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Where We Live

Old Catonsville: Lovably eccentric

The American foursquare is among the housing styles represented.
The American foursquare is among the housing styles represented. (Scott J. Cech -- The Washington Post)
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By Laura Barnhardt Cech
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, December 10, 2010; 9:26 AM

If you live in Catonsville, you plunk your lawn chair on the main street to reserve your spot for the Fourth of July parade - weeks ahead of the big day. You are loyal to a snowball stand. And, residents say, you try never to leave.

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The quirks of this Baltimore County college town, including a profusion of music stores, endear it to its residents. And its location close to the Penn Line of the MARC train and Interstate 95, makes it convenient for both D.C. and Baltimore commuters.

For that reason, the community draws many couples who commute in opposite directions.

"A lot of people split the difference and end up here," said Marybeth Graf-Brohawn, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Catonsville and a longtime resident.

"It's thought of as this little place, but it has so much," Graf-Brohawn said. Within its borders, it has the flagship campus of the Community College of Baltimore County and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where a technology incubator continues to expand. It is also home to the 110-acre retirement community of Charlestown.

There are more than a dozen neighborhoods, including Old Catonsville, an enclave with about 350 houses in the center of the unincorporated town.

In Old Catonsville, and Catonsville in general, the real estate market hasn't been as been beaten up as it has in other communities. "We dropped less and we dropped later," said Meg Christian, Graf-Brohawn's real estate partner.

There weren't as many wild escalations at the height of the market, and there aren't as many foreclosures now.

"It's fairly common for people to move street to street," Christian says. "People don't want to leave."

Dorothy Noble and her husband are among them.

The proximity to Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, Baltimore and the District was ideal for her husband, Dan, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But it also was an easy commute for Noble, an account manager for AEG Environmental in Westminster, Md.

The couple, with three sons, liked the area so much that when they outgrew their first house in Catonsville, they bought an 1890s farmhouse in Old Catonsville.


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