Catonsville Recognized for its Small Town Atmosphere

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I enjoyed reading the article by Dan Collins in today’s Baltimore Examiner that highlighted the small town look-and-feel of our local Catonsville. 

Entitled “Old Catonsville: A bit of Norman Rockwell in the suburbs.” Collins tried to pinpoint the unique ambiance of our hometown.  He traces the historical background of the town and comments on a number of local points of interest.

When Thornton Wilder penned his play "Our Town," he could have had Old Catonsville in mind, if the recollections of longtime resident and local Realtor George Brookhart are any indication.

Referring to this neighborhood bounded by Edmondson, Frederick and Beaumont avenues and the Trolley Trail as "Little Town U.S.A.," Brookhart notes the "Norman Rockwell ambiance" of the suburb.

"It has the look and feel of a small village. Surrounded by Patapsco State Park, this wonderful community is centrally located with easy access to I-95 and I-195, allowing quick commutes to Baltimore and Washington, D.C.," Brookhart said.

Old Catonsville is part of the Old Catonsville National Register Historic District. The National Park Service approved listing Old Catonsville on the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 27, 2002.

Ellen Sawaya, who owns and operates the Wilderness bed and breakfast, a secluded Victorian-era home in Catonsville, describes the streets as "tree-lined, the houses are beautifully maintained and the yards are often lovely — it’s just a great package. But the best thing is the small-town feeling. Neighbors know each other, help each other and support community events and issues," she said.

Sawaya notes that the streetcar line once made it possible for people to live in Catonsville and work in Baltimore City.

"Prior to that, it was mostly a summer community for wealthy Baltimoreans. Year-round residents were there to service these rich, part-time residents," Sawaya said.

Home to generations of families, Old Catonsville features a rich history, dating back to when Richard Caton was commissioned by Charles Carroll of Carrollton — one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence — to develop lands adjacent to the Frederick Turnpike (now Frederick Road). This land, the same site of the Caton family home "Castle Thunder," built in 1787, would become Catonville and later "Catonsville."

"Some of the most famous areas are Oak Forest with its grand old homes and Academy Heights with its well-maintained row homes. Home values here will start at around $240,000 for a townhouse to over $1 million for a home in Foxhall Manor and everything in between. Home values have stayed relatively strong here, even during these turbulent times," Brookhart said.

According to local resident Carole Langrall of A Garden of Earthly Delights floral design studio, you won’t find "Starbucks or modern-day retail shops … it’s pretty old school."

"However, if you like supporting Mom-and-Pop type stores, you will find a strip of them right in Frederick Road including a hardware store where you grab some hard-to-find tools and pick up some of the most inexpensive hanging flower baskets in town, a pet store, a Thai carryout, a great consignment shop [Rethreads], a Rite Aid, a wine store [where John Waters filmed scenes from "Pecker"], and a few other treasures from years gone by," she said.

There are many activities to keep residents entertained as well.

"There’s Frederick Road Friday’s with live music, not to mention the Lurman Woodland Theatre that offers free outdoor concerts every weekend throughout the summer," Brookhart said.