McLean Hamlet: In Tyson’s shadow, the Bard lives on

Cheryl A. Kenny/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST - Mary Olsen and her large family moved to this home on Capulet Court less than a year ago and were welcomed with a block party. “In 23 years we’ve lived in 12 different houses,” she said. “We’ve never had a welcome like we did here.”

Joan Holmer says she was excited to move to McLean Hamlet in 1976. The Georgetown University professor of Shakespearean literature got not only a family-friendly community with top schools and wide, tree-lined streets, but also an address that was apropos.

“The streets in McLean Hamlet have Shakespearean names,” said Holmer, who raised two children in the neighborhood and is now retired from academia. “My students just about died when I told them that I live on Falstaff Court.”

(Gene Thorp/The Washington Post)

The Hamlet, as residents call it, includes within its Fairfax County boundaries 515 well-tended homes of varying styles, a swim and tennis club, two parks, and Spring Hill Elementary School. The neighborhood is close to major transportation arteries — the Dulles Toll Road forms one boundary, and the Capital Beltway forms another. It also is within a mile of the soon-to-be-completed Tysons West station on Metro’s Silver Line, offering convenient commutes to Bethesda, Washington and Northern Virginia suburbs.

The Hamlet’s McLean address attracted lawyer Paul Rodgers and his wife, Barbara, in 1966. “We considered McLean a prestigious place to live,” said Paul Rodgers, who moved in before the Tysons Corner shopping centers were built. “It also offered a good commute into Washington.”

Rodgers, one of the Hamlet’s original owners, spent nine months researching and drafting the community’s history, which was published last year in a McLean Hamlet Community ­Association newsletter. Rodgers learned that the neighborhood began in 1964, when developers bought 205 acres of dairy farmland and 10 builders, each using a different architect, constructed homes in styles ranging from Colonial to ranch. Rodgers’s history includes both factual tidbits (builders planted more than 3,500 trees throughout the neighborhood) and stories, including one about “a retired Navy pilot, who built a full-size airplane in the garage of his home . . . completed it in 1966 or 1967, and flew it from the Hamlet, using Falstaff Road as his runway!”

Rodgers, who lives on Portia Place (Portia is the heroine of “The Merchant of Venice”), also published a newsletter article on the origin of the Shakespeare-
related monikers given to 23 Hamlet streets. Only the newest road is not named for the Bard’s work.

Nate King grew up in the Hamlet and now lives on Oberon Way (Oberon is the fairy king in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”), a street he used to sled down as a boy. King, who works in IT security, moved back to the Hamlet in 2005 to raise his young sons. “People here have similar priorities about kids and kids’ activities,” he said. “They’re very involved parents.”

“The kids can bike or walk to Spring Hill Elementary and to the Springhill Rec Center,” added King’s wife, Denys. “And, our church is nearby. We don’t have to spend so much time on the road.”

Mary Olsen, a retired nurse, moved to Capulet Court (Capulet, of course, is Juliet’s family name in “Romeo and Juliet”) in 2012 with her husband, Cliff, and their four children, including 9-year-old twins. “It’s Shangri-La for 9-year-old boys,” she said. “There are lots of kids, and they all go to the swim club.” The Hamlet Swim and Tennis Club, adjacent to McLean Hamlet Park, is a community hub in the summer.

“In 23 years we’ve lived in 12 different houses,” said Olsen, whose husband is retired from the military. “We’ve never had a welcome like we did here. They threw a block party with a big cake.”

Olsen said becoming part of the community was also easy; she joined a bunco club after meeting neighbors walking their dogs. “People here are friendly, kind and educated,” she said.

The community has an international flair, as evidenced by colorful embassy flags flying from some of the homes. “Foreign embassies love McLean Hamlet,” said real estate agent Tom Reilly, a 24-year resident of Agin Court (the French village of Agincourt was referenced in “Henry V”). “Several have rented the same home here for many years and rotated their staff through the homes.”

John and Ellen Canova, who moved to Falstaff Road in 1977 (Falstaff is a recurring character in “Henry IV” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor”), said the Argentine Embassy owns the home on one side of them, and an Indian family — for whom they were preparing a “welcome” dish of cookies — had recently moved in two doors down.

“There are also a lot of Asians drawn here by the Korean church on Lewinsville Road,” said John Canova, who is retired from publishing. “If you want your kids to grow up in a real-world community, you can’t beat this.”

The Hamlet has an architectural review board and a community association with more than 77 percent of residents as members. The association president, Alan Holmer, Joan’s husband, said community concerns often focus on noise and traffic stemming from expansion of the Tysons Corner and Dulles corridors. Adding sound barriers along the recent extension of the Beltway and reducing noise from helicopters are among recent issues tackled by the association. But some residents are circumspect. “We live in exurbia,” Canova pointed out. “There will be helicopters.”

The association also spearheads social activities such as an annual picnic, a Thanksgiving “turkey trot” and an annual yard sale. One of the neighborhood’s most popular traditions, the Christmas Eve “Festival of Lights” display of thousands of luminaria candles, is sponsored by the Hamlet Garden Club and has been going on since 1967. “People drive from all over to see the luminaries,” said Barbara Rodgers. “Almost everyone here takes part.”

Many residents also participate in the community’s e-mail communications system, HamNet. “Some of our elderly residents trying to age in place have used the HamNet to ask neighbors to drive them to medical appointments, and teens use it to look for summer jobs,” said the association vice president, Lynn Hall, a preschool teacher who lives on Falstaff Road. “It’s all part of what makes us a community.”

Cheryl A. Kenny is a freelance writer.

ZIP CODE: 22102

BOUNDARIES: Lewinsville Road to the north, the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) to the east, the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) to the south and Spring Hill Road to the west.

SCHOOLS: Spring Hill Elementary, Cooper Middle and Langley High.

HOME SALES: Between January 2012 and February 2013, 26 homes sold, at prices ranging from $748,000 to $1.195 million, according to Tom Reilly with the Belt Team of Keller Williams Realty. One home is currently for sale, for $1.069 million. One home, listed for $824,900, is under contract.

WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: McLean Hamlet and Falstaff parks, Spring Hill Elementary School, Spring Hill Recreation Center, a Harris Teeter supermarket. The Tysons Galleria shopping center is one mile away.

WITHIN 10 MINUTES BY CAR: Tysons Corner, McLean, Vienna, Falls Church, Reston Town Center, Wolf Trap Farm Park, Great Falls National Park, the C&O Canal, Interstates 495 and 66, the Dulles Toll Road, CIA headquarters, Gannett/USA Today.

TRANSIT: The 24T Metrobus line runs along Lewinsville Road between McLean Hamlet and the East Falls Church Metro station. The Tysons West station on the new Silver Line is being built about a mile from the neighborhood.

 
Read what others are saying