Where We Live: Manor Lake in Maryland's Montgomery County

Manor Lake and many of its streets bear names that refer to the nearby Lake Bernard Frank.
Manor Lake and many of its streets bear names that refer to the nearby Lake Bernard Frank. (Barbara Ruben)
By Barbara Ruben
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, October 2, 2010

From Waterway Drive to Lake Terrace, most of the streets in the Montgomery County subdivision of Manor Lake refer to its aquatic neighbor, 54-acre Lake Bernard Frank.

While none of the community's 396 houses sits directly on the shore of the lake, which is owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, many of the residents take advantage of its proximity.

Al and Rae Kordell walk their corgi on the trail along the lake every day. Sometimes they're joined by one of their four grown children, all of whom grew up in Manor Lake.

The Kordells bought their Colonial shortly after it was built in 1968, just two years after the lake was created. The house was roomy enough to move both sets of their parents in as well. And the Kordells have never considered moving elsewhere.

"I love our house and our yard. We have everything we want. Why go into debt to move to a retirement community?" Rae Kordell said.

At the same time, she noted that "many older people are moving out, and Manor Lake is becoming a young neighborhood again. There are a couple people who grew up here and have moved back to start their own families."

Kordell, president of the Manor Lake Civic Association, said many people are drawn to the neighborhood, just east of Rockville, for its sense of community. An annual social helps neighbors meet one another and local merchants. A block party with a pig roast is held every fall on a couple of the streets. And there are garden, antiques, moms and gourmet clubs that meet with residents in the neighboring Flower Valley community.

In August, the neighborhood held its annual National Night Out crime-prevention event, complete with a DJ. Manor Lake began a neighborhood watch program after concerns that crime in nearby Aspen Hill might affect Manor Lake as well. But so far many of the reports in the log book read like this recent one: "Nothing to report. We love this neighborhood." One watch volunteer did find a couple who got lost at the lake and helped them find their way.

Jane Dobridge Purcell married longtime Manor Lake resident Pat Purcell last year, moving from Flower Valley. Their house began as a rambler, but her husband has added a second floor, garage and sunroom since he moved in 30 years ago.

Purcell said the biggest draw of the community is the lake, which is named after one of the founders of the environmental group the Wilderness Society -- and who also worked to preserve the area around Rock Creek.

"It is most peaceful and provides families with an opportunity to commune with nature and have a perfect retreat from the hectic life of the city," Purcell said.

But just how people have access to Lake Frank has been a contentious issue this year. In June, the Montgomery County Planning board approved a 10-foot-wide paved bike path along the lake's shore, connecting with the Rock Creek hiker-biker trail that continues through the county and into the District. While a mostly unpaved three-mile-long trail currently winds around the lake, there is little access to it.

The new trail would pass about 100 feet behind several houses in Manor Lake, and some residents worry that an influx of bicycle riders and walkers would diminish the peaceful atmosphere.

"The biking trail will bring more bike traffic where it has always been uncrowded and a perfect place for families to walk," Purcell said.

At the same time, other residents welcome an additional avenue for recreation.

"While it's controversial for some of the neighbors, a lot of bikers -- and, of course, kids -- want the trail," Kordell said.

Centuries before the lake and the Manor Lake subdivision, the area's first settlers were drawn to the area because of Rock Creek, then called Rock Spring. The first house, constructed of logs and overlooking the creek, was built in 1790 and called Lonesome Hollow.

While that house is long gone, the grandson of Lonesome Hollow's owner built a stately white Queen Anne in 1879 on the hill above the log cabin. That home and many of the original silver maple and linden trees still stand.

"My wife took one look at the house and fell in love," said owner Jeff Martin, who bought the house in 1991. "The house was in very bad shape, but I think we've brought it back to life."

Martin bought several surrounding lots, expanding the property from three acres to five. In contrast, most of Manor Lake's 1960s ramblers, split-levels and Colonials sit on lots of one-quarter to one-half acre. They cost about $40,000 when they were built and today sell for $450,000 to $650,000, according to Purcell, who is a Long & Foster agent.

"There is not a lot of turnover," she said.

Purcell counts herself among those who want to stay in the neighborhood for a long time. Her July 2009 wedding ceremony and reception were held in the terraced back yard of her Manor Lake house.

"It was a perfect spot for a second marriage," she said.

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