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November 24, 2009

Hidden gem: Manchester


Neighborhood -- or, rather, community: Manchester

Location: Carroll County

Average sales price: $237,000 in ZIP code 21102 (January through June)

Notable features: Rolling farmland, cows, horses and elbow room. You'll find homes with generous yards, new single-family houses for less than you'd spend in much of the Baltimore region and an old-town Main Street.

Manchester is almost 40 miles from downtown Baltimore, and its ZIP code stretches to the Pennsylvania line. Not a commute for the faint of heart. But just the thing if you want a place removed from the urban bustle, where working farms and weathered barns dot the landscape. Here's the view from there:

Horses having lunch:


A cornfield in the mid-day sunshine:


Homes set in the hills:


A sizable front yard:


Homes in the under-construction Hallie Hill Farm subdivision:


A sign advertising new homes priced below $300,000:


A barbershop on Manchester's Main Street:


Despite suburban creep, Carroll County is still more rural than the rest of the metro area. It had 142,000 acres of farmland in 2007, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture, and that's more than all but two other counties in Maryland: Frederick and Queen Anne's.

But Manchester is just north of a shopping center with a Wal-Mart, so -- for better or for worse -- it has easy access to some suburban conveniences. Route 30 (which takes you north to Hanover or south to Reisterstown) and Route 27 (which heads toward Westminster) meet in town.

About 3,500 people live in the incorporated part of Manchester, surrounded by the housing developments and farms of the Manchester ZIP code. It traces it name back to 1765, when a settler named it after the English city, his hometown.

If you're a parent who prefers brand-new schools, take note: Manchester Valley High School opened in August -- so new, it has no 12th-graders -- and the town's Ebb Valley Elementary School opened last fall.

Steven Miller, Manchester's town administrator, has lived there all his life and calls it "a typical small town." Residents will sometimes stop traffic on their street to throw a block party, he said.

It's a bedroom community, with most residents commuting out to Baltimore, Frederick and other points. That has definite downsides -- rush-hour traffic is a problem. Pennsylvania commuters join locals in the drive south. The town is trying to get a bypass built, but Miller said he doesn't expect one soon in this climate of tight budgets.

"From 7 to 9 in the morning, and from 4 to 6 in the evening, getting through Manchester is a bear," Miller said. "Off hours, you can pretty much go anywhere you want to and not get held up by traffic at all."

Why do people move there, commute be darned? He says the draw for new residents is the rural setting and less-expensive homes. "It's their own little piece of peace and quiet," Miller said.

Have personal experience with Manchester -- or another rural community? Do share.

Want to see all the photos I took? (This is just a taste.) Check out the hidden-gem gallery.  

Tomorrow: The Villages of Montgomery Run.

(All photographs by Jamie Smith Hopkins / Baltimore Sun)

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods


And as an added bonus: Famous "Hail Mary Passing" Quarterback Doug Flutie was born in Manchester. Awesome town to live in, if you want to get away from overcrowding !

I used to drive through Manchester everyday when I was commuting from PA. It's a nice area. I grew up playing soccer there and even knew the mayor. I don't like what they're doing at 30 and 86 though. Routing the traffic through Hallie Hill Farm is a bad idea. I'm kind of surprised the developer increased prices there too.

Those new schools built in Manchester are quite nice. I know of the barn one at Hallie Hill Farm and the new Manchester Valley one on the hill south of town. I would prefer the Walmart in south Hanover, PA than the one between Hampstead and Manchester though. I do miss rural life. No more cows or horses as neighbors where I'm at now.

Hopefully Manchester gets a Hampstead-like bypass maybe without the annoying circles. I really think Maryland or the federal government needs to extend 795 and metro access further to the north. These bypasses are just temporary bandaids.

Well having grown up my entire life in Manchester. I do not know how you are driving to get to downtown Baltimore in 40 minutes. Well I guess at 2 am maybe. And don't count on getting a bypass anytime soon. It only took Hampstead 45 years and a Republican Governor. Please, don't move here, move to Eldersburg we are full.
Oh and only a moron would not like traffic circles.

Not 40 minutes, gueman -- almost 40 miles. I gave the mileage rather than the time involved because commutes can vary a lot depending on time and day, but mileage is forever. :-)

The Town is nice but the people (old guard)stink. Lot of bodies buried there...........

Since Manchester is one of your "gems" for living, hopefully when we put our house up for sale in the spring, it will move fast. We have lived up here for 24 plus years, and am tired of all of the developing and terrible road construction going on now. How many more times must they tear up Lineboro Road to get it straight? Its time to move out! Our children have moved on, now its time for us!

I wouldn't count on "gem" status making a big difference with buyers, das -- I doubt anyone is deciding where to move on my say-so. But the good news is that if you've owned your home for 24 years, you should have plenty of equity and therefore no problem setting an asking price that the buyers interested in Manchester would be willing to pay. Good luck!

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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