With an impressive history and an even more promising future, it seemed natural that Centreville, the county seat of Queen Anne's County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, would be selected recently as one of the top 100 places to live by RelocateAmerica.com.
"I know it sounds cliche, but I love the fact that you can walk down the street and know everyone," resident Molly Everdell said.
Centreville was officially incorporated in 1794, two years after the county courthouse and center of government were relocated from Queenstown to an area then called Chesterfield.
The courthouse is the oldest in Maryland, and has been in continuous use since 1791.
A statue of Queen Anne, the reigning monarch of Great Britain and Ireland during the formation of Queen Anne's County in 1706, sits on the green in front of the courthouse and dates to the same year as the county's establishment.
The courthouse in the center of town forms the backdrop for Centreville's numerous antique shops, coffeehouses and small, family-owned businesses, all housed in Colonial and Victorian-style buildings along Commerce Street.
Within walking distance of the courthouse stands St. Paul's Episcopal Church, which was built in 1699 at a cost of 14,395 pounds of tobacco, according the town's Web site. It still is used as a church.
Residential architecture blends with local businesses and includes similar Colonial and Victorian floor plans. Two of the centerpiece houses in town, Tucker House and Wright's Chance, were built during the 1700s and offer tours.
While Centreville clearly is proud of its history, a sign on the way into the town reads "A Town with a Past and a Future."
Centreville's future includes two new housing developments -- Northbrook and age-restricted Sympathy Village -- respectively on the north and south ends of the town.
Home values rising
Real estate agents said values are rising too. Recent average sales prices have reached $348,740.
"The increase in the price of property in Centreville has really been incredible," said Jonathon Olsavsky, a Realtor at Century 21's Centreville office.
"I'd say the average cost of a house here just five years ago was around $100,000. Now people are paying over $300,000 for the newly constructed houses," he said.
In 1990, U.S. census figures showed the town with 2,167 residents, while in 2000 that number grew to 2,378. Town Manager Terry Adams estimated that figure will rise above 2,400 this year because of the construction of more housing developments.
The town has a seven-person police force and it expects to finance another position next year, said police Chief Benjamin Cohey, who was born and raised in the town.
"We see some theft and vandalism occasionally, but on the whole, crime is very low in Centreville," Cohey said.
With its proximity to Washington, Annapolis and Baltimore, many Centreville residents commute to jobs in those areas.
According to Steve Nickerson of RelocateAmerica.com, all these factors helped Centreville make the list of the top 100 places to live.
RelocateAmerica.com is run by Home Route, a company that does real estate marketing and has been operating the Web site since 1997.
Raise family here
"We get nominations all the time from consumers, then we look at things like crime, public schools, employment and property values and figure out which ones should be on our top 100 list," Nickerson said.
Local residents said they agree with the classification.
"I definitely plan on raising my own family here," said Kelly Nelson, a resident of Centreville for more than 20 years and an employee of the town drugstore. "I like the fact that it's not totally developed yet."
Gary Hofmann, the owner of By the Beach Tanning salon who moved to Centreville from Annapolis, said he's here to stay.
"I don't know if I could stand moving back to the fast pace and the traffic of the city," Hofmann says. "I love it here."
Commuting time: To downtown Baltimore, one hour and 20 minutes; Washington, one hour and 10 minutes; Annapolis, 40 minutes
Public schools: Centreville Elementary, Kennard Elementary, Centreville Middle and Queen Anne's County High School
Shopping: Small, family-owned businesses in town and Park Center, a newer shopping center on the outskirts of town
ZIP code: 21617Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times