Neighbors Bernard Posey and Jose Rivera are friendly, but they don't communicate much.
Posey is a third-generation resident of Arlington's Nauck neighborhood. He inherited his grandparents' house and lives among many neighbors who knew them -- both pastors at local churches -- since about 1950.
Rivera and his wife and son, Salvadoran immigrants, have been in the United States for three years and are still trying to decide where they want to put down roots. For eight months, they have been renting a small brick attached home in Nauck, and say they find the neighborhood very peaceful.
But because Posey doesn't speak Spanish and Rivera doesn't speak English, they don't share much beyond a fence line.
"He's nice. He's quiet," Posey said.
Rivera, a construction worker, can't communicate with his English-speaking neighbors, but, increasingly, there are others in Nauck who do speak his language. "There are other Spanish speakers here," he said in a Spanish interview. "I like it. It's a very peaceful neighborhood."
Nauck, one of Arlington County's early communities of freed slaves, slopes downhill from the Glebe Road corridor to the Shirlington area and Interstate 395. Among the first African Americans to build a home there were Levi and Sarah Ann Jones in 1844. Freed slaves joined them after the Civil War when Freedman's Village (near present-day Arlington Cemetery) closed in 1898 and its 1,000 residents moved to other areas, including Nauck and nearby Arlington View.
Many of Nauck's families go back two or more generations in the brick and wood single-family houses, duplexes, townhouses and cooperative apartments that make up the hilly neighborhood that rises high over Arlington.
However, the long-stable African American enclave is changing, as Arlington deals both with a growing group of Hispanic immigrants and with demand for upscale close-in housing from affluent home buyers.
In 1990, 8 percent of the population of Nauck was Hispanic. By 2000, this had grown to 21 percent. In 1990, about 15 percent of Nauck was white and roughly 76 percent was African American. Ten years later, the proportion of whites had stayed nearly constant, at 16 percent, while the proportion of African Americans had dropped to 56 percent.
"The community is in the throes of change," said longtime resident and Alexandria schoolteacher Jacqueline Coachman. It's not just racial change, it's economic change, too. "We're pleased but alarmed by the new townhouses going up because they're so far above the cost of the rest of the neighborhood," she said.
Coachman was born in Nauck and grew up there. Although she left when she was 18 years old, she came home at least once a week to visit family.
When she moved back home in 1997, she was glad to know she wasn't alone. A number of her high school friends and acquaintances had also returned to the community to live with family or care for aging parents.
Asked whether the new residents are becoming part of the old community, Coachman said, "We welcome new development, but we now have a community within a community. We haven't gone outside ourselves to bring them in and that's probably something we could work on."
From talk among the old-timers, Coachman knows there's a feeling that the newcomers don't really think of Nauck as a neighborhood. To the new residents, "it may just be the location of their house."
Rivera, for instance, said he moved to Nauck because he was looking for affordable rental housing. Although he likes the neighborhood, he doesn't plan to remain forever.
"We'll stay maybe two years. The rent is not too expensive," he said.
Residents Toni Brooks and her husband, Isaac Jr., met in the first grade at Drew School in the 1950s. "We've always been the best of friends," remembered Brooks. A couple of years after she graduated from Howard University, she and Isaac realized they were more than just childhood buddies. Both sets of parents, who had moved independently to Nauck in the late 1940s and had known each other through the PTA, "were very pleased -- and not very surprised," said Brooks.
Though her husband's job with now-gone Eastern Airlines took them all over the East Coast, flying privileges meant they could come home nearly every other week. "Our children always had the same pediatrician here in Arlington," said Brooks.
The Brooks family moved back to Nauck's South Pollard Street in the late 1990s to care for Toni's aging mother. Since moving back, Isaac, who is in his late fifties, is careful to instruct people that his name is "Isaac Junior," so as not to be confused with his father, who still lives on adjacent South Kemper Road.
The Brookses are happy to be back in their childhood neighborhood, but probably would not have moved back if they had had to purchase a home rather than move in with a parent. Rising home prices have made Nauck -- one of the last relatively affordable pockets in Arlington -- unaffordable for some who grew up there.
One of the remaining low-cost pockets of units in Nauck, the cooperative Dunbar Homes, may go the way of many of the Glebe Road properties that were sold to developers and razed to make way for more expensive townhouses.
The several buildings of Dunbar Homes, roughly 80 units, were built just after World War II and have not undergone any major renovations in 30 years, according to Portia Clark, first vice president of the Nauck Civic Association. "It needs renovations, but [all of the owners] have to agree," said Clark. The civic association has discussed options with the homeowners, but made no recommendation of how to respond to the very eager developers who have approached the complex. Dunbar Homes sits on the edge of the booming Shirlington area, making it very attractive to investors.
The problem in selling is that most of the residents -- many of whom are elderly -- grew up in Nauck and would not be able to purchase another home there, explained Clark.
Even many of the owners of single-family homes are being pushed out by rising property taxes. "We have a significant aging population here who are house-rich but cash-poor," Clark said.
At least one of the three high-rise condominiums proposed for the Nauck area includes affordable units, with below-market rates for current retail owners in the Green Valley business section of Nauck. Even with the affordable designation, some residents expressed skepticism that their grown children or friends would be able to purchase them.
For the still-young children of Nauck, changes in county regulations mean they will no longer have to ride the bus to elementary school outside their neighborhood.
Toni Brooks said it's a change for the better that all Nauck children will attend Drew Elementary School starting this fall. Drew has been a model school since 1971, meaning all Arlington County elementary schoolchildren could apply to be accepted on a lottery basis.
Starting this school year, the school will accept all Nauck children who want to attend. For the first time in more than 30 years, Drew Elementary will once again be Nauck's neighborhood elementary. It will retain its model school program.
This marks the end of a nearly 20-year struggle for Portia Clark, whose three children all attended at least two elementary schools due to busing requirements. Clark ramped up her efforts two years ago by founding the Community Coalition for Taking Drew Back and finally got the school board's attention.
Until recently, Nauck children were allowed to attend kindergarten at Drew, but were then bused to first grade at Oakridge, Hoffman-Boston or Abingdon. Clark's oldest daughter had attended three different elementary schools by third grade, because of shifting school boundaries.
"It's a welcome relief" to finally have a neighborhood school "that doesn't shift every time the boundaries change," said Clark.
Clark's youngest daughter is now in middle school, so the Arlington County school board's action came too late for her own kids, but she feels that the benefits of having a neighborhood school will help residents communicate better.
"The school is the glue that holds the community together. We haven't had that in 30 years since busing started," said Clark. "There is a disconnect because the neighbors don't get to know each other through school activities."
To add to that "disconnect," she said, "the demographics are much different than they were 15 years ago. Now there's even a language barrier."
Clark, whose parents moved to Nauck in the early 1920s, attended Drew herself. "I've been here all my life," she noted. She has no plans to leave.
That's a sentiment shared by a number of longtime residents who see the neighborhood as a part of their identity. "I've lived in other places, but this is the place I'm going to stay," said Coachman.