The 50-year-old, the English Tudor-style, brick attached houses of Foxhall Village continue to form a near-unique D.C. community where a spirit of neighborliness persists despite change -- prices of the 400 houses there have increased twentyfold, and renters now occupy more than 20 percent of the houses.
Gertrude Bruckart this week recalled that there were no paved streets in 1926 when she and her husband moved into a $13,500 house built by the late Harry Boss, recognized as one of the founders of the Foxhall, bordered by Foxhall and Reservoir roads and 44th Street NW.
The location originally was considered out of the way, and developer Boss provided bus service to counter that drawback. Now the Village houses are prized because of their convenient location.
Bruckart, whose husband died in 1940, said that she still loves her three-story dwelling. Bruckart recalls that she and her husband could see Key Bridge before houses were built on the other side of 44th Street, which backs up to parkland that separates Foxhall from Georgetown University. "We were like one big family when our children were growing up," she said. "They could play in the streets and the circles [that were designed into the triangular layout of the lots].
"Yes, I still feel safe here and love my house, which was very well built," she added.
Other neighbors and former residents concurred with Bruckart. One cited the mix of ages of residents, who now include some young sharers of rented houses. John A. Mellin, a former resident, said that a mix of people of different nationalities was part of the charm.One former neighbor who had no car used his garage as the site for a neighborhood amateur theater group. Mellin also recalled that the late Dr. Michael Halberstam was once an active and well-liked resident.
In addition to the distinctive Foxhall Village houses, some of which now have skylights over upstairs bathrooms, the community has St. Patrick's Episcopal Church on a corner and the public Hardy Middle School nearby. A small shopping complex on Foxhall Road now has a Panorama realty office and a High's store as tenants. At one time there were more service stores, including a small Safeway.
Not all of the Foxhall houses were built by Harry Boss. Some of them were developed and built in a similar architectural design by veteran builder-developer Waverly Taylor, no longer active in the business. A Golden anniversary booklet published in 1979 by the Foxhall Community Citizens Association recalls much of the early history of the area, which took its name from Henry Foxall.
"Somewhere in the mists of history an 'h' was added to Mr. Foxall's name -- obviously after his death in 1827," according to the detailed booklet written and edited by Richard Conn. Another sentence points out: "Together with Washington architect James E. Cooper, Boss came up with designs for a group of homes of Tudor architecture, which were different from one another, yet managed to blend together harmoniously."
Henry Foxall's Spring Hill farm was located in the area, and there was once a cannon factory on part of the farm. The parkland later adopted the name Foundry Park.
It is further recalled that architect Cooper lived in one of the houses on Greenwich Parkway, a center street with a circle. Builder Boss lived in another nearby community of homes he built -- Colony Hill. Grandson Grant Boss Jr., now an executive with Home Federal Savings & Loan, recalled that his grandfather died in 1959 and that he still hears stories about the small, slight builder who was regarded as a "tough but kind" businessman.
Jo Hill Carter, an executive with Boss & Phelps, a firm co-founded by the builder, but now independently owned, recalled that "Mr. Boss told me that bankers told him he would lose his shirt developing Foxhall Village because it was too far out and too different."
Apparently it is its difference that provides the essential charm. The community stands out because of its slate roofs, tasteful Tudor trim, chimney pots, big trees, medallions, landscaping and bay windows. Most of the houses have garages in back, and some have small yards. On 44th Street, for instance, one open archway leads to the back between two of the houses. Some of the houses have been centrally air-conditioned by owners. Others have some room conditioners showing. Some of the big corner houses are built with semi-circular fronts.
While the basic attraction of this American version of an old English village (Harry Boss got the idea after a visit to England) centers around its houses and their location, the real estate economics have changed remarkably. In the early 1960s, a small Village house could have been purchased for $35,000. John Mellin remembers paying $44,000 for a six-bedroom house in 1966 and selling it eight years later "for a fantastic $84,000." But he said he learned that it was later resold for $125,000. Now similar six-bedroom houses are being marketed in the $280,000 range.
Voltairine Bock, a Realtor associated with the Panorama office and a long-time nearby resident, said that an examination of recent sales in the Village showed that in 1980 four dwellings moved at prices ranging from $147,000 to $240,000. She regards the Village as a prime area but admits that asking prices have skyrocketed in recent years.
Statistics compiled by Rufus S. Lusk & Son Inc., the realty publishing firm, show that the median sale price in Foxhall was $73,000 in 1975, $81,000 in 1976, $96,500 in 1977, $125,000 in 1978 and $135,000 in 1979. In 1980 that median figure was up to $169,864.