Where We LIve

Capitol View Park's Bounty of Variety

By Amy Reinink
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, April 4, 2009

With grand Victorian mansions next door to quaint Cape Cods and humble ramblers, Capitol View Park offers a house for every taste.

The neighborhood, about 250 homes on a network of curvy roadways on steep hills between Forest Glen and Kensington in Montgomery County, is made up not only of an eclectic mix of architectural styles, but also of a wide variety of residents.

"In the old days, it was known as kind of a funky, country, backwoodsy kind of place," said Betsy Tebow, 61, who teaches art history at Northern Virginia Community College.

Tebow, president of the Capitol View Park Citizens Association, said she and her husband, Duncan, 63, a sculptor and assistant dean of liberal arts at the community college, were drawn to the neighborhood in 1979 by the artsy vibe and diversity of homes and neighbors, which still define Capitol View Park.

The neighborhood was developed along the B&O Railroad in the 1880s, according to Carol Ireland, president of the neighborhood's historical society. It was named for the view of the Capitol dome said to be visible then from the third story of a house on Capitol View Avenue and Stoneybrook Drive, Ireland said.

Ireland said the neighborhood's variety of historic architecture has earned all but a few pockets of Capitol View Park a historic-district designation.

"It's historically unique because it shows the progression of architectural styles, from an old farmhouse to Victorians like my house to new neo-Victorians and 1960s ramblers," said Ireland, 69, a piano teacher and former opera singer who moved to Capitol View Park in 1977.

Peggy Speaker, a real estate agent with Long & Foster, said Capitol View Park's relatively affordable prices let even first-time buyers purchase quaint one-of-a-kind homes. Six houses have sold in the past 12 months, at prices from $335,000 to $807,500, with an average price of $489,500.

"I get a lot of young couples, first- or second-time buyers, looking for homes in the neighborhood," Speaker said. "Most of them find that there are houses that really can accommodate them."

The neighborhood's mix of houses leads to a mix of residents, Tebow said. Retirees mingle with young families, and your neighbor could well be a firefighter or police officer or a Grammy winner or an artist whose work is displayed at the National Shrine, Tebow said.

Residents gather for community get-togethers as varied as Super Bowl parties and opera-watching galas, Ireland said. They also catch up at the Forest Glen Country Store Restaurant, which sits close to the neighborhood's boundary with Forest Glen.

Robin Smith and Gillian Clark, former owners of Colorado Kitchen in the District, recently opened a restaurant in the 1880s-era general store on Post Office Road.

Smith said she learned about Capitol View Park's tight-knit community when the restaurant's credit card machine went down on opening day.

"The neighborhood has [an e-mail list] . . . and people would come in with cash and say, 'We heard your credit card machine wasn't working,' " Smith said. "We got it working, and half an hour later, people started coming in and saying, 'We heard you got the machine working again.' The neighbors have been fabulous."

Rick Foucheux, 54, an actor and resident of nearby Forest Glen Park, said the restaurant and the neighborhoods around it are "a lesser-known version of Takoma Park."

He said, "It's just a unique, funky area that's resisted the urge to suburbanize aesthetically."

Green space acquired through Montgomery County's Legacy Open Space Program has helped Capitol View Park keep its woodsy feel. Tebow said the historic-district designation has also helped the neighborhood retain its roots.

"Because of the historic-district designation, there hasn't been a lot of mansionization, where houses are practically rebuilt and made twice their original size," Tebow said. "It's stayed pretty much the same visually, which is wonderful."

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