Where We Live

All the Necessities and Extras, Too

Residents of Exeter Enjoy Yards, Easy Commutes -- and a Clubhouse

A nice yard on a cul de sac sweetened the deal for Misha Ptak, here playing with Duke. Photo by Ann Cameron Siegal
A nice yard on a cul de sac sweetened the deal for Misha Ptak, here playing with Duke. Photo by Ann Cameron Siegal (Photo By Ann Cameron Siegal - Photo By Ann Cameron Siegal)
By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, October 3, 2009

When Misha and Liz Ptak moved to Exeter from Pasadena, Md., in 1993, it was because the Loudoun County community had all of the items on their wish list. "The have-to-haves included a nice yard, good schools and an easy commuting distance to Herndon," said Misha Ptak, who works as a senior information specialist with Electronic Data Systems in Herndon.

It also offered some "nice-to-haves," including a pool, playground and other amenities.

The Ptaks found that in Exeter, a 2,200-square-foot home cost $50,000 to $60,000 less than similar homes in Fairfax County. Having the third-largest lot in the community -- about one-third of an acre on a cul-de-sac -- sweetened the deal.

"We love the character of this community," Ptak said. The 829 residences are almost evenly split between townhouses and single-family homes.

The community is within walking distance of historic Leesburg, Ida Lee Park and the Morven Equestrian Center. Shortly after moving in, the Ptaks traced the strange sounds they were hearing to a jousting tournament on nearby polo grounds.

Exeter's homeowners association doesn't organize many holiday-oriented events, simply because Leesburg has a number of longstanding traditions, including small-town-style parades and festivals. Instead, Exeter's social activities tend to be spontaneous and block-oriented.

"On Halloween, homes are decorated to the nth degree," said Sandy Grossman, a resident since 1991 and former association president. While it's expected that children will be out and about that night, adults are also out grilling in driveways, hosting casual get-togethers with neighbors. One of the biggest perks in the community is use of a colonial-style stone clubhouse. Each Exeter household gets a free hour of rental each year, with each additional hour costing $20. "It's a benefit, not a revenue source," Ptak said. Isabel Benitez, a nine-year resident, said the clubhouse was the perfect place for her daughter's recent second birthday party.

Miles of walking paths wind throughout Exeter. Easily accessible on foot, just outside the community, are a library, gym, water park and ball fields. The local elementary and secondary schools are also within walking distance, as will be Tuscarora High School, scheduled to open next fall.

However, along with the excitement, the new school brings a measure of concern. Several residents questioned how the new school would affect traffic.

Next year's juniors and seniors can choose whether to stay at Heritage High School or move to the new school. Fernando "Marty" Martinez, an Exeter resident and Leesburg town council member, advises those faced with the decision to make the jump to Tuscarora because, as the first upperclassmen, they will get to establish traditions. "You can make your mark on this school," he said.

Exeter sits on land that was part of a 1796 plantation that became one of the social centers of Leesburg by the mid-1800s. It suffered considerable damage during the Civil War battle of Balls Bluff. After the war, it was a working farm until the mid-1900s.

By the late 1970s, the plantation was placed on the National Register of Historic Places to protect it from development. After the main house burned to the ground in 1980, the owners sold the property.

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