A graphic accompanying an article on Woodside Park in Saturday's Real Estate section misidentified Woodlin Elementary School. The article also incorrectly reported that community streets have speed bumps. They are near, but not inside, the neighborhood. (Published 11/02/1999)
Josephine Nippard's home, known as the "witch house," cast its spell when her husband, architect Steven Spurlock, was working on a nearby Pinecrest Circle home.
"I just loved it," Nippard said of the Norman Tudor on Highland Drive in the Woodside Park neighborhood of Silver Spring. Nippard and Spurlock were renovating their own house downtown at 16th and V streets, and she remembers telling her husband, "We are going to buy that house."
She would drive out of her way to see it as she commuted from downtown to her work as a lawyer in Ellicott City.
Nippard and Spurlock decided to sell the 16th Street house less than a year later, in 1989. The deadline for finding another place was uncomfortably near when Nippard got a call from the witch house's owner. He was looking to sell.
A spooky coincidence, but then again the witch house, as it has long been known in the neighborhood, has its share of supernatural elements. It was built in 1929 by Arthur Blakeslee, a Treasury Department architect, and gets its name from the silhouette on the chimney of a witch flying on a broomstick.
Supposedly "the witch was there to keep away evil spirits . . . an East European symbol," Nippard said. "I have no idea if that's true or not.
"Inside, there are some mysterious tiles I don't understand," she continued, and at the top of the spiral staircase inside is a bas-relief Madonna surrounded by angels. When you turn on the light, it appears as though the wing of a dove is lighting the Madonna.
"I had no idea these things were there," she said.
Tomorrow, little ghosts and goblins may catch a glimpse of the witch spotlighted, in all her glory, for ghouls' night out.
Many years before, Carribelle Conway was charmed in a similar way by Woodside Park, with its Spanish colonial mansions, its Cotswold cottages and its one Italian Renaissance villa.
Conway had grown up in the neighborhood, on Georgia Avenue, the western boundary of this Silver Spring community encompassed by Grace Church Road and Dale Drive to the north, Spring Street to the south and Colesville Road to the east.
She moved to rental housing for a few years after she got married, but when it was time to buy a house, she remembers telling her husband, Paul, now deceased, "I know the kind of house I'd like."
It was that Tudor on Fairview Road.
"So we drove by."
It got to be a family joke, she says--"her house" on Fairview Road.
"One day I was visiting my mother and we went down to do a little shopping and she said, 'Let's just drive by 'your house' on the way home.' And it had a sign on it that said 'for sale.' "
The rest is family history. The Conway family has been there ever since--43 years. And one of the three Conway children, daughter Candace Conway Olsson, now lives in Carribelle's childhood home on Georgia Avenue.
Woodside Park's child-friendliness is considerable. First there's the running and jumping room--homes are set deeply on their lots, with lots of mature trees and interesting flora--and many of the long, loping boulevards contain speed bumps and restricted parking to curb traffic. There's even a nearby park. For teens, downtown Silver Spring is within easy walking distance.
And then there's Kids' Chorale. A labor of love for residents Joan Phalen and Nancy Shapiro, the ragtag chorus has grown exponentially over the years, from 20 children in the early 1990s to 178 now.
"It is a very unpolished production by choice," Phalen said, designed more to bring neighbors together than to produce little Pavarottis.
Rehearsals are Monday and Wednesday nights; special twice-yearly events are the summer musical (this year's was "Fiddler on the Roof") and caroling during the holidays, which takes place between Hanukah and Christmas.
On rehearsal nights, choir parents take turns providing dinner for Phalen's family. (She and husband Chuck Cowdrey have six children; the family also cares for foster children.)
Phalen invoked a sermon she heard last week to describe the chorale's real meaning.
The priest related a tale of a Nigerian woman baffled by Westerners, secluded in their state-of-the-art houses complete with running water.
"How does anybody know each other if you don't go to the well?" the woman wondered.
The chorale "has been kind of a village well in the sense that it's great fun for kids but it provides a place for parents to talk, for older people on a walk in the evening to meet younger families," Phalen said.
In this Silver Spring neighborhood, it appears, that well runs deep. Most residents seem to agree it's a wonderful life--or, in the words of Josephine Nippard, "the most perfect place in the world."
BOUNDARIES: Georgia Avenue to the west, Grace Church Road and Dale Drive to the north, Colesville Road to the east and Spring Street to the south.
PROPERTY SALES: Thirty-seven Woodside Park homes have sold in the past year for $155,000 to $469,000, said Steven Kramer of Long & Foster's Takoma Park office. Five properties now on the market range in price from $214,900 to $349,900.
SCHOOLS: Woodland Elementary, Sligo Middle and Einstein High schools. Magnet high schools include Richard Montgomery and Montgomery Blair.
WITHIN FIVE TO 10 MINUTES: Downtown Silver Spring, including City Place Mall; the Silver Theatre, soon to be home to the American Film Institute; a farmers market from May to November; and Woodside Park playground.