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Where We Live: Maywood, a historic charmer of an Arlington neighborhood

By Susan Straight,

If ever there were a steadying presence in a neighborhood, Robert “Mac” McAttee would be it. “This neighborhood — best there is anywhere,” says the 97-year-old, practically a lifelong resident of Maywood. McAttee has considered this Arlington neighborhood of about 350 households his home since his parents bought their house when he was 2 years old in 1915. Neighbors know him as a friendly man who, having out­lasted every other resident of his era, embodies the institutional knowledge of the community.

It was McAttee’s old black-and-white photos that were used as the “before” family images for the 2009 photography exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of Maywood’s founding. “I picked out photos of him and his family and then replicated those perspectives with images of a typical Maywood family of 2009,” said award-winning amateur photographer Greg Embree, who lives in adjacent Cherrydale. The photos included residents in such settings as a neighborhood potluck, a Halloween party and a new snowfall. “I had so many more photos than would fit in the photo exhibit, so I made a book,” he said. That book is “Maywood at a Milestone: A Centennial Snapshot, 1909-2009.”

Maywood was developed in 1909 as a trolley-car suburb of Washington. Arlington County designated it as the county’s first neighborhood historic district in 1990, and Maywood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Approximately 200 of Maywood’s homes were built from 1909 to 1925 and contribute to the historic designations. The remainder of Maywood’s detached houses, and approximately 80 condominiums and apartments, are not considered historic, nor are the shops, the restaurants and the major grocery store that border the neighborhood along Lee Highway.

Residents celebrated Maywood’s centennial in 2009 with several events, including a time-capsule dedication and a party, according to Alex Berger, current president of the community association. “We have a block party every fall. That fall we had a super-duper block party,” Berger said.

To commemorate the centennial year, residents also commissioned bronze house plaques, which read “Maywood, Established 1909” and identify the date of the construction for each house. Fifty-six homes currently display plaques. “The earliest house plaque is dated 1898, but most date from 1910 to 1915,” Berger said.

Maywood’s land has a history dating to Colonial days. The land that was to become the neighborhood was part of a parcel Lord Fairfax granted to Thomas Going in 1708, according to former-resident historians Barbara Warnick Silberman and Gail Baker. In their 1987 history published in the Arlington Historical Magazine, they explain that George Mason inherited the land in 1735 and later passed it to his son John Mason, who lost it in bankruptcy in 1836.

Local lore suggests two possible origins for Maywood’s name. Some residents believe it was named for the area’s abundance of flowering plants called May­apples. Others believe that the primary developer, Hugh A. Thrift of the Conservative Realty Company, named Maywood after his wife, Mary, who was known as May.

Affixing the historic plaque to the front of the house was on the weekend to-do list for new Maywood owners Kris and Craig Brugger and their children, Emmeline and Grant. They received the plaque as a gift when they bought their 1947-built house. The newest Maywood residents, the couple moved with their two children from Tysons Corner when her husband’s job moved from Reston to Rosslyn. “It was important to us that my husband’s commute be short,” said Kris Brugger.

The couple looked at houses in Vienna but decided against the two-hour round-trip commute. They wanted a neighborhood where they could walk to things. “We found out Arlington County schools were really good, but not being from here we didn’t know the neighborhoods,” Brugger said.

Their agent showed them Maywood and “when we saw the historic houses and the park, we said, ‘This is it,’ ” she added. They could walk to restaurants, a supermarket, conveniences, a hardware store and more just a few blocks away.

Since Maywood is a relatively small neighborhood, listings are infrequent. Brugger was about to deliver their second child when a house came on the market, but despite the bad timing they put a bid on it. The call accepting their offer came as Brugger was in the hospital delivering. “We got a baby and a house all in one day,” Brugger said. “This was our number one choice — we loved it,” she added.

The most important thing to Kris Brugger is her husband’s commute. “It’s under two miles. He walks to work. There’s a quality of life that comes with a walkable commute.”

An easy commute is also important to resident Shayle Shagam. His is by bicycle, using the W&OD trail, which runs along one corner of the neighborhood. “It’s a very pleasant ride,” he said of his 30-minute cycling commute to a government office building on the Mall. “It’s my major form of exercise.”

Carol Parker also bikes to her office. “The reason we moved to Arlington was because it was close to the bike path and the Metro,” she said. Her commute to Crystal City can take up to 40 minutes if she’s taking her time. “It’s really fabulous. It’s a gorgeous ride,” along the W&OD and then the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River, she said. “There are only a couple of places where you have to wait for lights in Rosslyn.”

Property values have soared in the neighborhood in recent years. Owner Jim Warkentin bought his three-story Cape Cod on a 6,000-square-foot lot 18 years ago for $185,000. It was priced only slightly lower than the average price at the time because “it was in rough shape,” he said. Now homes are selling for upwards of $700,000. A six-bedroom, 41 / 2-bathroom Colonial is currently listed at $1.55 million.

Warkentin is reluctantly preparing his house to move to a single-level home. He says he’s sorry to have to go. “It’s like the neighborhood I grew up in. That’s what attracted me,” he said.

Straight is a freelance writer.

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