You won't hear the clanking of halyards in Burke's nautically themed community of Longwood Knolls, but residents say they couldn't fathom living anywhere else.
Even though they have names such as Waterline, Sailcloth and Yardarm, the streets of Longwood Knolls don't lead to water. Instead, they meander through a 26-year-old neighborhood of 554 well-maintained split-levels and Colonials on heavily treed knolls.
Sally Segal, an original resident of Longwood Knolls, said the land is part of an old tobacco plantation, once known as Mulberry Hill. In the 1700s, hogsheads of tobacco were delivered to ships on nearby rivers and creeks for export, so the nautically oriented street names actually fit with the history of the landlocked community.
When Segal bought her four-bedroom Colonial in 1979, this part of Fairfax County was still largely rural. "There was nothing here. Lee Chapel was a dirt road," she said. "When they put up a stop sign, we all went berserk."
"Civilization has come to us," said Jennifer Earner, also a Longwood Knolls homeowner since 1979, and one of many neighborhood military families who have moved in and out, renting their houses during their absences rather than selling. "While you're away, big changes come."
During one absence, the South Run Recreation Center was built. "All of a sudden, there were soccer fields nearby," Earner said. During another absence, the small local library became a big regional one.
During the 1980s, Earner was one of many residents who opposed the proposed Fairfax County Parkway along the community's south side. Once a part of then-two-lane Pohick Road, the parkway now is a "godsend," Earner said. "Dulles Airport is only 20 minutes away now."
Beth Fairbrother's family first moved to Longwood Knolls from Ohio 23 years ago. At the time, she thought she didn't want to live in Burke because it was too far out. But at the same time, she specifically wanted a house built by Dallas-based Centex Corp. "I didn't want a builder who just put one maple tree in the front and one in the back. Centex worked with the natural foliage," she said.
After her husband completed a tour of duty in Hawaii 12 years ago, Fairbrother told friends, "I'm going home," but admits that she had difficulty finding her way back to Longwood Knolls because the roads had changed so much. Today, she no longer considers her neighborhood too far out, and also praises the parkway. "It's an asset. Things that were once remote are now easier to get to."
"I have never had a desire to go to any other house," she said.
The widening of Lee Chapel Road two years ago also worried many Longwood Knolls residents because that road cuts through the community. Safety issues won out over fears that the change would divide the neighborhood. "Everybody knows someone who had an accident on Lee Chapel when it was a winding two-lane road, so it needed to be fixed," Earner said.
There are no clubhouses or other formal gathering places within Longwood Knolls, but residents make good use of the various public recreation facilities close by. People socialize through the schools and Fairfax County youth leagues, or in the cul de sacs.
"What really binds the community together," said resident Joan Brown, "is the homeowner association and the newsletter."
The newsletter, the Captain's Chronicle, is still delivered door-to-door by neighbors. Longwood Knolls has resisted switching to electronic communication among residents because, Segal said, "when people deliver the newsletter door-to-door, they get to meet their neighbors." When the community recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, each newsletter was tied with a silver ribbon.
Residents say the architectural review committee is firm, but fair and adaptable. Kate Scheuer, the association president, noted that after Hurricane Isabel, so many homes were damaged that the board quickly amended the rules, allowing the original aluminum siding on homes to be replaced with vinyl.
"The homeowner association has its stuff together," said Lee Hojnicki, a father of three. "When trees were nicked and dying after a storm, the association brought in people to remove them before they became hazardous."
Association dues of $40 a year cover maintenance of common areas, the newsletter and a community directory that includes plant and pet sitters as well as party and yard work helpers.
Talented gardeners flourish in the community. Terry and Chuck Barchok's 11,300-square-foot lot provides them stress relief. "'Why pay for a gym membership when you can get endorphins from being outside?" Terry Barchok said.
Chuck has to rely on his youngest son, Mike, a 6-foot-2 sophomore at James Madison University, to reach the top of the trellised cucumbers. "We got over 400 from three plants this year," he said.
The reputation of the schools in the Burke area has been a big draw for many families. For instance, Brown's children attended international schools for years, so the family wanted an educational setting that catered to a similarly diverse population.
Michelle Trent said that when she and her husband bought their home five years ago, "it was all about the schools." With two young children, Trent said, "we were looking long-term, through high school."
After a stint with the Navy in California, the Trents have just returned to their home and already have noticed changes. One neighbor has enclosed a patio; construction along Lee Chapel Road is finally finished.
Earner, whose husband retired from the military six years ago, noted that the rhododendrons she carried home in her little Honda long ago are now two stories high.
After all those years of military moves, Earner said she is content to stay put. "Finally, I've lived in my own house more than others have," she said.