Residents of Smallwood Village Build Community
The great Roman orator, Cicero, once said, “We were born to unite with our fellow men, and to join in community with the human race.” Forty years ago, the community of St. Charles knit together the critical pieces to create a 9,100 acre, master-planned community but over those forty years, it has been the people of St. Charles that have truly defined it.
In June of 1975, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Bannister, the first neighborhood in Smallwood Village, which was the first of the five villages in the St. Charles plan. By the end of 1976, all of the Bannister lots had been sold to builders and development of the first St. Charles community was underway. Three years later, St. Charles, with 13,000 residents, became the largest population center in Charles County with more than half of its new residents hailing from places outside of the County.
Mike Billard has lived in Smallwood Village for 25 years, first renting at Wakefield Terrace Apartments then moving his family to a home in Wakefield. For a young family, it was all about convenience. “From the grocery store to the bank, dry cleaners, barber – we could do everything locally. And the fabric of the neighborhood hasn’t changed in all these years,” said Billard. More importantly, “Even though the community is getting older, it hasn’t aged,” citing the active involvement by residents in their HOA.
Fred Scott moved in to Smallwood Village’s Wakefield neighborhood in 1985 and speaks to what is a consistent theme among community residents, saying “our neighborhood associations are our greatest asset”, allowing the villages and neighborhoods to self-govern to a large degree. He goes on to say that getting things done for the community is often as easy as “walking across the street to my neighbor.” Scott is actively involved with the Committee for Architecture & Aesthetics as well as with the Smallwood Village Planning and Design Review Board (PDRB), investing his time, as do many of his neighbors, in the present and future of the neighborhood.
As the neighborhoods of Smallwood Village grew, other key elements of St. Charles began to take shape. Neighborhood elementary schools and convenient shopping centers were opened and community centers with swimming pools and playing fields – a standard for St. Charles neighborhoods – filled with families, club activities and civic meetings. Billard noted that the amenities and long-term planning for St. Charles continues to have a positive impact today, saying, “St. Charles still fits my lifestyle, even though I’m in a different part of my life.”
Cecelia Spinks and her husband moved into Bannister in 1976. Now retired from her career as a schoolteacher, in recent years she became involved in The Pioneers Club, a gathering of neighborhood residents who have lived in homes in Bannister since the 1970s. Spinks takes a leadership role, helping to organize the group's monthly luncheons. She has a passion for finding interesting speakers, educational topics and involving local schoolchildren in entertaining for an audience of mainly senior citizens. Spinks has a deep appreciation for the ties that bind the community – from her pride in having the only pool with a sliding board at Bannister’s community center to bringing in veterans on Memorial Day to visit and speak to dozens of residents.
Forty years ago, construction began on a landmark master-planned project and thanks to residents like Mike Billard, Fred Scott and Cecelia Spinks, the community building continues.