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Dempsey offers quietude and convenience

The Alexandria, Va., neighborhood takes advantage of its proximity to Old Town

Dempsey, a quiet, family-oriented hamlet near Old Town Alexandria, has just under 80 homes. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)
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In the close to 20 years she has lived in Dempsey, a quiet family-oriented hamlet near Old Town Alexandria, Sofía Estevez never minded walking 10 blocks or taking a bus to the nearest Metro station.

Estevez loves being “close to the historical side of Old Town” without the crowds. Just under 80 of the homes in Dempsey exude an Old English cottage charm, although some of the townhouses on the few cul-de-sacs that make up the neighborhood have modern facades, with white paint and Edison bulb string lights.

“You’re not in a suburb, isolated from everyone, there’s a decent sense of community here,” she said. “You can walk to so many places all the time, I used to go to a [nearby] yoga studio and a karate dojo.”

Numerous families have called Dempsey home for decades, but Estevez said that in some ways “it’s also a transient neighborhood.”

“A lot of couples live here, and then once they start having kids, they move out because in [Dempsey], the houses are very small,” she said. Too small to raise a large family, she added.

Chetworth Park has a playground that Estevez and others say is usually brimming with children. Even after dark on a recent afternoon, the park playground was littered with toy push carts, children’s bicycles and a plastic car racing track, waiting for a sunny day of play. Mismatched patio chairs stood on standby for future trips to the park.

Bruce Rolfsen, a local writer, has rented an apartment with his partner in Dempsey for the past two decades. Like Estevez, he enjoys living close to downtown but not where the crowds are. Rolfsen often rides his bicycle along the Mount Vernon Trail, but added that parking his car is easy in Dempsey as is taking public transportation to his Crystal City office.

Although Dempsey has few restaurants, bars or stores, several residents said Alexandria’s Old Town section offers nightlife and dining nearby.

One of the neighborhood’s mainstays is Vaso’s Kitchen on Powhatan Street. Vaso Volioti has been slinging eggplant parmigiana and crab-stuffed shrimp from her Mediterranean restaurant for around 15 years.

Vaso’s Kitchen occupies a small building on the neighborhood’s southern boundary, a former barbecue joint whose neon sign still adorns the small building. Although it’s on a quiet corner of Alexandria, the restaurant fills up from Thursday to Saturday nights, not just with neighbors but with Marylanders and Washingtonians as well, Volioti says.

“There’s no killings, no nothing, just here’s a lot of dogs on walks,” said Volioti, adding that often dog walkers will stop by the restaurant’s front patio. Some even order the restaurant’s chicken, minus the usual spices, for their pets, which they pick up on their walk. Watch where you step since not all dog owners in the neighborhood appear to be consistent about picking up after their dogs.

“The Dempsey neighborhood is not designated historic by the City of Alexandria,” wrote Marina Novaes, an urban planner focused on historic preservation with the city, via email. “However … parts of it may fall within the Old and Historic Alexandria District.” Prospective residents can check if a given home falls under historic designation through Alexandria’s municipal website.

Living there: Dempsey is bounded by Slaters Lane to the north, the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the east, Bashford Lane to the south and Route 1 to the west.

Twenty-five homes sold in the neighborhood in the past year, according to local real estate agent Elizabeth Rea Landeros. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,446-square-foot condo in a garden-style building sold for $995,000. A newer townhouse-style unit with two outdoor spaces, three bedrooms and five bathrooms sold for just over $1 million. A three-bedroom, four-bathroom, 2,160-square-foot end-unit townhouse with an attached garage also sold for just over $1 million. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom end-unit townhouse sold for $515,000.

Transit: The Braddock Road Metro station is a roughly 15-minute walk or a six-minute bicycle ride from Dempsey. The DASH system travels along the neighborhood’s outer boundaries. Numerous other buses service adjacent areas. Capital Bikeshare stations are on Dempsey’s north and south boundaries. The neighborhood is between two highways: George Washington Memorial Parkway and Route 1.

Schools: Jefferson-Houston (pre-K through eighth grades), Alexandria City High

correction

A previous version of this story misidentified the high school in the area. It is Alexandria City High School, not T.C. Williams High School. T.C. Williams High was renamed in 2021.

If you’d like your neighborhood featured in Where We Live, email kathy.orton@washpost.com.

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