For years, the tree-shaded half acre off Reservoir Road NW had lain undisturbed, allowing the neighbors to grow fond and protective of the pines and oaks.
Visions of bulldozers must have danced in the heads of those neighbors when the prime lot in the 4500 block of Indian Rock Terrace NW was sold to a developer two years ago for $300,000.
Five large, contemporary houses now sit on the $30,000-square-foot site, located between Foxhall Road and MacArthur Boulevard. But many of the trees remain.
The new development, called Indian Rock Overlook, is not a condominium project, despite the tight space. Owners do share a driveway that weaves to a bluff over-looking MacArthur Boulevard.
CIH Development Corp., which includes David Croyder, Milton Irvin and Michael Huke, built the houses. Art Cohen, who owned the tract, was the architect.
Huke supervised the day-to-day construction, which was completed a few months ago.
"He was there every day and worked with me to save as many trees as possible," said neighbor Ethelwyn Pecora, who has lived there since 1956.
Pecora, who lives in a house designed by a neighbor, architect Thomas W.D. Wright, said she regards the new houses as almost a "personal infringement of long privacy that had to be accepted."
Neighbors prevailed on the builders to save as many trees as possible, she said, especially a row of Nepal pines along the 141-foot front of the property. She gave the builders high marks for "re-landscaping."
"It was like operating on a chess board to get the houses sited for privacy and views -- plus getting them built," Irvin said.
Architect Wright, who lives a few doors away, said: "I think they built darned good houses . . . I regret that they're sited so close together, but that was the existing zoning" minimum of 5,000 square feet per lot.
The houses, two of which are now occupied, have 4,900 or 5,200 square feet of space. Prices range from $347,000 to $385,000. Irvin maintains all of the houses would have sold already in a strong housing market.
"The next houses you build are always more expensive," Irvin said. "It cost us $75,000 a lot for land and development here. The next time it will be more."
The Indian Rock houses have four or five bedrooms and sumptuous wo-level master suites. Under a cathedral ceiling, the biggest bedroom is really a small apartment with its own bath and circular iron stairway to an upper-level retreat. Skylights, living room "conversation pits" and decks are other features.
Irvin describes the houses as "eclectic contemporary" packaged in classic New England saltboxes. Each exterior has 25,000 bricks in soft earth tones and anodized windows that match the gutters. Small sections of cypress siding accent each house and blend with the brick.
Irvin said the challenge at Indian Rock Overlook was to demonstrate how a tight, in-town lot could be developed in harmony with nature.