Where We Live: Tantallon, tony but affordable living in Prince George’s County

May 30

When Judith Henry takes her daily walk through the Tantallon community, she looks with pride at the well-maintained houses that make up the kind of appealing neighborhood she and her husband were seeking more than 20 years ago.

The carefully landscaped properties and the floral displays that surround the entrance signs are just a few of the ways that show Tantallon residents care about where they live.

“You can tell that people think a lot of their community,” said Henry, who is retired from the Prince George’s County school system. She became involved in neighborhood affairs and is on the beautification committee of the Tantallon Citizens Association. “We realized how important it was to contribute to the community, to keep it safe and inviting.”


Large but affordable homes:
Today, Tantallon remains a destination community, which is how developers envisioned the neighborhood when the first houses were built 50 years ago in Fort Washington, in southern Prince George’s County. Upscale homes, many custom-built around a golf course, country club and marina, have long attracted buyers looking for amenities.

And while some houses feature Colonial styling, sweeping foyers, high ceilings and more than 5,000 square feet of living space, there are other kinds of homes in Tantallon: smaller ramblers and ranch-style houses tucked under mature trees and contemporaries that blend into the foliage. Snug lots — many around one-third of an acre — keep neighbors close.


Carter Ferrington, president of the Tantallon Citizens Association, is neither a golfer nor a boater. He was looking for a place with a tree canopy and a yard, “close to the outdoors but not so far” from his workplace in Washington. His Tantallon home, which originally belonged to a director of the Census Bureau, cost $400,000. Ferrington, an associate broker at Vogel Realty, says similar homes in Virginia cost more than $1 million.


Not cookie-cutter:
Tantallon takes its name from a Scottish castle, and plans for the original development were ambitious: two 18-hole golf courses were on the drawing board, and high-rises proposed for the Monterey Circle side of Swan Creek were never approved, according to a history provided by the citizens association. The second golf course was never built.

Originally, adjacent homes were required to look different, in contrast with many developments of the period. As a result, Tantallon “doesn’t look like a ­cookie-cutter community,” said Rosemary Weller, a longtime resident who puts out the newsletter. “The homes may have the same floor plan, but they will look different.” Covenants instituted in the 1960s are still enforced by the citizens committee in the oldest sections, Tantallon on the Potomac and Tantallon Hills. Residents need the committee’s okay for changes to their homes’ exterior, and removing trees also requires approval. The natural surroundings and landscaping keep a thriving deer population content, to the dismay of some homeowners.


Living there:
The Tantallon area is made up of subdivisions surrounding Swan Creek and the golf course. It is bordered roughly by Swan Creek Road to the north (with the exception of Tantallon North), Indian Head Highway to the east, the Potomac River and Fort Washington (the fort that gives the community its name) to the west, and Old Fort Road on the south.

Properties range from the modest to the upscale, and waterfront and golf-course views come at a premium. Real estate agent Cathy McGarrigan of Long & Foster, a longtime area resident, said that a 3,000-square-foot house in good condition would likely cost between $350,000 and $425,000. She recently sold a rambler that faces the golf course for $589,000.

In the past 12 months, 52 homes sold, with prices between $169,000 for a short sale of a three-bedroom rambler to $699,000 for a five-bedroom waterfront Colonial. Thirteen homes are currently for sale in the Tantallon on the Potomac section, from a three-level home with five bedrooms for $250,000 to a large six-bedroom house on the water for $800,000. A dozen homes are contingent sales or under contract.

The variety of properties and the relatively low inventory of homes in some neighborhoods have affected appraisals, McGarrigan said. “Since there’s not a lot of inventory, there’s not a lot of comparables,” so appraisals sometimes come in low, she said.


Things to do, near and far:
The members-only National Golf Club, formerly called the Tantallon Country Club, offers a renovated golf course and range, an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a fitness area. Boaters can launch from the Tantallon or Fort Washington marinas, and the historic fort, adjacent to Tantallon, serves as a destination for picnics and outdoor activities. Harmony Hall Regional Center offers cultural events and is home to the Tantallon Community Players, a local theater group. The Potomac Landing Community Center is adjacent to the neighborhood elementary school. Residents are active in the Tanta-Cove Garden Club, a regional group.

Tantallon has attracted government employees who work in Washington, since Route 210 provides a direct route to Interstate 295 and the District. Residents say they enjoy the restaurants and outlet stores at National Harbor, just 15 minutes north, and the state recently approved a casino site there. Downtown Washington is less than half an hour away.


Crime
: Tantallon’s neighborhood watch was reactivated two summers ago after a rash of break-ins, said Ron Weiss, who meets regularly with county police in his role with the citizens association’s safety committee. “Relatively speaking, we have a low crime rate, so when something does happen, it sticks out like a sore thumb,” he said. The association uses an e-mail list to alert residents.


Transit:
Metrobus serves the Tantallon area and the Route 210 corridor. The Maryland Transit Administration runs buses to the District that stop at the Accokeek Park and Ride.


Schools:
Potomac Landing Elementary School, Accokeek Academy and Friendly High School.

Jim Brocker is a freelance writer.

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