Barney and Cheryl Parrella have moved three times in the past 11 years, each time within the small, Arlington neighborhood of Glencarlyn.

First they bought a 1,500-square-foot 1950s brick home. Then they owned a framed Dutch colonial house. Now they live in a 3,000-square-foot historic house, parts of which were built in the late 1800s.

Each time they have moved up in quality and character -- and just down the block. The Parrellas, with two kids and a cat, are committed Glencarlyn residents.

"It's kind of a village atmosphere," said Barney Parrella, who works in the airline industry. "It's a very compact little community."

At the western-most edge of Arlington County, the community of Glencarlyn, home to about 1,600 people, is a well-hidden, quiet treasure with homes that, in many instances, have been passed on from generation to generation.

County officials said the community is one of Arlington's oldest. Its active civic association, founded in 1888, is said to be the oldest in continuous operation in the United States.

With three of the county's 20 designated historical landmarks within its boundaries and a centennial scheduled for this weekend, the residents of Glencarlyn are boastful of their heritage.

"I remember how indignant you were," said resident Emily King to her husband, recalling a journalist who once called the neighborhood trendy. "We don't want to be trendy." If Glencarlyn is trendy, it is only because the rest of the world has again come to appreciate neighborly living: little crime, schools within walking distance, surrounding parks, wildlife and the hush of isolation.

"There's almost a village-like feel," said Diane Illch, whose family lives in an unusual, spiral-roofed house. "You can walk around the streets at night. People are so friendly here."

They intend to keep it that way. Instead of cutting down the beautiful old oak trees, residents have been known to make the county build the roads around them. There are few sidewalks in the area because the county has been unable to get 75 percent of the homeowners on any of the streets to agree to have them put in. Many streets do not have curbs or gutters, either.

"It maintains the more natural look," said Lori Hirschfield, the county's neighborhood conservation program coordinator. "It's really the most interesting neighborhood. I feel good when I drive there."

Proximity to good public schools is another feature of the neighborhood that has attracted many Glencarlyn families. A county-run cooperative preschool, Carlin Hall Playschool, operates in the community center. Glencarlyn Elementary School and Kenmore Intermediate School are within walking distance, and Wakefield High School is a quick bus ride away.

"It's an excellent place for raising a family," said Barney Parrella. "Many of {the children's} friends are within a two- or three-block area. If someone wants to visit a friend, it's not a question of driving all over the place."

Adding to the village-like atmosphere is the neighborhood's sylvan setting. The community is surrounded on three sides by Glencarlyn Park, which has bicycle paths and remnants of an old railroad. Long Branch Creek and Four Mile Run, which form the eastern and southern borders of the community, are recovering from past environmental problems. Eagle-eyed residents say they have seen crawfish and minnows in the streams.

The Long Branch Nature center, located near the Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital on the southern border, helps residents throughout the county better understand the environment.

The entire community -- less than one square mile and only six streets wide -- is like a cul-de-sac, with only one entrance. Most of the residents are white, although there are a few black families and a number of Southeast Asian immigrants. Residents come from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, including government employes, blue- and white-collar workers, artists, police officers, teachers and retirees.

The 670 houses in the community are varied, with virtually every block a hodgepodge of different styles and periods. The Ball Sellers House on Third Street was built in 1760. There are two- and three-story painted wooden homes built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are also a large number of brick bungalow-type homes built just after World War II. The most recent additions are several new Victorian-style homes built three years ago.

There are few "for sale" signs.

"This community has always been strong in terms of history," said Cheryl Parrella. "Some families have been living here since the" 19th century, she said.

Glencarlyn was first settled in 1742. John Ball, a yeoman and farmer who was one of the first residents, is known as the grandfather of the area. William Carlin, George Washington's tailor, moved in in 1772, according to county documents.

The three designated historical sites -- the Ball Sellers House, the Ball-Carlin Cemetery on south Kensington and the Carlin Community House on south Fourth Street -- pay tribute to these first inhabitants.

Keeping track of the community's history has been a tradition in itself. The small public library on south Kensington has a three-volume history under lock and key. It and other documents are available to visitors.

"The area and vicinity of Carlin Springs were probably first crossed by white men about 1680, when Indians were the only inhabitants," wrote Hadassah Backus in 1952, in a typewritten notebook kept on file in the library.

"They made clearings and built cabins in the forest. Lord Fairfax held the land and in 1742 John Ball obtained a grant for it, paying a quit rent of one shilling sterling for every fifty acres. The survey of the grant mentioned a large white oak which grew near the junction of Four Mile Run and Long Branch. It is a section of this oak which is now in the Burdett Library." Burdett was recently replaced by the new Glencarlyn Public Library.

Glencarlyn became a weekend resort for many well-to-do Washingtonians by the early 1900s and eventually a bedroom community for the urban commuter.

"I don't think it's changed a great deal at all," said Emily King, a 35-year resident. "People have moved in and out, but that's the way Washington is. But I don't think things have changed in terms of the village."