Welcome to Lyttonsville. It's next to Rosemary Hills Elementary School, has a Silver Spring mailing address and lies within the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School district.
Except for the street sign that says Lyttonsville Road, which leads to it, you wouldn't know you were there . . . if you didn't know you were there.
But Charlotte Coffield knows. So does her daughter Myra Lynn Coffield, as do Patricia Tyson and her 88-year old mother, Alice Tyson, along with the Youngs, who live a few doors down Michigan Avenue, where Lyttonsville Road ends.
They are among the families who have long made this tiny pocket of Montgomery County home. It is a predominantly African-American enclave that is now increasingly diverse, with whites, African Americans, Africans, Latinos and Asians living side by side off the beaten track.
And by the track. The community of 62 single-family houses is bordered on one side by the CSX train tracks and connected by a one-lane wooden bridge over them to the North Woodside neighborhood. The bridge was closed for repairs in 1996 and later reopened, over the protests of North Woodsiders who objected to its use as a shortcut.
Exactly right, said those on the Lyttonsville side, who are otherwise cut off from the rest of Silver Spring and must take circuitous routes to reach Georgia Avenue, the Beltway and Holy Cross Hospital.
Although the controversy is history, settled with traffic rerouting and speed bumps in North Woodside, the connecting bridge is emblematic of Lyttonsville's struggle to stay linked to the outside world.
Lyttonsville, named after Samuel Lytton, believed to have been a freed slave who owned the tract after the Civil War, got by without paved roads and indoor plumbing until the 1960s. Water came from a spring where Rosemary Hills stands or from a spigot on Brookville Road, for which users paid the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission a $50 annual fee.
"We had outhouses and the pumps, and not everybody had a phone," said Pat Tyson, 60. "It was rough, very rough. As a kid, you know, the streets were dirt roads with no street lights, and it was just gravel and dirt."
Many of the residents worked in menial jobs for the nearby National Park Seminary, a finishing school for white girls, taking in laundry or maintaining the grounds. Lyttonsville children, meanwhile, attended a two-room school on Garfield Avenue that had a pot-bellied stove and outdoor toilet and remained in use into the late 1950s.
"We got hand-me-down books, but the teachers took a great interest in the kids, and we learned," said Charlotte Coffield, 69, ticking off a list of successful former residents that includes ministers, beauticians, police, physicians, musicians and athletes.
In 1968, the county designated Lyttonsville a redevelopment area and the federal government allocated funds for its upgrade. Roads were paved and most of the houses, in poor condition, were demolished and replaced with modular units.
Many of the residents, who had been renters, could not afford the new homes. They moved next door into Friendly Gardens, an 84-unit garden apartment complex that was built by the Quakers for lower-income tenants. Many are still there.
Meanwhile, a few of the Lyttonsville families remained in their old houses while others moved into the modular units. About a dozen of the original Lyttonsville households remain within the community's 68 acres.
"There were questions in the beginning. A lot felt community folks should have the first choice to come back," said Coffield, who lives in one of the modular homes. "In the long run, urban renewal was a good thing."
Pat Tyson, recently retired from the State Department, lives next to Coffield in the first modular house, which replaced her family's older home. For many years, her late father, Lawrence S. Tyson, led the neighborhood association, which is in the process of being revived. The association even has a Web site now, run by Myra Lynn Coffield (www.myralynn.net/lca).
In the 1980s, Montgomery County vocational students built six an additional single-family homes as part of something called the Young Americans program. A Vietnamese immigrant won a lottery for the first, on Kansas Avenue. Purchasers were of moderate income and received below-market interest rates to assist them in making their payments.
The other five built under the Young Americans program are located on -- where else? -- Young American Court, a cul-de-sac off Michigan Avenue on land the Coffields sold to the county. Each has a single inconspicuous brick in front identifying it as a Young American house built in 1984-1985.
When one of the homes recently sold, neither the real estate agent nor the owners knew of its history.
But Quan Hoang knew. His father-in-law bought the first house on Kansas Avenue in 1984, and he still lives there. In 1990, Hoang, 43, built his own house on Michigan Avenue, where he lives with his wife, Vananh Pham, 42, and their boys, 12 and 10.
"We have white, black, Oriental, Pakistani. It's quite a spectrum," Hoang said. "As the community evolves, a lot want to get involved and take care of each other."
Hoang was among the first to welcome Florence Amate and Omer Ismail, both 42, after Amate found a house on the Internet and came to check it out.
"He told us about the diversity of the neighborhood. We really liked this street. The first time we drove through, everyone was so friendly," said Amate, a native of Ghana and an account manager for Pitney Bowes at the World Bank.
The couple paid $209,000 for their new four-bedroom house in 1999. Their two young children knew right away this was their place. "They were shouting, 'My house, my house, my house,' " said Ismail, who is from Sudan.
Amate and Ismail, who owns a limousine firm, send their children to Rosemary Hills, for which they have high praise. Similarly, Hoang praises North Chevy Chase Elementary, where his boys go.
The community once boasted a neighborhood saloon, but these days commerce is elsewhere, most closely the adjoining industrial area along Brookville Road. There is one church, Pilgrim Baptist, established in 1898 and at its present location since 1977; with 350 members, it has plans for a modest expansion.
Up Lyttonsville Road, there is the county-owned Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Center, named after Charlotte's sister, a community activist and educator who died in 1996. Charlotte's daughter lives in her house now.
Houses in Lyttonsville seldom go on the market, but recently, when one of the student homes on Young American Court did, 50 buyers came to the open house, immediately producing six offers.
"It was absolutely crazy," said sales agent Suzanne Duncan of Re/Max First in Silver Spring. In July 1999, the house had sold for $209,000. This March, the same house went for $329,000, well above the $289,000 asking price.
"That used to be our back yard," said Charlotte Coffield, astonished.
All in all, it was quite a turn of events for an always proud but formerly downtrodden community that, at least to others who did not live there, was located on the wrong side of the tracks.