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November 13, 2009

Hidden-gem neighborhoods unveiled



Nice places are tucked all over the Baltimore region, from urban rowhouse neighborhoods to rural outposts. As part of the Sun's 10Spot blog campaign, I set out to find 10 that everybody and their brother doesn’t already know about -- ones with prices in reach of first-time home buyers.


With your help, I've picked 10 of these hidden-gem neighborhoods. They aren't the only gems out there, and I'm not claiming they're the absolute best. (You'll never get a completely objective list out of something so subjective.) But they're all fairly affordable, with average sale prices under $250,000 in the first half of this year. And they're a cross-section of the great variety you can find in our metro area.

Want an urban setting? On the list. In the city but with a suburban feel? Check. The Chesapeake Bay in walking distance? Yup. Cows as neighbors? Got just the place for you. The much-vaunted Howard County schools? Got that, too.

As much as possible, I tried to pull from the list of neighborhoods people cared about enough to nominate. And every jurisdiction is represented. That's on purpose, because you all have reasons for wanting to be in one or another.

Here are the neighborhoods, in alphabetical order. Drumroll, please:

1. Ashburton (northwest Baltimore). Though well-known to the African-American movers and shakers who have flocked here for years, Ashburton doesn't have the regional name recognition of a Canton or Roland Park. A shame, because the single-family homes and stately trees give it an old-money feel without the old-money price.

2. Brewers Hill (southeast Baltimore). Well-kept brick rowhouses, back-yard gardens and National Bohemian's iconic Mr. Boh overlooking it all.

3. Havre de Grace (Harford County). A mix of old-town charm and new 'burb development nestled where the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

4. Lake Walker (northern Baltimore). Tree-shaded streets and homes that run the gamut from Tudor townhouse to bungalow. (See the photo at the top of this post for a few examples.)

5. Lauraville (northeast Baltimore). Main Street businesses, single-family-home streets with a suburban feel and Herring Run Park just to the south.

6. Loch Raven Village and Knettishall (Baltimore County). Next-door neighborhoods with stylish brick townhouses in jogging distance of Interstate 695 -- an affordable spot at the edge of pricey Towson.

7. Manchester (Carroll County). Picturesque farms, generous yards and a mix of old and new homes.

8. The Villages of Montgomery Run (Howard County). An Ellicott City condo community near shopping centers, Route 100 and public schools with good test scores.

9. Village of Olde Mill (Anne Arundel County). Houses with beautifully kept yards close to (but apart from) Route 97 and Veterans Highway in Millersville.

10. Violetville (southwest Baltimore). Another yard-centric neighborhood -- flowers, bushes and trees galore -- with a great commuting location: one minute to Interstate 95.

I've put together profiles of each place, but it's overwhelming all at once. So you'll see one per work day until we go from A to V. (Once we're done, I'll link all those individual posts to this one for easy reference.) Up on Monday: Ashburton.

You can see photos right now, if you don't want to wait for the ones that will appear with the profiles. The hidden-gem photo gallery is here.

And yes, I do know Havre de Grace and Manchester are municipalities, communities or ZIP codes rather than "neighborhoods." But hey, it's not easy finding an honest-to-goodness neighborhood in the 'burbs that's under the price limit and is also more than a dozen homes. I'm guessing that's why there were so few suburban nominations.

Initial thoughts, opinions, arguments? If you live or have lived in any of these neighborhoods, please share your experience, either on this post or the upcoming one about that neighborhood specifically.

(Photograph of Lake Walker by Jamie Smith Hopkins / Baltimore Sun)

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: 10Spot, Hidden-gem neighborhoods


I live in Lauraville, and I love it. We have great neighbors, great coffee & coffeeshops, delicious restaurants (and ice cream!), an adorable market, live music & a ton of local artists and musicians.

My young (but growing!) family bought our first home in Violetville just this summer, and we have loved every minute here. The location can't be beat, and the family-friendly atmosphere is wonderful. I can't wait for my infant son to one day march in the annual Violetville Little League Parade. Give it up for The 'Ville!

Phew, I'm glad my neighborhood didn't make the list. It is a hidden gem - and we want to keep it that way!

I live in Loch Raven Village/Knettishall and it is a wonderful place to live. Unbelievably quiet, yet close to everything. Best move we have ever made.

Thanks for your comments, hidden-gem residents!

K, I laughed out loud at your comment. Still, your neighborhood might not be as hidden as you think. Here's a for instance: One reader nominated Locust Point, another reader said please no -- "we want to keep a lid on it." But I'd already mentally disqualified the neighborhood on the "hidden" part -- because nothing unhides a place like a huge grain-elevator-turned-condo-complex in your midst.

I moved to Old Dundalk a couple of years ago and love it. Tree lined streets, brick colonials, well groomed yards, nearby water front parks etc. With Dundalk being the butt of all jokes for the last couple of decades, the neighborhood is so hidden it still doesn't make any of these hidden jem lists. Please Baltimore Sun Real Estate section send someone to check it out!

MJD, I was very tempted to make historic Dundalk the Baltimore County neighborhood on the gems list for all the reasons you mention. (I did a story about it several years ago, so I've been off the beaten path in the community.) I did, however, give greater consideration to neighborhoods that residents nominated, and no one spoke up for Dundalk.

I'm planning to launch a new feature on the blog that will give residents an opportunity to tell everyone what they love about their neighborhood. Would you like to write something about Dundalk? If so, email me at jamie.smith.hopkins(at)

Same goes for anyone else interested in joining the queue.

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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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