Correction: An earlier version of this article contained several errors. The article said the community has no sidewalks or fences. In fact, there are a few fences and some sidewalks. There are 32 acres of wooded parkland, not 23 acres. The house and garden tour was in April 2012, not last April. The community was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in late September; the application is no longer pending. And there is no Best Buy in the Belle View Shopping Center as was reported.
A deer sprinted across the footpath and disappeared in the shrubs as a solitary stroller approached one morning. This was a typical scene in Hollin Hills, a quiet, woodsy neighborhood south of Old Town Alexandria that resembles a summer community more than a close-in suburb.
There are very few fences between properties, so wildlife roams freely. “A herd of deer, including two bucks with huge antlers, wander among the houses all the time,” said Lee Braun, a real estate agent active in the community. “Everyone thinks of them as personal pets.”
The small community, built from the late 1940s to the early 1970s by developer Robert Davenport and architect Charles Goodman, came to prominence nearly as soon as it began to take shape. “No one else wanted this farmland, because it was hilly and required too much grading,” said Michael McGill, a resident since 2008 and chairman of the Design Review Committee.
But Davenport relished the landscape and told Goodman to keep as many trees as possible. Today there are 32 acres of wooded parkland maintained by the Hollin Hills Civic Association and an army of volunteers.
The mid-century modern houses remain inspiring decades later. “The house styles integrate the outside and inside in a natural way,” said Tania Ryan, a 20-year resident who co-chaired the neighborhood house and garden tour, held in April 2012.
Each house was oriented individually into the hillside and toward the sunshine to provide privacy and vistas in all directions. As a result, they blend harmoniously with the landscape.
The community was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register in June and to the National Register of Historic Places in September.
California-looking houses: The review panel, made up of residents, meets monthly to scrutinize proposals for construction and modification to house exteriors.
“All additions or changes must follow the spirit, intent and harmony of the original design concept,” said McGill, “to ensure that there won’t be changes to the feel of the community.”
“For example, you can’t buy a house, tear it down and build a Colonial,” said Steve Kistler, a resident since 2005.
“The houses are stunning in their simplicity and refinement and form a single cohesive mid-century modern neighborhood,” McGill said. “That’s what we want to keep.”
Hana Hirschfeld moved into a new one-level house in the neighborhood in 1963. She had three kids, and “when we first came here, I saw a tricycle abandoned in the middle of the road and thought this is a good place to raise children.”
They added a couple of rooms but eventually wanted more space and bought a bigger house on the last available lot in 1971. Now 81, she recently sold her house to Kistler and his wife, who have two children and have been living in a small Hollin Hills one-story.
Braun said the community features an even distribution of age groups but “I get many urban couples who live in the city and want to move to the suburbs yet don’t want the same house their parents had. They want the cool suburbs and Hollin Hills with its California-looking glass houses is it.”
Living there: Hollin Hills is in Fairfax County, south of Alexandria and about a mile west of the Potomac River. It includes about 450 households spread over parts of Zip codes 22306 and 22307. It is roughly bordered by Paul Spring Road to the north, Fort Hunt Road to the east, points north of Sherwood Hall Lane to the south, and Rebecca Drive and Elba Road to the west.
All the homes are single-family detached houses. According to Braun, the realty agent with the Poole/Braun Team of Long & Foster’s Alexandria office, five properties are currently for sale. They range from $624,900 for four bedrooms and two bathrooms to $869,900 for four bedrooms and four baths. Four properties are under contract, ranging from $619,000 for four bedrooms and two baths to $785,000 with five bedrooms and three baths. Between Oct. 3, 2012, and Oct. 3, 2013, 35 houses sold, ranging from $520,000 for a three-bedroom, two-baths to $955,000 for a five-bedroom, three-bath.
Hollin Hills sits between a small shopping corridor with a Safeway supermarket, a hardware store and a pharmacy and the bigger Belle View Shopping Center with another Safeway and other retail outlets. A Costco and a Wal-Mart are less than 10 minutes away. Tysons Corner is a 35-to-40-minute drive, and Reagan National Airport is 15 minutes away.
Schools: In Zip code 22306, students attend Hollin Meadows, Hybla Valley and Groveton elementary schools; Whitman Middle; and Mount Vernon High. In 22307, the schools are Belle View and Bucknell elementary, Carl Sandburg Middle, and West Potomac High.
Crime: There is little crime in the neighborhood, said Fairfax County police spokeswoman Lucy H. Caldwell. Since the start of 2012, there has been one assault, one motor vehicle theft, nine other thefts, two burglaries and one drug offense.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.