The 1985 Arlington Forest homeowners manual quizzed its readers to determine how handy they were around the house. Do you use a sledgehammer, a hammer and chisel, or a router to remove a ceramic soap dish in the bathroom?
If you didn't guess the hammer and chisel, the manual suggested that you go buy the Reader's Digest do-it-yourself book or hire help. But it was clear that, by then, people in the neighborhood thought that Change Was Good and Bigger Was Better, although leaving the neighborhood to get something bigger might not be the right kind of change.
In the 60 years since the first homes in Arlington Forest were built, residents have been busy on projects large and small. Often, adding space is a priority to what by today's standards are modest-size colonial-style homes. A 1983 survey conducted in connection with the neighborhood's conservation plan notes that two-thirds of the residents responding to the questionnaire had made or were planning additions to their homes.
Every three or four years the Arlington Forest Citizens Association sponsors a home tour, which the association's president, Howard Morland, said is very popular. People like to see how their neighbors have changed things, he said. One of the main reasons is that they want ideas about what to do to their own homes.
Morland, for one, looked at what the changes neighbors had made before starting out on his own extensive renovation, which took three years and doubled the size of his house.
"All the houses have the same design, right out of a cookie mold," resident Chris Scheer, 52, said. "Over the years, very few have remained unchanged. People have made additions and renovations."
Nearly 20 years ago Esther Bowring, 48, moved into a home that already had a big addition on the back. The screened-in porch that all the houses started with had been closed in at one point. Bowring tore that down and put in a deeper and wider room and broke down a kitchen wall to make a family room.
"Most people put on a family room," she said. "Those who put on a two-story addition usually add a family room with a master bedroom on top, which includes a bathroom. Sometimes they change the kitchen."
Casey O'Neal, 45, a RE/MAX real estate agent who lives in Arlington Forest, said most of the original homes were designed with 1,144 square feet of space. The largest homes in the Forest are now about 3,500 feet, O'Neal said. The size of additions depends on how close the house comes to its property line and whether it is on a corner lot.
The first of Arlington Forest's 850 two-story colonials were built on the south side of Route 50 in 1939. These sold for $5,000. Arlington Forest was the first subdivision in Arlington to be built with paved streets, O'Neal said.
The next section began in 1940 on the north side of the highway. The third section of the neighborhood, Greenbrier, was constructed in 1941 north of Arlington Boulevard and west of Lubber Run, a park with a recreation center and an amphitheater used for dance, music and theatrical performances.
Homes in the Greenbrier section are slightly smaller (1,050 square feet) because of building material shortages during World War II. Other war-inspired differences were galvanized pipes substituted for copper and wooden double-hung windows instead of the then-popular casement windows.
Floor plans may have started out nearly the same, but renovations and gently curving tree-lined streets keep the neighborhood from looking like brick barracks. In addition to the mature trees shading the residences, three parks in the neighborhood contain some of the oldest original forest in the county.
A stable feature of the neighborhood has been the Arlington Forest Shopping Center, built in 1941. The first business opened was the Forest Delicatessen, which Jack and Pauline Cohen owned and operated for 42 years, said Elroy Nieweg, who is updating the neighborhood history for the Arlington Forest Citizens Association. (Nieweg, in his seventies, came to the Forest in 1968, and is the current Web master for the neighborhood's Web site.) The strip of shops now includes several restaurants, a garden shop, and a machine and tool rental shop.
Another constant in the Forest has been the Arlington Forest Citizens Association, formed in 1940. Its newsletter, the Arlington Forester, has been in continuous publication since 1942.
There's one more constant: "Houses here never seem to be vacant for long," said Scheer, who came to the Arlington Forest in 1984, lured by the 15-minute drive to downtown Washington and the proximity to Ballston, which was then the end of Metro's Orange line. "There's healthy turnover, but houses don't stay on the market for long."
The commute is not the only reason that people have moved to Arlington Forest. For one, there's a well-regarded dog run. "We literally have people driving here with their dogs to Lubber Run," Esther Bowring said. "It's a really nice park. Everyone uses it. It's got a shelter for big parties, and we've had lots of birthday parties there, even weddings."
People also visit Arlington Forest to attend performances at the Lubber Run Amphitheater, Bowring said. "It's a kid-oriented setting," she said, "where you can expose your children to the arts, but in a way where you can get up and walk around with them if you need to."
Residents say current concerns in the Forest are mostly about occasional petty crimes; cut-through traffic, which has been lessened by traffic circles and other measures; and overcrowding at Barrett Elementary, which Principal Terry Bratt expects to alleviate with an addition funded by the next bond issue.
Joe Cockrell, 69, moved to Arlington Forest in 1964, when he and his wife were looking for a neighborhood with a school they liked for their 5-year-old son. They bought a renovated Arlington Forest home for $21,000 and "began joining in," he said. Neighbors watch out for one another, he said, whether it's putting one another's newspapers up on the doorstep or watching the homes of families on vacation.
Cockrell said the condition of Arlington Forest has varied by section over the years.
"It seemed for a while that Northside was the best kept, and then as the owners aged and went to Florida, they rented their homes and the section started to reflect that. Then the Southside did real good until the same thing happened there. Then Greenbrier," he said. "Now, everybody is building additions and they're not going to move. I think the whole [neighborhood] is looking good."
WHERE WE LIVE
BOUNDARIES: Carlin Springs Road and George Mason Drive on the north; North Henderson Road, Second Street North, North Pershing Drive and Arlington Boulevard on the east; and Glencarlyn Park and the W&OD Trail on the south and west.
SCHOOLS: For Southside, Barcroft Elementary, Kenmore Middle and Wakefield High schools; for Northside and Greenbrier, Barrett Elementary, Kenmore Middle and Washington-Lee High schools.
PROPERTY SALES: This year, 43 homes have sold, with prices ranging from $190,000 to $330,000; RE/MAX agent Casey O'Neal said that while the number of properties available has remained steady, prices have risen in the last year, with what would have sold for $222,000 or $225,000 a year ago going for $240,000.
WITHIN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Arlington Forest United Methodist Church, Arlington Assembly of God, Bluemont Park, Lubber Run Park, Lubber Run Recreation Center and Amphitheater, Glencarlyn Park, Arlington Forest Shopping Center, Route 50, bike trail, dog run.
10 MINUTES BY CAR: Seven Corners, Baileys Crossroads, Ballston, Clarendon, Interstate 395 and Interstate 66.
CAPTION: Arlington Forest Citizens Association President Howard Morland and his wife, Barbara, cycle in their neighborhood.