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Chevy Chase, D.C., is a ‘small town within a city’

The residents of the Northwest Washington neighborhood are active within their community

Chevy Chase, a neighborhood in Northwest Washington, features several housing styles. Many of the homes boast colorful gardens. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
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A previous version of this article incorrectly said the Halloween parade that Malitz referred to is organized by Lafayette Elementary. It is organized by the Chevy Chase Citizens Association. Lafayette Elementary also has its own Halloween parade. The article said Lafayette-Pointer Park and Recreation Center was renamed in 2018. It was renamed in 2021. The article has been corrected. The article also previously featured a photo that said the stretch of Connecticut Avenue pictured was in Chevy Chase. It was near the neighborhood instead. The photo has been replaced with a correct one.

When local photographer Stacy Beck was deciding where to move with her growing family, the Northwest Washington neighborhood of Chevy Chase, with its mix of suburban and urban living, felt like the perfect fit.

“I distinctly remember when I was pregnant with my now rising junior in high school, taking a bike [ride] up here with my husband,” Beck said. “We were house-hunting and just totally fell in love with the neighborhood. It’s got really beautiful, diverse houses, a lot of mature trees. … It’s such a privilege to have this big green space so close to us. And I’ve made just amazing friends here. It’s a tightknit community — I really love it.”

Photographer Peggy Fleming, who wrote a book about the neighborhood, called Chevy Chase a “small town within a city,” using it as the basis for the title of her book. Over the past 17 years, Beck has found a close community through block parties and school activities.

Her three children went to Lafayette Elementary School, where they created their own bonds in neighborhood sports leagues. Beck was amazed by a survey that found 32 languages are spoken by children at the school. After realizing parents needed a place to coordinate and share neighborhood activities, she founded a Facebook group called “Chevy Chase Chatter.”

“Someone posted, ‘My wife has a big interview, but her apartment building is under construction. Can anyone offer her a quiet space to do this Zoom interview?’” Beck said. “And several people responded; I think all were strangers to this person.”

At the start of the pandemic, Cecilia Paradi-Guilford moved from Kenya to Chevy Chase with her family. She had been stationed abroad for work at the World Bank. Although the pandemic stalled neighborhood activities, Paradi-Guilford has been impressed with the support she has found.

“We needed a bike pump to blow something up urgently for the kids, and within a matter of minutes, 10 bike pumps had turned up on the front porch because people were just really keen to jump to help,” she said.

Paradi-Guilford said the support neighbors show is not just local but worldwide.

“It’s been impressive for me to see, for instance, with the Afghan refugee crisis, there’s an organized group in the neighborhood that continues to rally efforts together,” she said.

Families flock to the recently renovated Lafayette-Pointer Park and Recreation Center in the warmer weather to enjoy the baseball field, playgrounds, splash park and tennis courts. The park was renamed in 2021 when community members, including James Fisher, a seventh-generation descendant of George Pointer, came together to honor the Pointer family.

George Pointer purchased his freedom at age 19 for $300 after being enslaved since birth. His family settled on the land, which was subsequently owned by a small community of Black families for more than 80 years. In 1928, their homes were seized by eminent domain to build Lafayette Elementary School and Lafayette Park.

In 2015, more than 100 of Pointer’s descendants traveled to gather in the park for a celebration.

“Once the true story circulated in the neighborhood, we were embraced, and some very skilled, tireless people formed to assist in every way,” Fisher said. “Without them, little would have been accomplished.”

Colonials, Cape Cods, bungalows and Tudor-style houses are found in the neighborhood, several boasting colorful gardens. As one of D.C.’s first streetcar suburbs, many houses date to the early 20th century. Historic Chevy Chase DC has launched a project to document the area’s legacy in oral “house histories” by interviewing residents about their homes.

The house histories cover racial covenants in the area — which barred African Americans from buying into Chevy Chase — world wars, prominent former residents and the evolution of Chevy Chase.

Connecticut Avenue is the center of Chevy Chase with its small strip of shops and restaurants. Chevy Chase Arcade is a historic commercial mall built in 1925, housing Arcade Beauty Salon, Macon Bistro & Larder, and Bert’s Jewelers.

Jerry Malitz, a former ANC commissioner who maintains a newsletter called Chevy Chase News & Notes, says the area is “very family oriented.”

“On the immediate part of where most of the businesses are on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, the restaurants are all basically family friendly. You can go into some of them and see as many kids as you do adults,” he said.

The Parthenon is a popular restaurant serving Greek cooking; Capital Crab offers seafood; Mamma Lucia serves Italian cuisine; and Blue 44 serves family-style American food. Local bistro Little Beast provides an assortment of pizza and brunch food. Nearby amenities include Rock Creek Park, which is less than a mile away; the Friendship Heights shopping district; and the popular bookstore-restaurant Politics and Prose.

Malitz said one of the biggest events for families is a Halloween parade organized by the Chevy Chase Citizens Association. Lafayette Elementary also hosts a Halloween parade for children. "Other events, such as recent pop-ups from a new art group called Chevy Chase Artists (Ch/Art), are attended by children, as well.

Avalon Theatre bills itself as the oldest operating movie house in the D.C. metro area. Coming up on its centennial anniversary, the Avalon has events catering to all ages, including an education program for students called “Cinema Classroom at the Avalon.”

Chas Cadwell, who serves as an ANC commissioner for Chevy Chase, says new residents looking to get involved can find plenty of organizations seeking volunteers.

“Everybody is looking for volunteers, whether it’s the Citizens Association or us or the Northwest Neighbors Village,” he said. “I’m guessing that’s what distinguishes us from most neighborhoods.”

Living there: Chevy Chase’s boundaries tend to be fluid, but the ANC puts them as Rock Creek Park to the north and east; Reno Road, Nebraska Avenue and Broad Branch Road to the south; and Western Avenue to the west.

Carlos Garcia, a real estate agent at Keller Williams, said 212 homes have sold in the past year. He said sales have ranged from a seven-bedroom, five-bathroom home for just under $3.3 million to a studio condo for $180,000. The average home sale price in Chevy Chase is $1,354,314. The average rent is $3,019 for an apartment and $5,191 for a single-family house. Garcia said 19 properties are for sale. Prices range from $150,000 for a one-bedroom condo to $3.1 million for a four-bedroom bungalow-style house.

Schools: Lafayette and Murch Elementary, Alice Deal Middle, Jackson-Reed High

Transit: The closest Metro station is Friendship Heights on the Red Line, which is a 16-minute walk from the neighborhood. Several Metrobus routes serve the neighborhood.