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Developer's Fresh Ideas Gave Homes Stylish Look

By Janet Lubman Rathner
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page G01

Ken Freeman, a New York clothing designer turned Maryland real estate developer, was seeking a new creative outlet when he built Montgomery County's Bradley Park neighborhood.

Bradley Park, about three miles northwest of downtown Bethesda, is a wooded neighborhood of about 115 contemporary homes built in the early 1960s. The abundance of glass, high ceilings, flagstone foyers and shoji screens made these bi-level, split-level and split-foyer houses atypical of suburban Washington neighborhoods, where center-hall Colonials were the rule.


Kristen Truitt holds Bailey Galt as she talks with neighbors Kim Foley, right, and Carol Moore on Moore's front steps. Moore found the contemporary-style house with a garage she had been looking for in Bradley Park. (Photos Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

BRADLEY PARK

BOUNDARIES: Thoreau Drive to the south, Howell Road to the north, Burning Tree Road to the west, and Whittier Boulevard to the east.

SCHOOLS: Burning Tree Elementary, Thomas W. Pyle Middle and Walt Whitman High schools.

HOMES SALES: In the past 12 months, three houses have sold at prices from $649,000 to $800,000, said Gretchen Koitz, an agent with Long and Foster Realty's Bethesda Gateway office. No houses are on the market and no houses under contract.

WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Burning Tree Elementary School, Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, Ride-On bus.

WITHIN 10-15 MINUTES BY CAR: Downtown Bethesda, Suburban Hospital, Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery, Cabin John Regional Park.

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Freeman, who died in 2001 at age 88, designed the houses himself, in the mid-century style called California Contemporary.

His children say the dwellings reflect a man who was not bound by convention. Freeman was 50, married and a father of three when he changed professions and moved to Montgomery County. He briefly joined his brother, Carl, in the building business before striking out on his own constructing houses around the region.

"He was nontraditional. He didn't like the brick Colonials in Washington. He said they all looked the same. He said they were boring, very closed-in, old ideas. He just liked houses being different . . . clean lines, simple and tailored. It was like a religion to him," said Ken Freeman's daughter, Judith O'Callaghan.

It was Bradley Park's contemporary flair that led Atlasse Sloop and her family to be among the subdivision's first buyers.

The Sloops, who moved from a Colonial in Ohio, bought their bi-level, the Elmford model, in 1961. They paid $37,100 for a house that came with three bedrooms, a study and two bathrooms. For an additional $147.50, the Sloops added a third bathroom on the lower level and a screened porch.

"The Realtors were insisting on showing us Colonials; that's what they felt we had to have, but the minute we saw this, we decided it was for us," said Sloop, 87. "It had more light and it was more open."

Sloop's house sits at the head of a cul-de-sac on a wooded, hilly half-acre lot that still bears evidence of Montgomery County's gold mining days of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

"The mine's entrance was here at the top of the circle. If you go down and dig, you run into loose rock. They said it was the tailings of the mine that spilled out," Sloop said.

From a wall of windows off her L-shaped living room-dining room, Sloop continues to enjoy the view -- she sees foxes and deer -- and the location that attracted her 44 years ago.

"I like the feeling of not being in the city, but it is convenient to shopping, doctors and hospitals, and I'm near my two daughters. What more could I want? I love it," Sloop said. "I shudder to think when I can no longer stay here."

Bradley Park was an early Ken Freeman project and one of his largest.

The developer's son, Howard, recalled that as a high school student, he selected the flagstone for the foyers of the Bradley Park houses. Howard Freeman said the residences were unusual for the area and were in demand.


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