Fawn Lake in Spotsylvania, Va., could easily have been a resort. The community boasts a clubhouse, volleyball and tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, a 300-acre lake and a 7,000-yard golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.
Despite the country club atmosphere, Fawn Lake is home for nearly 150 families that have settled in this still-developing community about 65 miles southwest of Washington and nine miles west of Fredericksburg.
Today, 150 homes have been built around the man-made lake and 1,100 more are on the way. Most of the houses are custom built, adding to the housing style diversity of the area and allowing residents who buy lots at the development to tailor their homes to their individual tastes.
"We wanted a house in an area that was different," said Cynthia Krueger, who six months ago moved with her family to Fawn Lake from Fairfax. "We wanted to be close to the water and we wanted a neighborhood that was attractive, safe and quiet."
Residents say those attributes also attracted former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs to Fawn Lake. Gibbs, now a sports commentator, had a house in Lake of the Woods, Fawn Lake's neighboring community, when he stumbled upon Fawn Lake on a fishing trip in the late 1980s, said Jerry Riddle of Riddle Construction, who built Gibbs's house in Lake of the Woods and Gibbs's home in Fawn Lake.
The Fawn Lake property, then held by International Paper Corp., was for sale and Gibbs and Riddle put an option on the land, and soon after contacted developer NTS Corp., of Louisville. Gibbs, who also has a home in North Carolina, became an investment partner in the development and built an 8,000-square-foot home on Fawn Lake with every room in the house overlooking the water, Riddle said.
"The first thing we look at when building homes in the area is view," said Riddle, who has built 13 houses at Fawn Lake. "You want to take advantage of the view of the trees and the lake. Most of the houses in the area are light and bright, with lots of windows and skylights. To us, a dark house is a rainy day."
Families looking to move into the community have a choice between building a house on the lake front, buying a lot overlooking a fairway or opting for a residence nestled in the woods. Lots are usually an acre or larger, and those on the water cost from $150,000 to $375,000; those on the fairway from $75,000 to $150,000; and those in the woods from $50,000 to $75,000. The total land and house costs range from $250,000 to $1 million depending on the size of the lot and the location of the house, said Jack Christie, an NTS vice president for sales and marketing and a resident of Fawn Lake.
The Kruegers' 7,500-square-foot home overlooks Fawn Lake and has an estimated market value of $900,000. The couple wanted to take advantage of the view so they designed floor-to-ceiling windows that open to a wide deck overlooking the lake.
Their house has what Cynthia Krueger calls the "cottage look," departing from the classic lines of the Virginia colonial that is a frequent stamp of many neighborhoods in Northern Virginia. Erik Krueger, who runs a credit card processing business and works at home, has built a separate entrance to his office on the top floor of their three-story house.
"The good thing about moving here was that we had the freedom to design our house the way we wanted to," said Erik Krueger, who scanned the country for a quiet, safe place to raise a family before deciding on Fawn Lake. "The other good thing is that no two houses in the neighborhood look alike."
Fawn Lake has a mix of architectural styles. Georgian-style homes stand side by side with Federals, Cape Cods, Victorian and Virginia country homes, said Jim Vance, a Fawn Lake resident for three years who teaches media relations at the FBI. Developers and residents have been careful not to mar the natural resources in the area, particularly the 38 acres of wetlands on the eastern side of the 2,800-acre development.
When NTS first began building the 18-hole golf course in the late 1980s, it altered part of Fawn Lake's natural habitat. Today, the wetlands have been restored after a joint effort between the development company and the Army Corps of Engineers to replant the trees and shrubs that were uprooted during development. NTS also moved the site of four holes east of the wetlands.
Today, the championship golf course is almost complete. Nine holes were opened in November and the remaining nine are scheduled for completion at the end of August.
"We're excited about the prospect," Vance said. "I'm an avid golfer and I've always admired a Palmer course. Now I actually live on one."
For residents who have never gripped a golf club, Fawn Lake offers a number of other recreational activities, resident Pat Sullivan said. Many residents own boats. In the summer, there is always someone swimming, fishing or water skiing, Sullivan said. When ice covers the lake in the winter, some residents dust off their skates. The community also has a swim team, a tennis league, a garden club and a club that frequently sponsors dances and parties.
"There is a sense of community here that is starting to be lost elsewhere, even in the suburbs," Krueger said. "Over here, people go out of their way to be friendly. And everyone looks after their neighbors."
For those who are interested in nature and history, Fawn Lake, Spotsylvania County and nearby Fredericksburg offer plenty to see. For nature lovers, Canada geese flock by the dozen to the lake, and deer roam freely in the densely wooded area. For students of history, the Battle of the Wilderness, which pitted Robert E. Lee against Ulysses S. Grant, was fought in the tangled woods of what today comprises the community.
Barns and silos dot the land in southern Spotsylvania, promising a quiet, more rural existence. Cows graze on rolling hills, even off such major thoroughfares as Route 3. Just north of the neighborhood, Capt. John Smith sailed up to the headwaters of the Rappahannock River in 1608 and discovered a fishing community of Indians. And nearby Fredericksburg, a thriving port in the 1700s, is a celebration of Revolutionary War-era sites.
Do residents ever miss a more urban life? The answer usually is an emphatic no.
Those who move to the neighborhood are looking for alternative to a city setting, Christie said. Most residents work in or around Fredericksburg, and some, such as Sullivan's husband, David, brave the hour-and-15-minute commute to Washington everyday. Sullivan, who is the satellite and communications manager at USA Today, wakes up at 7 every weekday morning and leaves Fawn Lake 30 minutes later to be in Arlington by 9 a.m. "The commute is not bad at all," said Pat Sullivan. "And even if it was, it would be well worth the drive." CAPTION: Elizabeth Krueger, 17, takes in the view of frozen Fawn Lake from the boat dock at her family home, which overlooks the man-made lake. CAPTION: Cynthia Krueger, left, and her husband, Erik, moved their family to Fawn Lake from Fairfax to be near the water in an "attractive, safe and quiet" neighborhood.