The family focus endures in Montgomery's Sherwood Forest

Real estate locator map of Sherwood Forest in Montgomery County.
Gene Thorp/The Washington Post
By Jim Brocker
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 22, 2011; 12:38 AM

The Victorian house in the center of Montgomery County's Sherwood Forest neighborhood has overlooked the surrounding land for more than 200 years. Back in those early days, it lay just off the Glenmont-Colesville Road in the midst of Westover Farm, where crops such as corn and oats grew on nearly 300 acres.

Now, the house is encircled by Colonials, split-levels, ramblers and an elementary school. Families arrived more than 50 years ago, after the farm was sold in pieces to developers. But Richard Curtis, whose family owned the land, kept 10 acres, including the house at the center of the property, and moved there to raise his own family in the late 1950s.

Curtis, a former Navy pilot, still lives in the house at age 92 and has watched a community grow where those rolling farm fields once were. His children grew up in Sherwood Forest, and the neighborhood remains family-friendly.

The Robin Hood Swim Club, the focal point of the community throughout the summer, sits on a portion of Curtis's original 10 acres. He leased the land to the neighborhood's community association years ago and guaranteed a loan that eventually enabled the membership to build the swimming pool and purchase the land and the surrounding grounds.

Curtis called it a "natural chain of events."

"I had four children," he said. "They had friends that needed a place to swim. [The association leaders] were looking for a spot to build a pool. I suggested this one and helped them with it. . . . I think the pool has been a nice feature in bringing the community together."

That pool has now served generations of Sherwood Forest families. Carolyn Bauer's parents helped get the swim club started, and she spent her childhood summers at poolside, competing with her friends on the Robin Hood swim team. Now Bauer, 46, has moved back to Sherwood Forest, and her three children, ages 16, 13 and 9, are enjoying summers at Robin Hood. "It's a huge deal in the neighborhood," said Bauer, who is on the pool's board of directors. The swim club has a picnic area; features volleyball, tennis and basketball; and sponsors a Fourth of July parade.

Bauer's community connections helped find her family's current home, which was purchased from a woman whose son she knew from the swim team. "She said, 'I can only sell my house to someone I know,' " Bauer recalled.

Bauer has lived in her Sherwood Forest split-level for 11 years and says the neighborhood is perfect for families. "You have [Westover] elementary school you can walk to, a pool you can walk to. . . . That's what makes this neighborhood different from another one." Bauer's parents still live nearby, and three of her neighbors are original homeowners.

Dave Michaels, 59, moved to Sherwood Forest with his parents in his early teens. I thought I died and went to heaven," he said. "Anything any teenager could want was here." Michaels soon met a group of friends in the neighborhood who attended local schools together. He remembers the arrival of the McDonald's at New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Road as a big event for young people in the late 1960s.

The neighborhood has transitioned from those original families, and a new generation is beginning to move in. "I welcome the changes," Michaels said. "It's a natural thing, keeps things dynamic," noting that the county's work to upgrade Westover Elementary School has added to the neighborhood's value.

Long & Foster agent Dave Savercool and his wife, Susan, moved to the area about 15 years ago from another Silver Spring neighborhood, seeking a bigger house for their three children. Many families come to Sherwood Forest seeking more space, Dave Savercool said. "There's a fair share of government workers, university types," he said, and in the past five or six years, workers from the nearby Food and Drug Administration have discovered the neighborhood.

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