Jeff Miller was understandably skeptical.
His wife, Shawn Brennan, had suggested they move from Bethesda to a rental house in Silver Spring’s Woodmoor neighborhood, just a few blocks away from where she grew up, and where her parents had lived since the 1960s.
“My in-laws are great, but I’d never lived on this side of county, and I wasn’t sure what to think about Silver Spring,” said Miller, who grew up in Laytonsville and Potomac.
Three years later, Miller counted himself a Woodmoor convert, having been wooed by its vintage houses, hilly and wooded landscape, and sense of community and history. When he and Brennan started looking for a house to buy, Miller didn’t see any point in looking outside the neighborhood, located just north of the Beltway off Colesville Road. They bought their home in 2000.
“We’re actually a pretty typical story in the neighborhood,” said Miller, 44, a consultant and a lecturer at University of Maryland and Catholic University. “Lots of people who grew up in the neighborhood come back. Lots of families have multiple generations living here, which seems to be pretty unusual in Washington.”
Woodmoor’s first houses were built in 1938, and it’s those brick Colonials and Cape Cods that define the neighborhood’s housing stock today.
Re/Max agent Judy Hanrahan, who grew up in Woodmoor and moved back to the neighborhood in 1966 to raise her own children, said the neighborhood’s well-kept 1930s- and 1940s-era houses and its hilly, tree-lined streets serve as a major draw for residents.
“You always see people walking their dogs or hanging out in their yards,” said Hanrahan. “People also like the convenience for commuting and shopping.”
Most houses are within walking distance of Northwest Branch Park and the Woodmoor Shopping Center, which includes a bakery, grocery store, bank, drugstoreand other shops.
“You can walk to Starbucks and get coffee, or walk to Santucci’s and get a sandwich, or walk to CVS and pick up your child’s prescription,” said Cari Jordan, 39, a Long & Foster real estate agent who has lived in Woodmoor since 1999. “My kids even walk to school.”
The neighborhood’s proximity to such amenities comes with the hassle of heavy traffic on University Boulevard and Colesville Road.
“It’s a double-edged sword, because we wouldn’t have many of the stores we do, like the Trader Joe’s, if it weren’t for the number of people driving through here,” Miller said. “At the same time, if you’re looking to drive to the Safeway between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m., it takes you as long to drive as it would to walk.”
Jordan said many residents cope with heavy commuter traffic by taking a Ride-On bus to the Silver Spring or Forest Glen Metro stations, or by riding their bikes to Metro, as her husband, Rob, does.
“There are a lot of families who only have one car,” Jordan said. “And I would say there are six guys on my street alone who ride their bikes to work.”
But the neighborhood itself is largely protected from traffic, as it’s surrounded by the Beltway and Northwest Branch Park.
“On two sides of the neighborhood, you have absolutely no cut-through,” says Jordan. “If you don’t live in Woodmoor, you have no reason to drive through the neighborhood, which is very unique in Silver Spring. That’s part of what makes the neighborhood feel so cohesive.”
Michele Riley, president of the Woodmoor Pinecrest Citizens Association, said the association has lobbied against proposed developments that would add more traffic, as was the case with a proposed KFC drive-through several years ago.
Residents with kids touted the neighborhood’s school cluster, which includes Pine Crest and Montgomery Knolls elementary schools; Eastern Middle School and Montgomery Blair High School. St. Bernadette Catholic School also lies within the neigborhood’s boundaries.
Residents also said they enjoy Woodmoor’s many traditions, including an annual Fourth of July parade, Oktoberfest and a holiday tree-lighting ceremony.
Miller said the festivities in December embody the spirit of the neighborhood. Residents compete against one another for the best-decorated house. The only prize is a sign on the front lawn, but bragging rights cause the winners “to leave those signs up until the middle of January,” said Miller. “If you win an award for lighting up your house, man, you’re not taking that down.”
At the tree-lighting ceremony, 500-plus residents gather at the traffic circle at Lexington and Woodmoor drives to watch the neighborhood’s 80-foot pine tree light up. The evening includes an appearance by Santa and his “elves” — a couple of dozen third-graders in the neighborhood.
“Kids eagerly anticipate being third-graders so they can participate in the ‘elf program,’ ” said Jordan, whose older daughter, Maddie, was an elf this year.
Residents also gather at more informal events. Miller said the neighborhood has a large and active home-brewing network.
“It’s just a cool, interesting group of people who live here,” Miller said. “There’s a neat range of backgrounds and professions. The thing people seem to have in common is that they put a higher value on interpersonal relationships than on making big bucks. There are a lot of people who had the opportunity to live places like Bethesda but who made the conscious choice to live here instead.”
Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.