That change comes slowly to Eastland Gardens is just one of many nice things about this stand of 200 well tended homes in a tiny oasis of green and gardens just east of the Anacostia River in Northeast Washington.

It is the sort of neighborhood where people live for decades, then are replaced by their children, who return home to raise their own families.

"It hasn't changed at all. Everybody's congenial, church-going people and law-abiding citizens," said 60-year-old Claude Dawson, a retired federal worker who moved into his house in 1955 with his wife and daughter.

"My daughter, she's in her 30s. Eventually this house will be hers and that's the way with most of my neighbors."

Once isolated amid farmland, Eastland Gardens now is flanked by the concrete of freeways and public housing projects. It is set apart from the surrounding starkness by flowers, awnings and other homey touches.

Shored up by a vigilant civic association and police promises to wipe out the rampant crime that drugs have brought to nearby apartments, the residents of Eastland Gardens are united in their determination to preserve a quality of life they pioneered.

Rhuedine Davis and her husband, former deputy D.C. police chief Owen Davis, have been Eastland Gardens residents for 48 years. "The growth of the neighborhood has been in the hands of the same people and because of that there's a presence of political, religious and civic atmosphere that has sustained the population and unified them," she said.

Byron Bailey, a 33-year-old resident of Eastland Gardens, gestured across Kenilworth Park to Mayfair Mansions and Paradise Manor, two projects known for drug trade and violence, and said, "It's a nice neighborhood surrounded by bad neighborhoods. The deeper you go, the more the drugs."

Eastland Gardens is known for its active flower club, which was started 33 years ago, and for its unique entrance park -- an outgrowth of Lady Bird Johnson's beautification efforts -- jointly maintained by residents and the U.S. Department of Interior's National Park Service. Tulips, jonquils, weeping figs, kiss-me-nots and other blossoms grow there.

Pots of chrysanthemums and piles of leaves brightened the neighborhood on a recent late fall morning. A man worked under the hood of a dark robin's egg blue 10-year-old British sports car.

Cardinals bathed in a seahorse-shaped bird bath. Neighbors chatted over a backyard fence, then left together for a funeral. A man in a light-weight jacket sunbathed on his front stoop, greeting an occasional visitor.

Eastland Gardens was started in 1929 by Howard S. Gott, a real estate developer who is still fondly remembered by a number of the residents.

He bought a tract of land known as "Beall's Adventure" from the old Benning Race Track, subdivided it into lots and offered it with attractive financing to black families, who were not allowed at the time to purchase property in many areas of the city.

"Most of the people who live here bought because colored people couldn't buy property in Northwest; you could only buy out here in Northeast," said Hannah Williams, 78, who raised three daughters in her large, comfortable house.

"We gave Mr. Gott something like $5 down for a lot. Most of the colored didn't have much money in those days; they were domestics and such before World War II," Williams said.

"When you got up to $250, Mr. Gott would build you a frame house and finance it. Five hundred dollars would get you a brick house."

Andrew P. Corley Jr., whose real estate company is offering a 100,000-square-foot lot nestled between two houses in Eastland Gardens for sale for $42,000, said that Gott's subdivision had been "an exclusive neighborhood for blacks at the time. You had to have money to buy there -- sort of similar to what you have in the Chevy Chase, Foxhall Road now." Today houses in Eastland Gardens range in price from about $65,000 for the two-bedroom frame houses first financed by Gott to a recent high of $130,000 for a three-bedroom brick home, according to Davis, who also is a real estate agent.

About four houses a year have been sold to young families after elderly residents have died and their children have decided to sell the property, Davis said.

Corley said similar houses in some parts of Northwest sell for close to $1 million.

"Because they are over here in what I call the black belt, they sell for far less," said Davis, who founded the flower club and met several times with Lady Bird Johnson to plan the park.

But change does come to Eastland Gardens, however slowly.

In 1965, for example, a white Mennonite missionary, his wife and children moved in. Two years ago, the neighborhood became home to a group house for six mentally retarded men.

In characteristic style, the folks at Eastland Gardens fussed a little, watched a little, then welcomed their new neighbors into the fold.

"Now there are blacks in our church," said Pastor Elmer Lapp, whose Mennonite mission now owns three houses and has a church, the Fellowship Haven, in Eastland Gardens. "We kind of grew into the community because we had a genuine care for the community."

He continued, "It's ... done quite well in staying a really neat middle-class neighborhood.

"While our life and ministry revolves more around the lower-income people in the projects, I've been impressed with the number of people who live in Eastland Gardens who have shown a care and concern for people on either side.