Where We Live: Arlington's Parkway neighborhood, tiny and tucked away

All the homes in the Parkway neighborhood, close by I-395, are two- or three-story duplexes.
All the homes in the Parkway neighborhood, close by I-395, are two- or three-story duplexes. (Susan Straight for The Washington Post)
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By Susan Straight
Special to the Washington Post
Friday, October 29, 2010; 9:02 AM

Parkway is one of those neighborhoods you may have driven past for years, never knowing it was there. Located adjacent to I-395 along the South Glebe Road exit, the single entrance to the 48-home neighborhood could be mistaken for a side road into the Arna Valley gas station.

"I had a friend who had lived here all his life, and he didn't know this was here," said Jean Horace, who has lived in the neighborhood about 20 years. Because of its hidden location, Horace said, taxi drivers often get confused when trying to pick up residents of Parkway, which consists of just three streets whose names also occur elsewhere in Arlington: South Four Mile Run Drive, South Cleveland Street and South 27th Road.

Once past the entrance, Parkway looks like many other solidly built, red-brick Arlington neighborhoods constructed from the early 1940s to the early 1960s. The homes, all duplexes, are two or three stories, including basements. Lot sizes are about 3,300 square feet, and living space is about 1,400 square feet, said resident Elvis Bullock, who also has lived in the neighborhood for two decades.

"The properties are older, and a number have been extensively updated," said Brian Block, a lawyer and a real estate agent with RE/MAX Allegiance. The condition of the property depends greatly on the individual owners. Some homes and yards are visibly in need of maintenance, while others are very well kept, with new fences and porches. "The community doesn't have an HOA [homeowners association], so it doesn't have anyone monitoring the property. It's up to neighbors to monitor themselves and each other," Block said.

Location is one of the neighborhood's greatest benefits, according to Block. "It's easy on and off 395 and an easy commute to the Pentagon," he said. The Pentagon is 21/2 miles away.

Although there is no association (civic or homeowners) for the neighborhood, Bullock has attended meetings held by the adjacent Arlington Ridge Civic Association. There are no immediate needs for Parkway, he said, although "we've talked about speed humps" to slow traffic.

The latest improvement - made in June, according to Bullock - was the addition of 10 parking spaces. "Each family has two to three cars, and a lot of houses have no driveway," Bullock said, noting that driveways were optional when the homes were built. Many have since added them. There is also street parking.

Residents who live on South Four Mile Run Drive face the Four Mile Run stream, which stretches northwest to southeast across Arlington. The community also lies along the recently constructed section of the Four Mile Run bicycle trail that connects the Washington and Old Dominion Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail. On sunny weekend afternoons, a relatively constant stream of cyclists and runners use the trail.

"We were a little concerned about what we were going to get" when the trail opened last year, said resident Lynn Denhup, who lives one house away from the path. "But Arlington County was fantastic. They assured me they'd do nothing I wouldn't be proud of," in terms of construction and maintenance. The sides of the trail are landscaped with small shrubs and ornamental grasses. Though Denhup doesn't regularly use the trail, "I have walked down there," she said.

Resident Jean Horace, whose home is one of the closest to the trail, says she welcomed the improvements. "Before, it was nothing but trees. It's better now because they take good care of it," she said.

The bicycle trail is just the latest development Denhup has witnessed in the neighborhood, where she has lived for nearly 60 years. She and her husband bought their house in 1961, when it was brand new, for $12,000. At that time, I-395 was much smaller. "At first it was two lanes only," Denhup remembered. The road was soon widened, became a major thoroughfare and turned into a rushing highway. "And then all of a sudden, there we were," she said.

Denhup said she doesn't notice the noise from the 10 lanes of traffic moving past the concrete wall at the end of her back yard. "If it had been a problem, we would have moved," she said. "When you're in the house with the windows shut and the air conditioning on, you don't hear it."

The highway has intruded only twice, when cars jumped the guardrail and landed in her back yard, she said. But that hasn't happened since the concrete wall was built, she noted.

Denhup and her late husband owned a restaurant at the entrance to the neighborhood, next to the gas station, for 19 years. "We tried hard to employ kids from the neighborhood," Denhup said, since it helped the children and gave the restaurant a local community feel.

"Buckaroo Steakhouse was a neighborhood favorite," Horace said. "They gave my daughter her first job."

The land on which the restaurant stood was first a Safeway, Denhup recalled. Now it's Slavin & Sons Seafood. Today, residents can walk or drive just half a mile to the Giant supermarket at the strip mall on South Glebe Road, which also has a restaurant, gym, veterinary hospital, liquor store and other conveniences.

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