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Veirs Mill Village:
Room to Grow

By Marianne Kyriakos
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 24, 1993

Tony and Dorothy Pasqual never have been afraid of growth.

In 1958, they and their four children lived in a two-bedroom house in Veirs Mill Village. In a few years, the family had grown to include 11 children. The house, too, grew—to six bedrooms.

Today, the family continues to grow: There are 13 grandchildren, with another on the way, and the kids are scattered from here to Hawaii. But the Pasquals have never outgrown the ties that bind—to home, church and community—in the 45-year-old neighborhood between Rockville and Wheaton in Montgomery County.

Veirs Mill Village was named for Samuel C. Veirs's 1838 grist mill, according to Roger Brooke Farquhar's 1952 book, "Historic Montgomery County, Maryland: Old Homes and History." The mill was "a large establishment which operated successfully for 75 or 80 years and provided a great market for farmers in surrounding areas."

The village that sprang up near the mill site was among the first post-World War II communities built with returning veterans in mind. In 1947 Harris Co. of New York developed the rolling 330-acre tract, completing as many as 10 houses each day. More than 1,400 identical, 27-by-24-foot white frame houses were sold for about $8,000 each.

From the ground-breaking, the subdivision created a ruckus.

In a 1947 article in a Montgomery County newspaper, the Sentinel, the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce labeled the houses "hovels." According to Jane Sween, librarian for the Montgomery County Historical Society, influential politician Brooke Johns called the homes "shacks and potential slums." Another writer called them "little crackerboxes, all in a row, unfit for human habitation."

But young World War II veterans and their families snapped up the boxy bungalows. Financing was at 4 percent and almost all the original owners bought the houses with government-backed mortgages.

Caring homeowners have proven to be the best rebuttal to the critics of Veirs Mill Village.

Over the years, many of the box shapes have been opened up with dormers and bay windows and landscaped. Tulips line curving streets that are named for military heroes.

Terry Gribbin, real estate agent for Weichert Shannon&Luchs in Olney, said the median housing price is in the $120,000s, though higher for improved properties.

"Usually, if you have a home over there for $110,000, it's gone in a week," Gribbin said. "They're picked up quick." One of the attractions: "You can go down Beach Drive through the park and be in D.C. right away,"Gribbin said.

Doris and Andrew Hocko raised three children in their Roundhill Road home. They paid $8,300 for the house in 1950.

"I was a vet but I never used my GI loan," Andrew Hocko said. "Most of the people here were veterans. This is what's been told to me ... The builders had a site up at the Veirs Mill shopping center where they put the houses together. For the basements, they had a form and they poured the concrete and pulled the center part out."

Around the corner from the couple resides the Pasqual family.

Tony Pasqual is retired after a 30-year career as a mechanic for United Airlines Inc. He enjoys working around the house and his latest construction project is a balconied apartment over the garage for visiting relatives.

Inside the house, there is plenty of room for the comings and goings of family members.

But not long after the family moved into the home on Bennion Road, it became clear that something had to give. A few walls, at least.

"It was the night before June 1, 1960," Dorothy Pasqual said. "And Tony said to me, 'Well, if you want, you can go out there and start digging, and we'll enlarge the basement.'"

By then the family had five children.

"I waited until he went to work about 6 [a.m.]," she said. "So I got dressed and I go out there and I start digging very quietly, so I wouldn't wake the kids up. I'd dig until about 8. Then I'd feed the kids breakfast, and we'd dig until lunch. Then we'd dig until supper."

By July, the Pasquals—Tony Pasqual helped dig after coming home from work—had dug a 12-by-27-foot hole that was five or six feet deep.

"Then I said, 'You know, Tony, when I get so deep, I'm not going to be able to pitch the dirt into the wheelbarrow,'" Dorothy Pasqual said.

"That's all right," her husband said he told her. "You do as much as you can, and then I'll hire a couple of guys to finish the job."

The pronouncement didn't sit well with the energetic woman. "I said, 'After all this time, you're going to pay somebody to do this?'"

They struck a deal, she said. "I told Tony, 'Let me buy four cake mixes for the church carnival—let that be my pay—and I'll finish this job myself.' I really learned how to swing that shovel."

She added: "It's like, everybody has to work for what they want, you know?"

Soon after she dug the basement, Dorothy Pasqual was pregnant with her sixth child.

Nowadays, the kitchen is where the action is. Lots of action. "They come for a meal," Tony Pasqual said of the visiting children and grandchildren.

On this night, grandson Justin, 1, is visiting from Detroit with his mother, Gina Krivda, 30. Justin submits to his first haircut, courtesy of aunt Christina Pasqual, 27. The event takes three seconds.

Talk soon turns to the old days. In the 1950s some of the area's many Catholic residents attended Mass at a movie theater at Veirs Mill Shopping Center. Daughter Mary Boichot, 34, recalls seeing "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" there.

"They showed movies at night and next morning they had Mass with popcorn on the floor," she said.

For Dorothy Pasqual, life still centers on faith and family. Each day she cleans the chapel at St. Catherine Laboure, a parish that serves the community. She also looks proudly at her children, whose professions range from opera singer to Air Force pilot.

"By golly, the more I work and pray, the more I know God is going to take care of the things I cannot take care of for them," she said. "I'll do the physical work, God will take care of their hearts and their minds."

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