Galesville, as the locals say, goes "one mile in and one mile out" -- a mile into the land and a mile out to sea. That might be stretching things a bit, at least on the landward side.

The town on the West River of the Chesapeake Bay has one main road, one blinking traffic light and more than 500 boat slips. Life in the Anne Arundel County town moves with the rhythms of the tides and -- with the exception of an influx of Washingtonians on weekends -- has changed little in the last half of this century.

There are fewer watermen and more Sunday sailors. There are fewer children -- the Carrie Weedon Elementary School closed in 1985 -- and more retirees. But these changes, residents say, are minor in the scheme of things.

Dogs still sleep safely in the middle of the town's scant side streets. The names on the local businesses echo those on the tombstones in the 300-year-old Quaker Burying Ground. The nearest trendy chain boutique is about 15 miles to the north in Annapolis.

And mail delivery is still at the post office only. Galesville never has had home delivery; few have seen fit to request it.

"We have quite a bit of socializing when everyone is coming in after their mail in the morning," said Gay Rodgers, postmistress since 1974. "When anybody is sick in town, people come in to inquire about them. We keep tabs on people who are in the hospital and such like that."

Rodgers said that she has about 300 postal patrons, at least 20 of whom routinely receive their mail "general delivery."

"We know everybody by name so there's no problem with general delivery," Rodgers said. "The only drawback is that they have to come in when the window is open, but then, everybody seems to do that anyway."

Anne Arundel County demographer Alexander Speer estimated that there are 700 residents in Galesville, up from 496 counted during the 1980 census. The boundaries of the unincorporated town run roughly from the waterfront to the blinking light at the intersection of Maryland Routes 255 and 468.

Residents date the beginning of Galesville to a 1652 land grant to John Brown and John Clark, who moved from Virginia in pursuit of religious freedom.

The Quaker Burying Ground, a sweet hillside cemetery surrounded by a white picket fence, was established in 1672. There are still several 17th- and 18th-century farmhouses amid the rolling pastures near Galesville.

Galesville residents come in two primary categories -- those on land and those on sea. Two of the town's three restaurants, Pirate's Cove and Steamboat Landing, have boat slips for their patrons. The West River Yacht Harbour has 188 condominium boat slips that come with a condo association, condo fees and swimming pool privileges for the members. Hartge Yacht Yard has an additional 275 boat slips that rent for six months for $600 to $1,400.

Three- and four-bedroom colonials in the 10-year-old Galesville Estates range from $140,000 to $200,000, but housing prices otherwise vary widely.

Cozy clapboard cottages on small waterfront lots command upwards of $120,000 while a large waterfront home on Church Road sold recently for $600,000. Prices in general have appreciated 8 percent to 9 percent in each of the last two years, said Newell H. Cannon, a local resident and sales associate for O'Conor, Piper & Flynn in Annapolis.

The granddaddy of Galesville homes is Tulip Hill, a magnificent Georgian mansion built in 1752 and surrounded by the ancient tulip poplars that give it its name and in shipping times provided a landmark to steer upon for entrance to the channel of the West River. Galesville residents claim Tulip Hill as one of the town's premier landmarks, although the property, a quarter of a mile from the blinking light, carries a Harwood postal address.

Newell Cannon's husband, Harry Cannon, and his brother and sister recently inherited Tulip Hill from their uncle, Lewis Andrews, who bought the place in 1948 and with his wife restored it to its 18th-century elegance. The view from the French doors in the back of the house sweeps across 50 acres beyond the terraced gardens with their manicured boxwoods and perennials to corn fields and finally to the West River, where it is said that Samuel Galloway, a shipper who built the mansion, anchored his boat.

"When you're in this house, you can just feel the way life must have been when the place was built," said Newell Cannon.

There is an air of another century about Galesville. Residents are proud of their town's heritage as a port for steamers traveling the Chesapeake between Baltimore and Norfolk. And for some, the heritage is personal and compelling.

Elaine Shepherd, who owns the Robin Lane gift shop with her sister Robin Burrucker, was born in Galesville and lived in the house that her grandfather, an oysterman, built in 1900.

Her parents sold the house in 1956 and moved the family to a nearby community. In 1982, Shepherd returned to Galesville and bought back the family home.

"The day before we moved in 1956 my grandfather said to me, 'Lanie Jane, you'll never be happy anywhere but here. This is your home,' " Shepherd said. "He was right."