"If we could have found this house for this price in the District, we would have never left D.C.," said Juanita Wood, who lives with her husband and 6-year-old daughter just across the District line in Hillcrest Heights.
Bernard and Juanita Wood, both 29, bought their three-bedroom townhouse for $41,000 in 1975. "We just couldn't get enough house for the money we were willing to pay in the District," Bernard Wood explained.
"We wanted a new house anyway," his wife added. "In the District or another one of the suburbs, we would have had to pay substantially more for the same place."
The Woods, who earn about $30,000 a year, lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, before deciding soon after their daughter was born that they could no longer use the living room as a nursery.
So in late 1974, they went house-hunting. They didn't find what they wanted in Northwest or Southeast Washington. Then, at the urging of friends who had moved to Hillcrest Heights, the Woods looked at a new townhouse development there.
Pleased that the townhouses were within a mile of the District and happy with the prices in Hillcrest, the Woods took advantage of the tax credit for home buyers that year and bought a new home.
Four years later, the Woods are still happy with their home.
Still, the two agree they have one foot in the District and one in Prince George's County. "We don't know very much about Prince George's County politics. We registered to vote in the last election, but we still talk to our relatives in Southeast about politics in D.C.," said Bernard who spent his first 25 years in the District.
The Woods have had little involvement in local civic affairs, Juanita said. "We attended a few teas for the candidates in the last election, but we're still fighting to get D.C. out of our blood."
But they enjoy their Prince George's County home. "We really love the place. There's plenty of space, and we have some really interesting neighbors," Juanita Wood said. "It's pretty close-knit. The guys shoveled snow together when we had the big storm and we kind of look out for strangers together around here."
Her husband said, "Our only problem has been the developer. He promised to build a swimming pool and some tot lots, but none of that has materialized."
The couple says that there was one other surprise. "We thought that this would be an integrated neighborhood," said Juanita. "In the time that we have been here, we've seen only one white couple that came in to look at the townhouses, and they didn't buy in the development."
Although the Woods believe that preference probably plays a major role in determining the racial composition of the neighborhood, they still wonder if the real estate salespeople haven't helped the situation along. "These are some pretty nice townhouses and I don't understand why few whites even look at them," said Bernard.
The Woods both work for the Bechtel engineering and construction firm. Juanita is an accountant in the downtown office, and her husband is an assistant office engineer in the firm's Bethesda office. Both are graudates of the Washington Technical Institute, which is now part of the University of The District of Columbia.
Each morning, the Woods take their daughter to the Randall Hyland Private School where she attends first grade. The Woods said that they send their daughter to a private school, at a cost of about $1,650 a year, because they work long days and need day-care services. Also, they have a low opinion of Prince George's County schools.
"If we could get some people on the school board who cared about quality education and not about playing politics all the time, the schools could probably be improved," said Bernard.
"This area is really different. In D.C., important buildings were in centralized places. The street numbering there makes a mockery of what we have to deal with now," said Bernard.
"Some of the new facts of life are hard to accept, but so far we like what we see out here. It's quiet. It's warm. It's a good place to live, especially when D.C. is only a few blocks away."