Karen Miller's parents moved to Stratford Landing in southern Fairfax County in 1968. When her time came to buy a house in 1995, she told her husband, "It will be Stratford Landing or nothing."
Miller, a local kindergarten soccer coach and mother of three, said there have been few changes in the community since her childhood. "A lot of faces are the same, the pool is the same. There's a sense of community I haven't seen anywhere else."
Barry Cordone, a psychologist at Hayfield High School, relaxes after a long day by savoring his view of Little Hunting Creek at Stratford Landing. "It's beyond beautiful," he says.
(Ann Cameron Siegal For The Washington Post)
BOUNDARIES: Little Hunting Creek to the west; the creek and Brewster Drive to the north; Stockton Parkway, Creek Drive and Camden Street to the south; and Riverside Road, Elkin Street and Wittington Boulevard to the east.
SCHOOLS: Stratford Landing Elementary, Fort Hunt Elementary, Carl Sandburg Middle and West Potomac High schools.
HOME SALES: 26 homes sold in the past 12 months at $340,000 to $619,000, said Pat Grant of Long & Foster and Linda Sweeney of Weichert Realtors. Six houses are on the market, at $415,000 to $669,000.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Pool, tennis courts, community park, playground, two elementary schools, Little Hunting Creek, Mount Vernon bike trail.
WITHIN 10 MINUTES BY CAR: Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon Hospital, Fort Belvoir, Fort Hunt Park, Woodlawn Stables, Mount Vernon Country Club, Route 1, Hollin Hall Shopping Center, Sherwood Hall Library.
Within two blocks of their split-foyer home, bought in 1966, William and Murice Kincannon can point to six houses where residents' children have returned to raise their own families. The Kincannons are particularly sensitive to the homing phenomenon in the neighborhood because two of their grown children have also returned.
Keary Kincannon, a 1967 graduate of the old Fort Hunt High School (now Sandburg Middle School), didn't like the neighborhood's aesthetics when he lived there as a teenager.
"It looked like tract housing -- the trees were so small," he said. The primarily brick houses were originally four basic styles, including contemporary split foyers and Cape Cods.
Keary, now the minister of Rising Hope United Methodist Mission, said tasteful remodeling of many homes over the decades has changed the look of Stratford Landing. "The houses have their own personalities now, and the trees have matured," he said. A maple in his parents' front yard -- a mere sapling when he was in school -- is now 70 feet tall.
Kirk Kincannon, who works for the Alexandria Recreation Department, was in the fourth grade when his family moved to Stratford Landing. Remembering a community alive with children, he now watches his children play night tag and join in pickup ball games just as he did in the 1960s. "The community is more diverse now -- representative of the international flavor that makes up the county," he said.
"This community draws its children back in," Murice Kincannon said. "There's a feeling of being related to each other, even if you're not."
Rick Edgerton, president of the neighborhood association, said the average resident has lived in Stratford Landing for 17 years. A third of the residents have called the neighborhood home for more than 22 years.
Much of the neighborhood's attraction has to do with its location -- removed but not remote. Just north of Mount Vernon and only 10 minutes from Route 1, residents can watch the wildlife living along Little Hunting Creek. Once a beaver came up silently behind a resident who was fishing, gave the water a loud whack with its tail and sent the surprised fisherman leaping into the air.
The creek's shoreline is privately owned. The only public entry to Little Hunting Creek is by way of the Potomac River, although residents who have waterfront property often share their water access with landlocked neighbors.
Barry Cordone, a psychologist at Hayfield High School, has shared his dock with his backyard neighbor Ken Howard for 14 years. Between the two of them, they have probably taught more than 50 neighborhood children catch-and-release fishing.
Howard, a retired federal employee who often fished before heading off to work in the mornings, said, "We told them, 'Help clean up the area and we'll take you fishing.' They kept coming!" While it's a challenge to navigate around mudflats and aquatic plants, the creek abounds in bass and crayfish.
Little Hunting Creek has required some clever actions to keep it navigable over the years. When the channel, only about seven feet deep at best, began filling in with silt, Jay Spiegel, who runs his law practice out of his large brick waterside Colonial, invited an Army landing craft from Fort Belvoir to use the creek for training. "They practiced their skills and helped the community," he said.