Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Look Back at Davidsonville in 1991

From the Washington Post in 1991
In the mid-1930s, when Martin Zehner moved to the Davidsonville area of Anne Arundel County, there were plenty of horses around; draft horses were a primary source of power for tobacco farmers.
Horses still are abundant, but today they are more likely to be found galloping playfully across rolling pastures surrounding 20-acre estates. The U.S. equestrian team comes by occasionally for Olympic trials.
Halfway between Bowie and Annapolis, the Route 424 exit from Route 50 plunges into a 20-square-mile community of farms, historic estates and large-lot subdivisions.
"Davidsonville is a lifestyle," said George B. Pearce, a former grocery chain executive who dabbles in local history. "People are in tune with the ecology here. They want clean air and good land."
Another longtime resident, County Executive Robert R. Neall, said Davidsonville is an Anne Arundel County community with few connections to water. "People came here because of the allure of the rural lifestyle, and that didn't necessarily mean they had to have waterfront," Neall said.
Though its population of about 5,000 hasn't been growing much since the late 1980s, residents like it just about the way it is. Zoning and other restrictions frequently require 20-acre lots for new homes because there is no public water and sewer, and some farmers are taking advantage of agriculture preservation programs to keep their land from being broken up into high-priced subdivisions.
Yet, at Idlewilde Farm, Garland Zang looked over his groomed and fenced horse pastures and called himself a "dying breed."
"I could never live in the city," Zang said. "We're holding on, and we'll try to keep it up as long as the government lets us."
Davidsonville proper drew its name from Dr. James Davidson, who moved to the area in the 1830s. It stretches from Route 50 on the north, to the Patuxent River on the west, and the communities of Harwood on the south and Edgewater on the east. Unincorporated, the town confers citizenship by the delivery of mail at the Davidsonville Post Office.
Davidsonville, long dotted by farms, began to grow in the 1950s with the widening of Route 50, which opened it to commuters who worked in the Washington area. The 1960s and 1970s brought new subdivisions.
Only 12 miles outside the Capital Beltway, Davidsonville also is an area studded by plant nurseries, and a few rock quarries near the Patuxent River and churches.
On June 9, Holy Family Catholic Church in Davidsonville (across Central Avenue from the general store) will move to a new church that was 15 years in the planning. The parish of about 500 families had outgrown the tiny wooden church built in 1929 after it was ordered as a kit from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue.
But Bernadette Grizzell, co-chairman of Holy Family's dedication week activities, said the old church will remain in front of the new. "There was no way we wanted to remove the old church," Grizzell said. "The chapel feels like it's wrapping its arms around you."
Pearce, an agent with Davidsonville Realty, said many homes in subdivisions sell in the $400,000 range, when they are available. But, he added, little construction has taken place in recent years. "There was a decline, even before the so-called recession," Pearce said. "There's not much land available for development now."
Some subdivisions, such as Riverwood near the Patuxent, have houses selling for about $150,000, Pearce said. On the other end of the price scale is Harbor Hills, where houses cost $500,000 to $800,000. Elsewhere in Davidsonville, one 80-acre estate, complete with a manor house, is on the market for $3.3 million.

Zehner, chairman of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association, said residents are looking for balanced development that preserves the area's character but still allows it to flourish.
"I've felt that enough land is set aside to protect from severe development," he said. "I'm not anti-development. If density increases, it creates problems."
Activists, he said, hope to find ways of controlling the over-development of rock mining operations and are investigating stepped-up inspections to halt the dumping of hazardous materials and out-of-state rubble in the area.
When he moved to the area, Zehner said, he and other farmers knew every car that passed down their gravel and sand roads. "Now the traffic on Route 50 sounds like a freight train in the morning," he said. When Route 50 is widened and designated an interstate highway, a cloverleaf is planned at the Route 424 exit. "That's going to affect us," he said. "Some people don't want to live around all that commotion."
Still, if there is commotion in Davidsonville, it is of an intensity that few residents of the Washington metro area would recognize.

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