Not All Fancy, But Much of Historic Value

(Tracy A Woodward - The Washington Post)
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2007

The children who attended nature camp last week at the Tauxemont Preschool didn't ask why the squat cinder-block school has a new marker announcing its designation as a historic building. They were too busy planting seeds in cups of dirt, listening to stories and playing with toys.

In fact, few visitors to Tauxemont, a small sliver of a community tucked in southeastern Fairfax, are likely to suspect that it has recently been added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. There are no grand old estates where famous Virginians lived and no stately marble monuments.

But this enclave of modest cinder-block, brick, wood and aluminum homes, in a leafy section of the county just west of Dyke Marsh, has an unusual place in the history of Fairfax County.

It was founded in the 1940s by a group of families from Arlington who had outgrown apartment living. Together, they purchased supplies and land and built a new neighborhood designed to blend in with the woodsy surroundings.

Valerie Gregg, who moved to Tauxemont seven years ago, said being in the community feels far from the crowded suburban roads and strip malls that have come to define much of Northern Virginia. The community is named after a settlement of American Indians, variously known as the Doeg or Taux, who lived in the area in the early 17th century.

"It gives you a sense of being tranquil. What an honor it is to pull off and come home to this," Gregg said one recent morning as she strolled down streets shaded by a canopy of trees. "Most nights when you go out in your back yard, you can see the stars."

The community got its start when a group of people living at Buckingham Apartments on North Glebe Road in Arlington, many of them Agriculture Department employees, needed more space to raise their families, community members explain in a short history of their neighborhood. They decided to form a cooperative and work together to build new -- and affordable -- houses.

Robert Carroll Davenport, who later developed the nearby Hollin Hills community, headed the project and was president of Tauxemont Cooperative Houses. Architect Alexander Knowlton, also a member of the cooperative, designed the houses, basic single-story buildings that could easily support additions if the families grew. And he supervised construction.

After the first 20 houses were built, two more sections of about 40 homes each were developed by Davenport, one in 1942 and the other in the late 1940s.

Tauxemonters, as they call themselves, carry on that sense of community started by the founders. There is a community building, which houses the cooperative preschool established by parents in 1942. It also serves as a community meetinghouse. Tauxemont also has a small park and tennis courts.

Each Fourth of July, neighbors gather for fireworks and grilling in their park. Potluck suppers, which they like to call Dutch suppers, are regular events. People brag about who has the best compost heap. On Christmas Eve, neighbors gather for caroling and then follow up with wassail and cookies.

Tauxemont doesn't have streetlights, and backyard paths serve as sidewalks. Some of the roads are so narrow that parking is allowed on only one side so that a firetruck or ambulance could get through.

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