Friendly neighbors are a hallmark of the Prince George's County town of Colmar Manor today, which is a bit of irony because 200 years ago it definitely was not the place you'd want to be if someone was mad at you.
Kurt Pluntke recently moved to Colmar Manor from the Capitol Hill area of Washington, and he said he has met more neighbors in the two months he has live there than in the 10 years he lived in the District.
Part of the reason may be that the new homeowner has taken to doing yard work, something that did not happen in Washington. Being outside, he said, is "conducive to people approaching you because it's much easier to talk to a person [in their yard] than to knock on their door in an apartment building."
Colmar Manor, which sits on the banks of the Anacostia River, was primarily a farming community when it was settled in the 1630s. During the War of 1812 it was the scene of a battle between British and American forces.
But its greatest claim to fame came in the 1800s when it became the spot where "gentlemen of Washington settled their personal and political differences" with a duel, according to the historical marker located at Bladensburg Road and 38th Avenue.
"On this site, now part of Anacostia River Park, more than 50 duels were fought during the first half of the 19th Century," says the marker on the old dueling grounds.
One of the most famous duels occurred on March 22, 1820, when Captain Stephen Decatur, who had gained fame as the conqueror of the Barbary Pirates, was fatally wounded by Captain James Barron.
Colmar Manor's name is a combination of Columbia and Maryland, and it officially incorporated in 1927. The multicultural community of 1,200 or so residents lives in about 425 houses, most of which are bungalows. There is a national chain grocery and drugstores plus restaurants within walking distance for many residents.
The close proximity to the District makes the town "one of the hidden stories" in the capital area, says Sadara Barrow, a member of the town council. Adjacent Bladensburg Road helps attract newcomers, she said, because it allows people to work in the District but enjoy small-town living.
"The main corridor [Bladensburg Road] doesn't look all that great, but once you get inside the neighborhood it's quite a convenience," she added.
The town manages four parks and offers hikers and bikers a trail managed by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Colmar Manor also has its own police force and public works department, giving residents direct access to local officials if they have a concern.
Pluntke likes that fact and said in the District, "I couldn't get the city to address some nuisance issues such as noise, stray cats. I couldn't get any cooperation."
Property taxes are low and homes are affordable, said Wendy Rodriguez-Baiyewu, who has lived in Colmar Manor 18 years. She also was attracted by the town's location, close to her work and the Catholic schools her children attended.
For people who want "to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city" and have "their own backyard," the town is very appealing, said newly elected Colmar Mayor Michael Hale.
At a glance
-Average sold price in the 20722 ZIP code: $141,280
-Average list price in the 20722 ZIP code: $156,410
-Average days on market for homes sold: 57
-Average sold price in the 20722 ZIP code: $197,000
-Average list price in the 20722 ZIP code: $197,000
-Average days on market for homes sold: 0
Top reasons to live in Colmar Manor
Colmar Manor, located in Prince George's County on Bladensburg Road, is close to the District.
The town has a rain garden constructed by the county in 1998 as part of the Port Towns revitalization initiative. The garden uses the concept of bioretention to remove pollutants from storm water naturally.
Colmar Manor has its own police force and code enforcement officers, who ensure local regulations are adhered to.