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The Oddity, The Ecstasy Of the Little Lost Lane

Despite new rear decks, interior updating and some additions, most of the homes are small -- one has only 450 square feet of living space. In tonier neighborhoods nearby, homes valued at more than $1 million are common, but Hawkins Lane houses have yet to inflate to such levels.

In the recent round of tax reassessments, however, the fair market value of the older houses more than doubled compared with three years earlier. One of the new houses was valued at $721,000, while a 1928 house with a large addition came in at $759,000, the highest on the lane.

HAWKINS LANE

BOUNDARIES: Hawkins Lane is a 1/3-mile long dead-end street fronting on Jones Bridge Road to the south. It is otherwise bordered by county parkland and the grounds of the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

SCHOOLS: Rosemary Hills and North Chevy Chase Elementary, Westland Middle, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

HOME SALES: The most recent house sale was for $755,000 in April; it is one of two homes made to look old but built in 1995. No houses are on the market.

WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Medical Center Metro station, Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle shops and restaurants

WITHIN 5-10 MINUTES BY CAR: North Chevy Chase Park, Downtown Bethesda, downtown Silver Spring, Chevy Chase Circle, Metro stations, National Institutes of Health, National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda Naval Hospital), Capital Beltway, Kensington's Antique Row.

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Jenkins, a former cartographer with the Defense Mapping Agency who has lived on the block since 1971, cannot fathom it. Retired and disabled, he bought his house 30 years ago for $22,000 and, now, to be told it is worth $359,350 has come as quite a shock. "It's still as ugly as it was," he said of the unimproved terra cotta block home.

Rental prices, however, range widely, from $800 for two bedrooms to $2,500 for a four-bedroom house, said Jeni Hawkes, whose rent falls at the low end. Hawkes lives in a small, 1918 house with her three children and husband, Nathan, a naval medical student at the adjoining Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, Nathan could cut through a hole in the barbed wire fence behind their house to the school, which is part of the sprawling naval hospital campus. But security concerns ended that. Now, he must drive, his wife said, two miles to attend classes next door.

While Hawkins Lane is neighborly, the Hawkins descendants at the corner on Jones Bridge say they have little contact with their neighbors.

"Some wave, some just drive by," Michele Reid said.

On the other hand, she said, real estate agents frequently stop by to see if the house might be for sale. "One said we could get over $1 million since it's a corner lot," she said. But she and her family aren't interested in selling.

Still, the reality is that, although the gravel road and the exteriors of the houses evoke its past, the human story that made the lane history is almost gone.

That distresses some residents, such as Sessions. "I wish, even though I'm Caucasian, that as the houses turn over there is a way of maintaining pride in the history of the street," she said.

But inevitably change has come to Hawkins Lane. The historic preservation office "is doing what it can to retain the simple, undeveloped quality of the area," said Wright, the county preservation official.

"It's remained remarkably intact. But it's a very desirable area," she added. "Preservation laws focus on the built environment, but they can't ever preserve the culture of the place. It's still a wonderful place, unique in the county. It's just not a black kinship community anymore."


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