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Foxhall Village: European Hideaway in D.C.

By Dana Hull
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 20, 1996; Page E01

Foxhall Village feels more like a small European town than a Washington neighborhood.

Many residents consider Foxhall, hidden away from the bustle of nearby Georgetown, a well-kept secret. Walking along its manicured streets and admiring the numerous gardens, as well as the Tudor homes, one can easily understand why the community's residents speak of its quiet and relative isolation as the main benefits of living there. The lack of substantial through streets keeps Foxhall Village off the beaten path, and many people pass by the neighborhood numerous times without ever setting foot inside it.

The neighborhood is tucked between Foxhall and Reservoir roads and 44th Street NW, next to Glover Archbold Park. Groups of abutting Tudor homes are the hallmark of the upper-middle-class neighborhood.

"I think it's one of the best-kept secrets in Washington," said Jane Lorentz, who moved into her home on 44th Street in 1987. "We can walk to Georgetown to do all of our shopping."

The neighborhood's residents have painstakingly traced its development, and the Foxhall community association published a short history of the area on its 50th anniversary in 1979. The Foxhall name was derived from an early resident of the area. An English gentleman named Henry Foxall, a friend of Thomas Jefferson's, built a cannon factory in 1799 at what is now Glover Archbold Park. He also had a sprawling home called Spring Hill Farm at what is now 44th and P streets. Foxall died in 1824, and over the years an "h" was added to the spelling of the name.

The residential community was built later, in the 1920s, by Washingtonian Harry Boss. After visiting the English town of Bath, he returned to Washington determined to replicate the stucco Tu\dor-style houses he had admired on his travels.

With the help of his construction firm, Boss and Phelps, the first homes were built along Greenwich Parkway and Reservoir Road. By 1927, nearly 150 homes had been finished, and the little community was named Foxhall Village. Today there are about 300 homes in the neighborhood.

At the time, Boss and Phelps described the first homes as "situated on a high, gently rolling tract of land, desirably removed from the noise and bustle of the City Proper -- yet within three miles of Washington's main business districts."

Today the neighborhood is just a short walk down either P Street or Volta Place to the shops along Georgetown's Wisconsin Avenue. During last winter's heavy snowstorms, many Foxhall residents made the trip by foot to Georgetown to stock up on supplies.

The Foxhall Village Citizens Association, still a strong community group, first met in 1928. The organization was instrumental in stopping plans in the late 1960s to construct a bridge across the Potomac River at the Three Sisters islands. The bridge would have connected Interstate 66 with the city, and the freeway would have emptied into Foxhall Village.

The association now concerns itself with issues facing other Ward 2 communities: rats in the alleys, a recent string of burglaries at MacArthur Boulevard homes and too few parking spaces.

"During the week parking can be difficult," Lorentz said. That's partly because many employees of nearby Georgetown University Hospital park in the neighborhood, something Foxhall residents are attempting to change. And the organization has kept an eye on the number of houses filled with students in the neighborhood as well.

Noise from aircraft making their descent or liftoff from National Airport is usually at the top of the list of prospective homeowners' concerns.

"At first I really noticed it," Lorentz said. "But the houses are so solidly built that when you are inside you can hardly hear it."

Though the houses in Foxhall Village look very similar, no two are exactly alike. Some are two stories tall, some three. Some have marble fireplaces, and some don't have fireplaces at all. Most of the houses have screened-in back porches. Fluted molding gives a little something extra to each home. And certain features are a trademark of the neighborhood: leaded-style windows, curved chimney pots, stone globes on the pediments and stone crests, called medallions, affixed to the brick facades.

"The houses have a charm and a grace that we didn't find anywhere else," said Daphne Ross, who moved to Washington from Boston in 1963. "We looked at Burleith and Glover Park, but really fell in love with Foxhall."

Sarah Gorman, a real estate agent who lived in Foxhall Village for 20 years and specializes in the neighborhood, said: "It was quiet last winter, but starting in February I've had half a dozen listings that have sold. Everyone I sold to this spring was in their thirties to forties, professionals."

Foxhall Village homes range in price from $200,000 to $400,000, but residents said that costs are comparable to, if not cheaper than, those in nearby Burleith and Wesley Heights.

"The houses are somewhat comparable in price to AU Park. Wesley Heights is much more expensive," Gorman said. "Because the houses in Foxhall Village are not detached, that helps to keep the prices down."

Gorman added, "You get a lot more house for the money. It's a quiet, very caring neighborhood, and the architecture is extremely interesting."

William O'Donnell Donahue, a real estate agent who has lived in Foxhall Village since 1965, also has a lot of praise for the neighborhood.

"It's a wonderfully safe neighborhood with a mixture of young students and middle-aged and retired people," he said. "It's also fantastically friendly, and everyone seems to know each other."

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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