Thirty-five years ago, Jacqueline Hancock was entranced by the look and layout of a Maryland townhouse community that she toured. But she wanted to live in Virginia.
"If you ever build over there, let me know," she told the developers, Carl Freeman Co.
Soon, she got the call that the company was building Bristow Village in Annandale, and she was ready to move.
Back then, Hancock thought that Bristow Village's contemporary styling, cedar shake roofs and large open spaces set the Annandale townhouse community apart. She still thinks so. The development's 175 townhouses, with varied setbacks and rooflines, line gently winding sidewalks under a mature leafy canopy.
Doris Persh met Hancock while they were both living in a nearby apartment community before moving to Bristow Village.
Persh said that Bristow Village's convenient location, like her friendship with Hancock, has stood the test of time. Rattling off the pluses, she said, "It is between every mall, there are five groceries in Annandale, and there are many ways to travel to main roads."
Persh said, "We're getting discovered. For years no one knew we were here."
The Braddock Road ramp to the Capital Beltway is minutes away. A footbridge over the Beltway makes it easy for residents to take advantage of programs at Wakefield Park & Recreation Center. The elementary and high schools are within walking distance.
When Olivia Chattin moved to Bristow Village 24 years ago, she was the only resident from another country. Today, the Mexican native, now president of the homeowners association, said 21 languages are represented. "My children are grown and gone, and have the best memories of Bristow Village," she said.
"The pool is a great mixer," said Cynthia Miller, who heads up the community's neighborhood watch. "Children don't care where you're from or what language you speak as long as they can splash you."
Bristow Village was built in three sections and completed in 1974. The five models, each named for a flower -- Azalea, Buttercup, Camellia, Carnation and Dahlia -- range in size from three to five bedrooms.
Hancock's corner unit is about 2,400 square feet; the largest homes are about 3,000 square feet. "Each unit is designed so no one is looking in your window," Hancock said.
Resident Cathy Kyser, who runs her own scrapbooking company, said: "The landmark here is the huge old trees. They really make the village look pretty." Kyser's front yard has two towering native dogwood trees and is heavy with hosta and other shade-loving plants.
When Ellis Glover moved to his light-filled townhouse in February, he said, he was so taken with its possibilities that he didn't pay much attention to the surroundings, which had a typically barren winter look. When May rolled around, the greenery was striking, said Glover, the director of a private school in Annandale. "It felt like I was living in Central Park."
He said his house is particularly well designed for entertaining. The living room looks over the large patio below and the broad common area beyond.
Hancock worked on the community's grounds committee for decades. "I knew every inch of this property," she boasted.
Acknowledging that today's families don't seem to have the time to spend on community association tasks the way she and her husband did for so many years, Hancock bemoans a decision the board made several years ago to hand over some of the routine tasks of running the community to a management company.
"It's losing the personal touch," she said.
Nevertheless, Bristow Village's homeowners association is an active one, hosting the usual holiday parties and community activities. The monthly newsletter, "The Bristow Villager," has a column highlighting places for family outings and children-friendly events, written by Tatiana Niang, 12. This year, the association introduced a contest for remodelers, with winners selected by the board of directors and cash prizes given by two local real estate agents.
Association dues of $950 per year go toward maintenance of the extensive common grounds and the pool, and for snow and trash removal, insurance and legal fees. Neighborhood Watch volunteers make foot patrols around the community several times a day.
The association also focuses on making sure residents maintain the appearance of the community. If you don't want someone dictating the color of the exterior trim on your house, this is not the place for you. The association runs a tight ship with strict specifications. Sherwin-Williams "Old Tavern Brown" in flat latex is required for all exterior trim and decks, although there is individuality allowed for front doors.
There is a once-a-year walk-through by the management company, MJF Associates of Manassas. Violations, from leaving a trash can out to neglecting a deteriorating roof, are noted. After a period to make corrections, fines are assessed at $10 per day. After the walk-through in May, 112 notices were handed out, mostly for minor problems.
"I've been cited a few times and thought, 'Oh, that's picky,' " Miller said. "But I understand that keeping maintenance up is the main thing."
"It's not like we're police," Chattin said. "We're very fair."
"Everyone has their own tastes, but these [regulations] make it look unified," Kyser said.
Glover said he doesn't mind the association's regulations if they ensure that the area around his new home will continue to be well maintained. "The different colored brick, different textures and the roofs make it look like an old English village," he said.