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)