When Galen Mook, 8, didn't arrive home at the expected time, Sarah Larson, his mother, began making calls around their Reston neighborhood.
Yes, Galen had stopped by on his bike, but he had left some time ago, both his grandmothers told her. But no, he hadn't been seen around Lake Anne Village Center, said Sue Schram, owner of the local used bookstore and Galen's great-aunt.
BOUNDARIES: 1600 block of Wainwright Drive, off North Shore Drive
SCHOOLS: Lake Anne Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle and South Lakes High schools
HOME SALES: Five single-family townhouses sold since June 2004 for $299,900 to $400,000. No houses are now for sale.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Lake Anne Village Center, Reston Town Center, Wainwright Recreation Area (baseball, soccer and basketball), North Shore swimming pool, Wainwright swimming pool, Washington and Old Dominion Trail, Hidden Creek Country Club
WITHIN 10-20 MINUTES BY CAR: Dulles International Airport, Tysons Corner, Vienna/Fairfax-GMU and West Falls Church-VT/UVA Metro stations
A neighbor, who happened to be in the bookstore and overheard Schram discussing Galen's whereabouts, provided reassuring news. She had just seen the boy with another neighbor's son tossing stones into a nearby pond.
Even though that was more than a decade ago, for Larson it still typifies what she has grown to value most about her neighborhood, Coleson Cluster.
"Everyone knows each other and everyone knows each other's kids," said Larson, whose parents moved to Reston from the Midwest in 1967, when she was in her teens. Like many of Reston's earliest residents, they embraced founder Robert E. Simon Jr.'s vision of a community where people would live, work and play.
Coleson Cluster, 47 two-, three- and four-bedroom flat-roofed, brick rowhouses, is a 10-minute walk from Reston's original "town center" on Lake Anne and the newer Reston Town Center. Set off from main thoroughfares and nestled amid towering oaks, the cluster embodies much of the small-town vision Simon had in mind when he drew up the town's master plan more than 40 years ago.
Larson, who shared that vision, bought her own three-bedroom townhouse in 1978, after graduate school, for $63,000. Fifteen years later, she and another longtime neighbor from Coleson founded the Reston Museum, dedicated to community life in Reston.
"There's a sense of community in Coleson you don't find in many places," she said.
The third of Reston's architecturally distinct neighborhoods to be built, Coleson was designed jointly by Simon and nationally recognized modernist architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith in the mid-1960s.
Simon and Woodard Smith incorporated features intended to promote interaction. To encourage people to socialize in public, for example, they de-emphasized back yards. Instead, most homes have a large front patio that bumps up against a public walkway.
In addition, Woodard Smith, who once said she liked her windows to start at the floor "because I love the feeling of looking down and out over the world," put floor-to-ceiling windows on each level of every house. Each house also has at least one set of sliding glass doors, many of which open onto the street level, allowing residents to watch neighbors pass by.
And unlike other nearby neighborhoods, Coleson homes don't have private garages. Instead, each grouping of six to 10 houses has a shared carport.
"The footprint of the buildings make it so that you run into your neighbors all of the time," Larson said. "You can't live here and be invisible. The people who live here bought into that philosophy."
Many of the cluster's longtime residents say things such as affordability and location originally drew them to Coleson. (New, Coleson homes, which range from about 1,500 to 3,500 square feet, sold for $30,000 to $40,000.)