In 1968, after Catherine Shouse donated the land for Wolf Trap Farm Park, developers asked if they could name the new neighborhood next door after her. She said yes, under a few conditions.
She insisted there be a "village atmosphere." A place where the community could meet. And--before the first house could be sold--a swimming pool in the ground.
Thirty years later, the pool is still there, with a high dive, annual shrimp feast and busy swim team of 90 children, called the Sharks. There is a community center, where neighbors gather on holidays to dance or to just sit around listening to Bee Gees tunes on a vintage Seeburg jukebox. And residents of Shouse Village, that place you see when you drive yourself and your picnic basket down Towlston Road to Wolf Trap, say the village atmosphere undoubtably has endured--and kept them there.
The streets and cul-de-sacs--named for musical terms, instruments and composers--are lined with sidewalks on either side and filled with three- and four-bedroom colonials and split-levels, spaced comfortably apart for side yards. In addition to the pool, communal grounds include tennis and basketball courts, a playground and two walking paths.
Dividing the village in two parts, Lakeside and Parkside, is a small lake ringed by willows and cherry trees, filled with geese (that expect to be fed) and stocked with bass and trout. Sometimes people fish in the mornings, and if it gets good and cold in the winter, children skate there.
Every block has a representative assigned to greet newcomers. The community association arranges group discounts for services such as tree removal and gutter repair, issues a monthly newsletter and sets up a neighborhood watch that really means something: Residents take turns patrolling the streets so that every night, there is at least one person on the beat.
Alexandra Ruppert sells houses for Weichert Realtors and lives in Shouse, which she calls "an oasis in the middle of a built-up area." She said that the houses, which just now have started selling in the mid-$300,000s, don't stay on the market long. That is, when they're up for sale in the first place.
Shouse is a place where a growing family just builds on to the back, where original owners still reside in about 50 houses. People stay even after they retire. Every month or so, a flier from a real estate agent is jammed in each of the mailboxes, a flier that always begins, "I have a couple who wants to buy a house in Shouse . . ."
To some degree, the population is turning over, and younger families are moving in. Several have bought their parents' homes.
As a result, it is a place where neighbors talk to one another. "As a mother, it's wonderful," said Joanne Katis, the community association president who has lived in Shouse since 1974 and has 6-year-old twins. "Homeowners on Lakeside know the children of Parkside, and vice versa. It's a comfort to me."
Fairfax County police said the neighborhood has one of the lowest crime rates in the county.
And how does Carl Froehlich, who works at the Pentagon, love his new neighborhood? Let him count the ways:
"I avoid I-66. The Toll Road. The Beltway. The Tysons mess."
Froehlich, 45, and his wife, Beth, a registered nurse, rented their four-bedroom split-level sight unseen when the Navy moved them from Japan two years ago, and he says the neighborhood is a "super place. We are very happy with it."
Wolf Trap has provided their 17-year-old son a job doling out the day's deliveries; the Shouse pool has given their 14-year-old daughter a daily summer hangout, and the two-car garage has made a perfect place for Froehlich to begin building a two-seater airplane out of aluminum.
Then there's the music, which can often be heard in the backyards, and which many people in Shouse see as a big plus. Wolf Trap's Filene Center, after all, is too small to accommodate the boomingest, screechingest bands and the naughty fans who come with them. "It's not like it's a teenage crowd," said Anne Carry, an 11-year Shouse resident, who especially likes it when the country tunes waft over. Wolf Trap tries to end concerts at 11 p.m., out of respect for the neighbors.
Froehlich, for one, said he enjoyed listening to the National Symphony Orchestra play the "1812 Overture"--"you could hear it perfectly"--while watching the fireworks over the top of the trees across the street.
The music has gotten a bit more muffled over the years since the trees have grown up, so depending on the artist--and the wind--the tunes may not quite make it all the way through Shouse. Highway noise does buzz through from time to time, especially when there is construction--as there was recently on the Toll Road, and as there will be in two years, when Route 7 is widened from four lanes to six.
So do cars. But, Shouse folks say, it's not too bad. The traffic into the concerts is staggered, because some concertgoers come early to picnic, and some don't. Also, a new exit on the Dulles Toll Road pours cars right into Wolf Trap from the other side of the park. Residents do say they avoid driving out at 11.
And if anything about Wolf Trap bothers Shouse residents, all is forgiven come December, when the park invites its neighbors to the Barns for an evening of cocktails, roast beef and honey-baked ham.
Let us know about your little corner of ever-greater Washington and maybe we'll tell everyone. Write to Where We Live, Washington Post Real Estate Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Or e-mail us at email@example.com.
WHERE WE LIVE
BOUNDARIES: Neighborhood extends on either side of Towlston Road, between Route 7 and Wolf Trap Farm Park
NUMBER OF HOUSES: 260
PROPERTIES SOLD IN 1999: 12; average price was $356,000
SCHOOLS: Springhill Elementary, Longfellow Middle, McLean High schools
ANNUAL COMMUNITY DUES: $432
WITHIN A SHORT DRIVE: Tysons Corner, Vienna, Reston Town Center