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Westphalia Tries to Hold Fast to a Rural Past

By Keisha Stewart
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, July 31, 2004; Page G01

When the grass is low in the field next to Westphalia's neighborhood playground, a bit more than a mile outside the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County, black Angus cattle from the Smith farm drift over to graze.

Other animals are common sights in the neighborhood, too: deer, foxes, groundhogs, quail, chipmunks, rabbits and snakes.

Westphalia is an unincorporated community in the northwestern part of Upper Marlboro in Prince George's County. Each of its subdivisions is a pocket of suburbia amid what remains of the farmland, built at different times. (Maryann Haggerty -- The Washington Post)


BOUNDARIES: Several subdivisions branch off both sides Westphalia Road, from Pennsylvania Avenue on the west to Ritchie Marlboro Road on the east.

SCHOOLS: Arrowhead Elementary, James Madison Middle and Frederick Douglass High schools

HOME SALES: In the past six months, nine homes have sold at prices from $106,000 for a two-bedroom condo to $435,900 for a four-bedroom single-family house, said Ronald Duckett of Coldwell Banker. Two condos are for sale at $120,000 and $130,000, and one single-family house at $291,999. Three properties under contract were listed at $160,900, $414,999 and $439,500.

WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Westphalia community playground and park, including basketball and tennis courts

WITHIN 10-15 MINUTES BY CAR: Capital Beltway, Show Place Arena, Bowie Town Center, Six Flags America, FedEx Field

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Residents say the area used to be rural, secluded and quiet, and in many places, it's still that way.

At the same time, Westphalia residents say they are dealing with growing crime, encroaching development and an increase in traffic, ushering in urban-type problems.

"If it looks country, it is country," Redell Dukes, president of the Westphalia Civic Association, said of his neighborhood. "With city ways."

But neighbor and friend Charles Moody predicted that the neighborhood won't look the same in 10 years. "We will be city folks," he said.

"We've got all the homes in Upper Marlboro closing in on us," said Moody, 70, a retired Air Force supervisor.

Westphalia is an unincorporated community in the northwestern part of Upper Marlboro. The main thoroughfare is Westphalia Road, a winding and sometimes narrow road that leads from Pennsylvania Avenue through industrial parks, then on to farms and the Westphalia subdivisions and sections, including Chester Grove, Westphalia Estates, Westphalia Woods -- distinct from Westphalia Woods I and II. Each subdivision is a pocket of suburbia amid what remains of the farmland, built at varying times and made up of different styles of homes.

For example, Westphalia Estates is an older subdivision of ranches and split-levels first settled by young couples in the 1960s. Residents were once so tightly knit that they bowled, played baseball and softball, congregated at Christmas to wrap gifts and sing carols, and attended parties at each other's homes.

"We didn't have to go out of the neighborhood for entertainment," said Alice Durham, a Westphalia Estates resident who moved into the community in 1963.

Carlton Crawford, 64, a retired postal inspector, moved to Westphalia Estates in 1968 after attending a birthday party for someone who lived there. He liked the rural setting.

Farmland in the shape of a "U" surrounds Westphalia Estates, allowing views of the cattle grazing. Westphalia Estates at one time had been part of the farm.

When Durham came to Westphalia Estates, many homes had not yet been built. There were no streetlights, and several homes had no running water.

Durham, 68, who had been living in the District, was uncertain about moving to such a secluded and dark area.

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