In Williamsburg Commons, living in the past is a present

Cheryl A. Kenny/CHERYL A. KENNY - The park-like Commons offers brick walkways, benches and shady spots to relax.

Residing in Vienna’s Williamsburg Commons, neighbors there say, is a bit like living in a museum.

From the cobblestone-look road circling the community to the period shutters and molding on the houses and even the variety of plants in the yards, Williamsburg Commons was designed in the 1990s to simulate an 18th-century Colonial village.

(The Washington Post)

“The builder, David Talton, wanted a community that, while not an exact replica of Colonial Williamsburg, was definitely inspired by it,” said Dick Eagan, 65, an organizational management consultant.

That prospect excited Eagan and his wife, Cheryl, as they sought a new home in the mid-1990s. After studying the restored homes of Colonial Williamsburg, they asked Talton to build them one like Williamsburg’s Taliaferro-Cole House. “We followed all the exterior details of the original, including having one chimney stack on the inside and the other on the outside, and using the same shutters and dentil molding,” Eagan said.

Talton, whom Eagan termed “an artist when it came to construction,” had his own home and a wood mill on site at the development. He crafted the shutters, moldings and other wood features of his homes. “My fence looks just like the one at the Taliaferro house; [Talton] and I even made sure my fence pegs matched the Williamsburg original,” Eagan said. “We wanted things to be authentic. I used to tease him about having sheep and a common woodpile.”

Camouflaging cars: The nearly 10-acre community of 38 homes maintains the facade of Colonial times with a one-way road — made of aggregate material to mimic gravel and cobblestone — that circles its perimeter. That design ensures cars are parked behind the homes, screened by landscaping or garages that resemble carriage houses. Home fronts face “the Commons,” a parklike green space with brick walkways, gaslight-style lamps, mature trees (some remnants from the property’s past as a nursery) and wooden benches.

The fronts of some homes have “private residence” plaques similar to those used in Colonial Williamsburg. “When [Talton] was first building the homes, sometimes members of the public would come in [to the neighborhood] and walk into the houses,” Eagan said. “I guess they thought it was a museum, like Colonial Williamsburg.”

While home exteriors re-create the 18th century, interiors vary. “We caught the Colonial Williamsburg spirit and did Colonial style inside, too,” said Eagan. “It’s not the norm here, but we’ve sure had fun doing it.” Colonial features in Eagan’s home include seven fireplaces, even one in the kitchen, “because in Williamsburg, every room had a fireplace.”

Maintaining authenticity: Talton built the first dozen of the community’s zero-lot-line homes during the 1990s. Then Craftmark Homes took over to build 21 more. “That’s when the vision changed somewhat from older, Colonial Williamsburg to more “Williamsburg-esque” — bigger, more modern homes with a broader appeal,” Eagan said. The final five homes in the gated community were built by New Century Homes. Houses in Williamsburg Commons run from about 2,400 to 4,800 square feet.

The homeowners association’s covenants committee ensures that exteriors look authentic. Restrictions range from paint colors and fence styles to the plants residents choose for their private gardens. “We’re flexible on materials used . . . but visually the homes should look authentic to Williamsburg,” said Eagan, the HOA president.

Meeting places: “This is a unique community; you have to want to live close to your neighbors,” said Peg Howell, 69, HOA vice president and a retired commercial real estate professional. Howell, who lives in a 2006 Craftmark home designed to look like Williamsburg’s Blue Bell Tavern, said residents often gather on the Commons. Resident children (about 12) play soccer or ride bikes there, and adults sometimes converge for impromptu cocktail hours. The community pool is also popular.

Outside the community, neighbors often see one another at the Vienna Whole Foods, the Oak Marr farmers market or Nottoway Park, which is a short walk away. “We often walk to Nottoway Park for tennis, and they have great trails there,” Howell noted.

Living there: The boundaries are Courthouse Road to the north, Oleander Ave­nue to the south, Edgelea Road to the east and Sutton Road to the west. Within the gates, Palace Green Way circles the community’s perimeter.

Between May 2012 and May 2013 , three single-family homes were sold, at prices ranging from $1.13 million to $1.3 million, according to Gini Wood of Long & Foster Realtors. Currently, two homes are for sale, at $998,500 and $1.15 million. Quarterly HOA dues are $870.

Schools: Mosby Woods Elementary, Luther Jackson Middle and Oakton High.

Shopping: Residents can walk to stores in Oakton and to some areas along Maple Avenue in Vienna. The Tysons Corner shopping malls are about a five-minute drive away.

Transit: The Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro station is within walking distance. The Fairfax County Connector offers nearby bus service. Major roads near the neighborhood include Interstates 66 and 495, Dulles Toll Road, and Routes 123 and 7.

Cheryl A. Kenny is a freelance writer.

 
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