Where We Live
Cheverly, Planned in 1918 and Still Fresh
Saturday, July 7, 2007
If all you have seen of Cheverly is the evening glow cast from the art deco Pepsi-Cola sign, you may want to turn off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for a glimpse of the gentler side of life there.
From the moment you enter the town's gate on Landover Road, you're likely to see a public-works crew cutting grass, pruning or planting.
Around them, for much of the more than one square mile of the Prince George's County municipality, homes sit on steep hills with lush carpets of green.
Longtime workers Robert Herrera and Gregory Crawford were chopping grass and dirt into clouds of dust one recent morning. "I couldn't explain to you how much grass there is in this town," said Herrera, 35. "By the time we start on Monday on one part, we're back where we started a week later. It's a vicious cycle. It's very hard to make it look this good."
Added Crawford, 48: "I've been doing it six years. I like dealing with nature, looking at the buds on the trees. But it's a workout."
A few blocks away, Joseph Cunningham was doing his part to keep the town looking fresh. He raked grass clippings into a neat pile before depositing them in a nearby wheelbarrow. He stood in the front yard of the house he said he purchased in 1960 for $25,000, taking a breather in the warm sun. This house isn't far from the first one he had in the area, which he bought in 1949 for $14,000.
Cunningham, 82, a retired electrician, called Cheverly a lovely place. "They pick up the trash and when it snows, they clean the streets right away," he said.
The incorporated town of about 6,500 residents, nestled between Route 50 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, was started in 1918 by an Ohio investor and stockbroker, Robert Marshall, according to a state Web site.
His goal was to start a planned residential zone, close to the District by rail and road, while preserving as many trees as possible. He named it for nearby Cheverly Gardens. Although the source of that name remains fuzzy, there is some indication that it might have come from a place in England called Chevely.
Marshall's ambition was to assemble "Washington's ideal home suburb" on property once trod by the Anacostia Indians and then by tobacco planters and slaves. In a 1926 sales brochure, Marshall touted Cheverly as "skillfully planned for artistic homes, offering city conveniences and the finer kind of suburban life to discerning people at extremely moderate prices."
The railroad that ran through the new town prompted another one of Marshall's marketing slogans: "Ten cents and 12 minutes to downtown Washington."
Today, a ride from the Cheverly Metro station on the Orange Line takes about eight minutes to reach Capitol Hill, said resident Alfonso Painter. The 46-year-old contractor paid $340,000 for the brick Colonial with white shutters that he moved into over the winter.