Where We Live

A Divine Landscape, Revered by Residents

By Marianne Kyriakos
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, December 9, 2006

Cloverly owes much of its spacious and quiet character to a speckled brown fish.

In 1929, avid anglers dumped buckets of imported German trout into rocky Paint Branch stream, stocking the clear waters that flow to the Anacostia River.

Paint Branch today is the most pristine stream in the entire Anacostia River Basin, according to conservation groups, and the only creek in Montgomery County where the fish spawn naturally.

Along the stream's shaded banks is the large "town" of Cloverly, home to about 9,000 people. To protect the Paint Branch watershed, the Cloverly master plan designated much of the community a "special protection area," ensuring low-density zoning (one house per two acres), additional parkland and limits on development.

There are no multifamily condominiums or apartment buildings within Cloverly's boundaries, according to Paula Nerret, a resident and real estate agent with Weichert. "There are some very small pockets of townhomes that are a part of the communities near Cape May Road," she said. "The rest is all single-family. It ranges from modest Cape Cods and small little ramblers up to, literally, mansions that sell for well above $1 million."

Gently sloping, wooded and sprawling lawns make Cloverly seem farther from the District than it is, 14 miles out New Hampshire Avenue.

"What makes us unique is the wide-open space and the type of people who like the wide-open space," said Mary Hemingway, vice president of the Cloverly Civic Association. "You've got to be willing to take care of the land," she said, "or pay someone to do it. More expensive equipment is involved, and you have to love yardwork."

Mary and Jacob Hemingway paid $25,000 in 1967 for a three-bedroom split level on Snider Lane. She loves the challenge of maintaining the two acres surrounding her home: "I even have my 18-horsepower tractor, but Sears calls it a riding mower."

The semirural nature of the area convinced Nerret and her husband, Art, to move to Cloverly in 1983, when they paid $160,000 for a 3,000-square-foot Colonial on two acres. "It would probably go on the market for $850,000 now," Paula Nerret said. "The land is what's really valuable. These lots originally sold for between $39,000 and $55,000 in the early 1980s, and now land in this area has gone in the $600,000s for a two- to-three-acre lot."

A building boom of worship centers spawned by large-lot zoning has livened up the architectural landscape of Cloverly.

The shiny minaret of Bait-ur-Rahman Mosque looks toward golden onion domes atop St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral. Immanuel's, a nondenominational mega-church, draws thousands of worshipers. An architecturally authentic Cambodian Buddhist temple is said to be the largest outside Cambodia. Traditional dragon tails adorn it, and three pillars grace a gabled roof.

"And then there's something on Norwood Road called Chinmaya Mission," which is a Hindu spiritual organization, Nerret said.

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