On a quiet street just a mile from historic Leesburg, 9-year-old Peyton and 6-year-old Tim play with their friends. Their parents, Laura and Mark Herring, made a conscious decision to move back to the neighborhood and house where Mark spent his youth.
"I remembered how much I liked growing up in Loudoun County and I couldn't think of a better place to live," said Mark Herring, a lawyer and member of the county Board of Supervisors. His mother had long wanted to move from her house, now that her children were grown. "We saw it as a place we could afford in a neighborhood we liked in a great location, but really didn't expect to live here more than a few years," he said.
That was nine years ago and the Herrings are still in the Dry Mill Run neighborhood, about a mile west of the center of town. Their house is a circa-1960 three-bedroom, two-level brick rambler on a one-third-acre lot. A section of larger houses was built in the 1980s and more upscale homes were built in 2000. The older houses are seldom for sale and several residents are original owners.
Page Barrett, a real estate agent with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., lives on Wage Drive and has listed and sold a number of these houses during the past 16 years. She sold a split-foyer last year for $265,000.
"Even the ramblers are going for $275,000," she said. "It's very difficult to find a house under $300,000."
Barrett said the newer houses on Wage Drive range in price from $375,000 to $425,000 and the newer houses on Anne Street range from $350,000 to $400,000. The newest houses on Emmet Court are selling in the mid-$400,000s.
It is easy to understand why families are attracted to this intimate neighborhood, which encompasses Anne Street, Wagan Street, Wage Drive and Emmet Court. Dry Mill Road separates the 1960s brick ramblers on Anne Street and Wage Drive from the newer sections. The older ramblers have one-third-acre lots, and mature trees line the wide streets. The houses are laid out in a traditional grid pattern. Lawns are landscaped and well manicured. The neighborhood has no through traffic, so children are safe to play and ride bikes. The houses are small, however, and can present problems for growing families.
The newer sections of Anne Street and Wage Drive, built in the 1980s, have houses with two or three levels and with three or four bedrooms, fireplaces, porches, family rooms and open floor plans. These homes have smaller lots but are well landscaped, and the streets have no through traffic either.
Emmet Court is the newest addition with 10 houses, which were built in 2000. These homes have three levels, four bedrooms, family room, fireplace, hardwood floors and an open floor plan. The houses are closer together and on even smaller lots; there's little mature vegetation yet. When built, the houses were priced from $275,000. They were in-fill development behind a neighborhood landmark, WAGE Radio.
Fay and Fred See bought a new house on Anne Street in January 1964 for $22,500 and 38 years later are still in the neighborhood.
"We just never had a desire to leave," Fay See said. "It's convenient to everything, it's a good neighborhood. We had everything we needed."
The Sees' 4-year-old grandson, Parker, comes once a week to visit and play with neighborhood children, who recently made badges declaring them the "No. 1 neighbors."
Friendly neighbors also are a major attraction for Herring. "The No. 1 thing for me, and I think the same for Laura, is the neighbors. We love the neighbors. Folks who have lived here for a long time have stayed friends all these years, and newcomers are welcomed and become a part of the neighborhood. It's hard to leave."
Herring originally moved into the neighborhood with his mother and sister in 1978. He came home summers and weekends while away at the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond law school.
Mark and Laura Herring were married in the summer of 1989 while he was attending law school. After graduation in 1990, he thought about where he wanted to practice law. He credits a cousin with some good advice -- think about where you want to live, not where you want to make money.
"Laura and I decided Leesburg was the place to settle down. Neither of us had two nickels to rub together."
Their first two years in Leesburg were in a rented cottage on the Symington estate, Temple Hall. After daughter Peyton was born, they began house hunting. It was Mark Herring's mother who suggested they buy her house.
"We had looked at some of the bigger homes," Mark Herring said, adding that he and his wife thought the modest house appealed to their lifestyle and the way they wanted to raise their children. The affordable price made it possible for Laura Herring to stay at home with the children and become involved in the community. She is a Sunday school teacher and Brownie troop leader, and she is active in the PTA. She also serves on the board of the Leesburg Presbyterian Church preschool.
The Herring family benefits from living near the center of Leesburg.
"The location is really great, and it's hard to believe that right over there is downtown Leesburg," Mark Herring said, pointing toward town. At times he walks to work or rides his bike. When he drives, it takes a minute to get from house to his office.
His children attend Catoctin Elementary School, which is less than a half mile from home. Loudoun County High School is just down the road. The W&OD trail, where Mark Herring jogs and the family rides bikes on weekends, is just down the street.
While the house is well built with brick and block construction, it has some drawbacks because of the floor plan and its size.
"The big negative is no place for storage," Laura Herring said. Also the family room and access to the back yard are downstairs. The kitchen is small and a closet was knocked out to expand it, but it is still not big enough for a family of four.
The family spends a lot of time outdoors. The children like to play on the swings and treehouse their dad built. Mark Herring used to garden but gave it up after he ran for public office. However, one corner of the back yard is overflowing with plump blackberry bushes that he planted seven years ago. Towering apple and oak trees provide shade and a haven for birds.
While it is somewhat rare, one of the houses on Anne Street is a rental. Scott Keyes and Linda Moore moved into the neighborhood earlier this year. Keyes grew up in Leesburg and was able to rent the house because his parents know the owners.
"It's very quiet and that's nice," Keyes said. He also said that the neighborhood is family oriented and that his 5-year-old daughter, Brittany, has met a lot of children.
"There are some people who have lived here for a long time, and they know my parents," Keyes said. "My mom always tells me this is what Leesburg used to be like before all the development."