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In Bethesda, a neighborhood holds on to its ‘throwback’ feel

June 7, 2018 at 7:30 AM

The Wood Acres neighborhood in Bethesda, Md., is characterized by its hilly, narrow streets and big trees.
Wood Acres has 427 single-family homes. A public elementary school and a 10-acre adjacent park are among the features that attract new residents and keep longtime neighbors in their homes.
Wood Acres Construction Corp. built the houses in the neighborhood mostly between 1939 and 1959. A few houses at the eastern edge of the neighborhood were built in the 1980s.
“It’s a throwback neighborhood,” said Eric Hoffman, 50, who has lived in Wood Acres since 2004, with his wife, Marguerite, also 50. “It is very Norman Rockwell-like.”
Architectural covenants are attached to the land and the title of each house so any addition requires approval from the association’s architectural covenants committee.
In the past 12 months, according to Matthew Maury of Stuart & Maury Realtors, 17 houses were sold in Wood Acres. The costliest was a four-bedroom, three-bath house for $1.18 million; the lowest-priced was a three-bedroom, three-bath house for $800,000.
There is one house on the market, a three-bedroom, three-bath Colonial listed for $824,900.
Wood Acres is bounded roughly by Goldsboro Road to the north, Massachusetts Avenue to the southwest, and River Road and Cromwell Drive to the east.
Photo Gallery: The neighborhood keeps its original look because of its no-teardown prohibition.

Eric Fedowitz drives through Wood Acres, the neighborhood he and his wife, Toni Carpenito, and their two sons have called home since 2007. It’s Memorial Day, and Fedowitz, a 53-year-old financial services executive, is showing a visitor around the Bethesda community of 427 single-family homes where a public elementary school and a 10-acre adjacent park are among the features that attract new residents and keep longtime neighbors in their homes.

In a neighborhood with a number of intersections with four-way stop signs, Fedowitz would like to ensure that motorists are heeding traffic rules. To this end, as a vice president of the Wood Acres Citizens Association, he is preparing a traffic study. One item on his agenda is “speed-calming measures,” though speed bumps, he says, are not permitted on Welborn Drive.

For many residents, the relatively narrow roads and near absence of sidewalks enhance the charm of this neighborhood, which the Wood Acres Construction Corp. built mostly between 1939 and 1959. A few houses at the eastern edge of the neighborhood were built in the 1980s.

Related: [Dupont Circle, a place steeped in history, gets a new look and new investment]

Woodacres; Maryland; Bethesda (The Washington Post)

Architectural covenants: Fedowitz, who also served as president of the citizens association from 2009 to 2015, notes another unusual feature about Wood Acres: Houses cannot be torn down and replaced. Architectural covenants are attached to the land and the title of each house so any addition requires approval from the association’s architectural covenants committee.

“The covenants run with the land,” Fedowitz said. “Buyers think they can change the house. There have been some surprises.”

Many of the original houses had screened porches, which some homeowners have converted to additional rooms. Many houses don’t have garages or have a one-vehicle garage that some use for storage, parking their cars on the street.

JP Finlay and his wife, Lauren, moved to Wood Acres two days before Christmas in 2015, with their daughter, who will be 3 in August.

“We love the idea that she could walk to school,” said JP Finlay, a sports broadcaster with NBC Washington.

When they outgrew their house in Kensington, they decided to buy the one in Wood Acres.

“We found the house before we knew how great the neighborhood was,” he said. “It’s so refreshing not to see” teardowns and rebuilds.

Related: [The Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood in Arlington is growing up]

Finlay, 36, said he didn’t know about the covenants until closing. He enjoys living in Wood Acres because of its “original neighborhood look.”

“A throwback neighborhood”: If you happen to be in Wood Acres on July 4, you’ll probably see floats, firetrucks and bicycles decorated with red, white and blue streamers at the neighborhood triangle, a grassy spot with trees, chairs and a bench that says, “Honoring Our Great Pumpkin — Ed Kelly.” The parade winds up at Wood Acres Park, a 10.4-acre green space adjacent to Wood Acres Elementary, for the annual association-sponsored picnic.

On Halloween, the Great Pumpkin, a person dressed in costume, greets trick-or-treaters at the triangle, an intersection of three neighborhood streets. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has operated the park since 1947. It includes a playground, two softball fields, a baseball field, a basketball court and two tennis courts.

“It’s a throwback neighborhood,” said Eric Hoffman, 50, who has lived in Wood Acres since 2004, with his wife, Marguerite, also 50. “It is very Norman Rockwell-like. There are a lot of fun, family activities year-round.”

The Wood Acres Construction Corp. built most of the neighborhood homes between 1939 and 1959. A few houses at the eastern edge of the neighborhood were built in the 1980s. (Justin T. Gellerson/For The Washington Post)

Living there: Area shopping includes the Westwood Shopping Center on Westbard Avenue and Kenwood Station on River Road. There are more stores near the Friendship Heights Metro station.

Bounded roughly by Goldsboro Road to the north, Massachusetts Avenue to the southwest, and River Road and Cromwell Drive to the east, Wood Acres is characterized by its hilly, narrow streets and big trees.

In the past 12 months, according to Matthew Maury of Stuart & Maury Realtors, 17 houses have sold in Wood Acres. The most costly was a four-bedroom, three-bath house for $1.18 million; the least costly was a three-bedroom, three-bath house for $800,000. There is one house on the market, a three-bedroom, three-bath Colonial listed for $824,900.

Schools: Wood Acres Elementary, Pyle Middle, Whitman High.

Transit: The No. 29 Montgomery Ride-on bus runs along Massachusetts Avenue and Goldsboro Road between the Friendship Heights and Bethesda Metro stations on the Red line, Monday through Friday. On Saturdays and Sunday, it runs between the Friendship Heights Metro station and Glen Echo. The T2 Metrobus runs Monday through Friday along River Road between the Friendship Heights and Rockville Metro stations on the Red Line. Montgomery Ride On operates this route on Saturdays and Sundays.

Crime: In the past 12 months, according to the LexisNexis Community Map, there were two burglaries reported in the neighborhood.

To see more photos of Wood Acres, go to washingtonpost.com/realestate.

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