There is a multitude of riches to be found in Sherwood Forest, most of them intangible. A hidden gem seven miles north of downtown Silver Spring and five miles northeast of Wheaton, this tree-shrouded community nurtures lifelong friendships in the "village" so often sought, but rarely found.
Sherwood Forest, which is part of Colesville, is identified not so much by its legal description as by a pervasive community feeling that envelops the small neighborhood enclaves hugging its nebulous borders. As you turn off Randolph Road onto Locksley Lane or Sherwood Forest Drive, the curtain seems to come down on a rowdy audience, leaving only serene silence.
Judy Simmons's parents built one of the first houses along Sherwood Forest Road in 1960. Then only a year old, Judy is now the manager and swim-team coach at one of the community's anchors, the Robin Hood Swim Club. Simmons says, "When I was growing up here, I felt we were the most special neighborhood." After marrying and moving to Colorado for eight years, she returned to find "some changes, some different people, but the same feeling. It must be something magical in the area itself."
Back in 1960, the one-acre lots along Sherwood Forest Drive sold for $2,500 each, and builders created spacious houses--colonial, ranch, split-level--for what many people today spend on a car.
On a rise overlooking the community swimming pool sits a large, white Victorian house, called Westover, from which the community's elementary school draws its name. Now listed on the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation, this, the manor at Westover Farm, was part of a property known as Two Farms.
Records date the original parts of the house to 1810, but current owner Richard Curtis said there is evidence of a structure on the property dating to the late 1700s.
Westover's owners have included well-known local families, including the Valdenars and the Bradleys. Horace Bradley's only child, Mary, never married; she eventually sold the 297-acre property in 1949 to Curtis and his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law's half of the land became known as Wheatfield, and Curtis's half was called Sherwood Forest.
Back then "you couldn't see a light anywhere from the third floor" of the Westover Farm manor, said Curtis, a retired Navy commander. The sale didn't take effect until 1960, after Mary Bradley moved into a nursing home.
Recalling crumbling foot-thick brick walls with ox blood-based mortar, and remnants of slave quarters and an icehouse, Curtis said water was provided by a spring where the pool is now. The water, which is filtered through a channel filled with sand, known as a "race," and is pumped to the house via a hydraulic ram, was stored in a 40-foot-tall wood tower near the house.
A general store and post office at the corner of what now is New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Road, and a nearby dairy, were the only commercial establishments in the immediate area.
"Most people who zip by us on their way to work have no idea the neighborhood exists," said Dave Savercool, a resident who works with Weichert Realty. The name Wheatfield has quietly disappeared as that property, developed by Butler-Wilder Inc., drifted under the Sherwood Forest umbrella.
Ask residents about Sherwood Forest and words such as "family," "oasis" and "bucolic" pop up. Ask about the community's special features and praise is immediately lavished on the pool, on Westover Elementary School and the pink snowstorm of blossoms every spring from the profusion of Japanese cherry trees.
"Our lives revolve around the pool during the summer, and school activities the rest of the year--and our cherry trees rival the Tidal Basin's," said Larry Checco, a former PTA president at Westover Elementary.
When talk of closing Westover Elementary surfaced a while back, the community rallied to save it. The school was rededicated this year after a $5 million renovation, and ties to the community were found to have stretched far and wide. One guest speaker was a federal judge from Atlanta who had attended Westover as a child.
With swim, dive and tennis teams, and a coed adult volleyball league, a cheerful competitive spirit reigns at the swim club. Original residents Gene and Joan Wille rallied neighbors in 1966 to put up the money for the pool. First leasing the property from Curtis, residents soon took up an option to buy and have never regretted it.
Amazingly, things get done and neighborhood loyalty flourishes without the assistance of a homeowners association. "Those tend to be features of newer developments," said Sheila Brandt, another Sherwood Forest resident who works with Weichert Realty.
On larger civic issues, residents make their voices heard through the Greater Colesville Community Association. On the more personal, backyard concerns, they band together as the need arises, deal with the issue, then get on with their lives.
Pointing out numerous home renovations in progress throughout the neighborhood, Checco said, "People don't move out, they build up." The reasons? The transplanted New Yorker cites the large tree-filled lots, which give a sense of privacy and country living; the individualism; and a cadre of responsible, caring adults who watch out for neighborhood kids.
On top of all that, Sherwood Forest is home to a rainbow of races and nationalities--all rallying in times of crisis and celebrating in times of joy. It all seems to come naturally to the merry folk of Sherwood Forest.
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WHERE WE LIVE
BOUNDARIES: Just north of Randolph Road, bounded by Sherwood Forest Drive on the east, Notley Road on the north, and Vierling Drive, Hawkesbury Lane and Kimblewick Drive on the west and south. Some residents claim wider boundaries.
NUMBER OF HOUSES: 500 to 600, depending on the boundaries.
HOUSES SOLD THIS YEAR: 10, with four more under contract, at prices ranging from $200,000 to $325,000.
SCHOOLS: Westover Elementary; White Oak Middle; and Springbrook, Paint Branch and Blake high schools.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Robin Hood Swim Club, Westover Elementary School, Wheaton Regional Park.
WITHIN 15 MINUTES' DRIVE: Brookside Gardens, downtown Silver Spring, White Flint Mall, Glenmont Metro station.
CAPTION: Retired Navy Cmdr. Richard Curtis and his wife, Joan, live in historic Westover manor, which dates to 1810; its former grounds are home to the Sherwood Forest neighborhood.