When Adalyne M. Robertson was born in Barcroft in 1903, the Arlington County community near Four Mile Run and Columbia Pike was just beginning to blossom.

Government employees and other middle-income workers from the District of Columbia, attracted by Barcroft's convenience to railroad and trolley lines, helped to create a community whose chief selling points were affordable houses, friendly neighbors and cool breezes that sweep through the Four Mile Run Valley.

Today, Barcroft's 2,700 residents live in an eclectic collection of Victorian, colonial, Cape Cod and other types of homes, many of them on oversized lots and dwarfed by huge trees. And although town houses and apartment buildings now ring the South Arlington neighborhood, many things haven't changed.

Robertson, 86, still lives in the manicured Victorian house on South Buchanan Street that her family has owned for nearly 90 years, and Barcroft is still a quiet neighborhood of middle-income residents who savor its convenience to downtown Washington.

"This was settled by people whose sense of values tended to favor long-term, stable neighborhoods," said Randy Swart, an 18-year resident of Barcroft, where most homes now sell for $200,000 to $250,000.

Swart said that Barcroft, which has dozens of residents like Robertson who have lived there more than 40 years, has a stability that can be traced to the residents' sense of community.

"People looking to make a quick kill in real estate or who want to live in a prestige neighborhood usually don't come here," Swart said. "The people who come here find affordable housing in a nice neighborhood, and once they get here they don't want to give it up."

Much of Barcroft's history is reflected in the Barcroft Community House, a white-frame structure at South Eighth and Buchanan streets that was built as a Methodist church in 1908 but became the community's one-room schoolhouse after the church failed.

Since 1925, when the present Barcroft Elementary School was built a few blocks away, the Community House has been a gathering place for scout troops, American Legion groups and the Barcroft School and Civic League, the neighborhood association that has owned the building for 76 years.

The Community House is still something of a town hall, a place where residents met recently with Arlington officials to express concern about a proposed jail release facility at nearby Barcroft Park, and where several residents have begun monthly "coffee house" meetings at which people chat over coffee and cake and hear neighbors perform folk music and read poetry.

"It's one of the things about Barcroft that give it character," said Phyllis Kinsey, a Barcroft resident for 37 years. "The people here want to make this a nice place to live."

Kinsey said Barcroft's physical boundaries -- Four Mile Run, South George Mason Drive, Arlington Boulevard, Abingdon Street and Columbia Pike -- also draw the community closer.

"We're kind of isolated in a sense, and that definitely ties us together," Kinsey said.

Young couples are an increasing presence in Barcroft, and many say the neighborhood's stability is a key attraction.

"It's what's kept us here," said Deborah Wood, 37, who has lived in Barcroft with her husband, Christopher Siple, 38, for almost nine years. "People who live around here are here to stay, and they get to know each other... . You don't feel as isolated as you might somewhere else."

In recent years, encroaching development has led Barcroft residents to develop an increased interest in their community's history.

After a landmark farmhouse was destroyed a few years ago to make room for new town houses, residentsbegan working with the county on a neighborhood conservation plan to preserve Barcroft's identity.

The plan, which is expected to be approved by the Arlington County Board this weekend, also includes plans to cut down on neighborhood traffic, install more sidewalks and renovate Barcroft Elementary School.

"Working on the conservation plan led a lot of people to take a look at Barcroft's history, and helped develop pride in the neighborhood," said Swart, who is president of the Barcroft School and Civic League.

Since Barcroft residents began working on the plan in 1987, several homes dating back to the community's early days have been destroyed to make room for a half-dozen new, $300,000 to $350,000 houses that are scattered throughout the community. One of Barcroft's earliest homes, across from the Community House, was torn down and its lot divided to make room for two nearly identical homes.

"It's a shame when these new, gaudy homes replace the historic ones," one Barcroft resident said. "Anyone who appreciates the neighborhood's roots is sad to see it. {The new homes} don't fit the neighborhood's character."

Although the county withdrew its proposal for the jail release center near Barcroft Park and is reconsidering other sites, Barcroft residents are wary about the county's plans concerning the facility, which also would house drug and alcohol abusers and the homeless.

"I think everybody's worried about it," Robertson said. "We don't want something like that around here... . It's dangerous to have those kind of people around a park."

Robertson, whose birth was mentioned in a 1903 Barcroft community newspaper, said her ties to Barcroft continue to grow.

"I can remember back before any of the streets were paved, before we had county water and sewer hookups," Robertson said. "My father would take the train that ran along Four Mile Run over to Alexandria," then up to Union Station, near where he worked.

"Most everything's different these days," Robertson said. "But the people here are still good people."