopes and ravines. The Kendricks laugh about the time they applied for a loan for the cottage and the banker said, "Do you realize you don't have any back yard?" Coping with small, steep lots is as natural a part of their lives in the forest as the occasional visits by fox, deer and raccoon.

Over the years, as the cottages were upgraded, some were left in their original state, others renovated, still others leveled and rebuilt. Despite the variety of styles and sizes, they all had roots as cottages, and that's what most residents call every house.

The community has a marina and three piers on what longtime residents call the Idle River. The clubhouse is in "Downtown Sherwood," as Larry Kendrick calls it. The bell in the clubhouse steeple used to announce fires and air-raid drills, but now it calls residents to church services on Sunday.

Unlike most private neighborhoods, where residents have to drive a considerable distance to buy groceries and mail letters, Sherwood has a convenience store, a post office and a ZIP code. The community uses the services of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., but it has its own water company.

Community residents are responsible for snow removal and road upkeep. Two administrative groups, the Sherwood Forest Co. and the Sherwood Forest Club, manage the property. Residents pay a semiannual assessment that finances community upkeep.

A maintenance crew handles minor road repairs and cuts the grass on Sherwood's nine-hole golf course. Amenities include tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, athletic fields and a bowling alley.

One-year residents Jennifer and Bob Dowd, who renovated her uncle's cottage on Maid Marion Hill, are the latest generation to follow a strong family tradition of living in the forest.

She and her father, Jerry Lee, grew up in the forest. Jerry and Paula Lee still live there. Now the Dowds are raising their 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son there.

"We moved here mainly for the children and the safety and the activities," says Jennifer Dowd. "So many people my age have come back to raise their families. I can count on any of my neighbors without any questions. The sense of tradition includes the old as well as the young."

Two-thirds of the residents live in the forest year-round. The Kendricks agree that moving to the forest was the best thing they ever did.

Sherwood Forest

Commute to Baltimore: About 30 minutes

Schools: Rolling Knolls Elementary; Bates Middle School; Annapolis High School

Shopping: Annapolis Mall and adjacent shopping centers on Jennifer Road and Housely Road

Zip code: 21405

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