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In Fallsmead, the most treasured amenity is the 17-acre park

In the tree-lined neighborhood of single-family homes in Rockville, Md., demand has long outpaced supply.

Debbie Korth walks her dog Charlie in Fallsmead, a tree-lined neighborhood of single-family homes in Rockville, Md. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
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When Laura Szabo decided it was time to move her family out of their condo in Logan Circle, she didn’t want to settle far from the city.

So she wasn’t particularly optimistic when a house came on the market in Fallsmead, a tree-lined neighborhood of single-family homes in Rockville, Md. But as they toured the area, her husband suddenly realized he used to live there.

Carl Szabo was just 4 or 5 years old when he moved to Fallsmead, Laura said, and he’d only stayed there for a year or two. Even still, he had told her “wonderful” stories of the place.

Carl’s dim but happy memories of a long-ago Fallsmead align with how residents describe it today. They speak with a steadfast devotion to their neighborhood, praising its schools, its park, and the idyllic sense of friendliness it exudes.

“You know, it sounds very Mayberry-ish,” Laura Szabo said. “But really, that is how it feels.”

Fallsmead’s roughly 290 homes are bordered by Wootton Parkway and Falls Road in southwest Rockville. Construction on the first houses, a series of four- and five-bedroom Colonials with two-car garages built by Kettler Brothers, got underway in 1968. Later, a collection of slightly smaller homes by Berger Berman Builders was added to the neighborhood.

Residents have access to a swimming pool, tennis courts and playgrounds managed by the Fallsmead Homes Corp. But to many, the most treasured amenity is the 17-acre park, complete with a pond and a network of paved walking paths.

The park is privately owned by and reserved for Fallsmead residents. It’s what made Janice and Alan Frankle fall in love with the neighborhood nearly 30 years ago, and during the pandemic, it became a place of refuge for them. They walked around the pond through the springs and summers of 2020 and 2021, watching baby geese hatch, grow and eventually fly away.

“It really became an oasis,” Alan said. “It’s very peaceful.”

Though the park is private, it’s common to see residents from nearby neighborhoods strolling through Fallsmead’s leafy streets, which homeowners say feel secluded and preserved despite their proximity to Interstate 270 and downtown Rockville. Many buyers are attracted to the neighborhood on such strolls, said longtime resident and real estate agent Sherri Earman.

“I get calls all the time from neighbors saying, ‘Sherri, we just met somebody, they're walking through Fallsmead, and they’d like to live here. Can you help them?’” Earman said.

Demand has long outpaced supply in Fallsmead. The Frankles had to wait almost two years for a home to come on the market back in the 1990s when they were looking to buy.

Earman said the local schools are often a draw for young families, who are beginning to trickle into Fallsmead homes that are coming onto the market after decades of slow turnover. Fallsmead Elementary, Robert Frost Middle and Wootton High are all within walking distance.

Plus, residents know and look out for one another’s children, Janice Frankle said, and parents feel safe letting their kids roam the neighborhood.

New homeowners are welcomed enthusiastically when they move in, residents said. It’s common for Szabo, who moved to Fallsmead in 2015, to head out for a walk only to end up chatting with a neighbor for so long that she doesn’t leave her cul-de-sac.

Residents get together for pool parties, happy hours and swim meets, where the children compete and the parents keep time. They dutifully chronicle Fallsmead’s history, uploading photo albums, recipe books and directories dating back to the 1970s to the neighborhood website. There, you can also find a timeline of pool construction plans from 1969 and swim team practice schedules from 1976.

“I don’t know what it is,” Alan Frankle said. “Maybe it’s something in the water or in the air. But there’s just a real sense of warmth, community and — for lack of a better word — love among the people that live here.”

Living there: Fallsmead is bordered by Wootton Parkway to the southwest and Falls Road to the east. Nine homes sold there in the past year, Earman said.

The most expensive was a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house that sold for $1.1 million. The least expensive was a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house for $835,000. No houses are on the market, Earman said.

When the first Fallsmead homes went on the market in 1968, they sold in the mid-$40,000s, according to a 2002 Washington Post story on the neighborhood. By the time the article was written, the average sales price had jumped to around $500,000.

In the past year, Earman said, homes in Fallsmead sold for $962,222 on average.

Schools: Fallsmead Elementary, Robert Frost Middle and Wootton High.

Transit: Residents can walk to bus stops along Wootton Parkway and Falls Road. The Rockville Metro station is an eight-minute drive away, and the neighborhood is less than a mile from I-270.

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