Where We Live

No Cutting Corners in Quiet Pocket

Frank and Carol Schroeder, above, bought their five-bedroom Byrd Drive home in 1968.
Frank and Carol Schroeder, above, bought their five-bedroom Byrd Drive home in 1968. (By Susan Straight For The Washington Post)

By Susan Straight
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, July 1, 2006

The street names of Fairfax Villa have a southwestern touch: San Marcos Court, San Carlos Drive, Salina Court, Alta Vista Drive. But the wide, curving streets lined by grassy yards and large leafy trees are far too green for such desert-like names.

The neighborhood of 422 houses, known to residents as the Villa, sits on 166 acres just northwest of the main George Mason University campus. It is sandwiched between the 17-acre Fairfax Villa Park to the west and Fairfax Villa Elementary School to the east, just outside the City of Fairfax. It was built in five stages from 1960 through 1965. The brick and siding houses are of three main styles: two-story ramblers, three-story split foyers and three- or four-story split levels.

While developers in other eras may have embraced urban-style street grids, Fairfax Villa seems designed to thwart outsiders who might consider cutting though the neighborhood to get from one nearby busy road to another. There are no through north-south or east-west streets. That makes for a quiet place that passersby and commuters may never notice.

"It's a cul-de-sac-like subdivision," Jim Sabatino said.

Four-year resident Bill Muras said his friends have frequently expressed surprise when visiting for the first time. "People say they didn't even know the neighborhood was here," he said.

One resident swears he couldn't even locate his house after he bought it. "I had a hard time finding my way back to it," said Herbert Milliken, who arrived in 1965, when Route 50 was two lanes. "There was nothing out here at that time."

Until recently, many people have considered this area of Fairfax "west of the North Pole," Sabatino said. "People would get nosebleeds coming out here," Sabatino said. But with home appreciation over the past seven years, "now we're considered close in."

Sabatino and his wife, Charlotte, are real estate agents who have sold a number of houses in the neighborhood. They are also longtime residents who raised seven children there. Two of the kids own their own homes there now.

Muras and his wife, Lisa, former residents of the more urbanized Clarendon neighborhood in north Arlington, like that they can still walk to the heart of Fairfax City, Home Expo Design, Food Lion, several restaurants, conveniences, a major bookstore and George Mason. Lisa Muras walks or bikes to classes at George Mason.

In addition to its campus, the university owns a large parcel of undeveloped land on the Villa's southern border. Though the school has several proposals for the land, the only one currently approved is construction of a parking lot, according to Frank Schroeder, the civic association president.

Fairfax Villa's other neighbor to the south is a newer subdivision, Cavalier Woods. This 37-lot neighborhood differs in appearance in that the homes are larger, newer and mostly brick Colonial. Cavalier Woods residents are included in the Villa's civic association.

The association maintains a regularly updated Web site that lists community events, local political activities, photos and block captains. Every household is assigned to one of 54 block captains who are in charge of about eight houses each.

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