Residents say visitors often do a double take when they first visit Annandale Acres — an inside-the-Beltway neighborhood in Fairfax County.
Maybe it’s because they don’t expect to see 126 mostly one-acre lots just off Backlick Road, within walking distance of Little River Turnpike. Maybe streetside mailboxes and streets without curbs or sidewalks give this community a rural look that seems both out-of-place and welcoming in an area where traffic congestion is common.
Or maybe they don’t expect to see such an eclectic combination of houses, untethered by the typical regulations of a homeowners association. A geodesic dome, a cute Victorian, some wee 1940s Cape Cods and ramblers, and a number of grand brick colonials built in the housing boom of the late 1990s are all in the mix.
Carolyn Freeman said her parents bought a small Cape Cod on a one-acre lot in 1948. “I was the housewarming gift,” she quipped.
She said the community, which its residents call “the Acres,” was once a dairy farm. One-acre lots originally sold for $200 to $300, with $10 down and $10 a month. In the early 1950s, her parents were offered an adjacent acre for $500 but couldn’t afford it.
She grew up, married and moved to Springfield, continuing to join her parents, siblings and the growing gang of children and grandchildren for family celebrations in Annandale Acres.
After her father died in 2007, she told her husband, Jim, “I need to go back to that house,” which by then had been enlarged several times. Freeman, the youngest of five, said part of the reason for buying the home from her siblings was to maintain it for family events.
Today, still known by the original family name, the Hunter house continues to be a gathering place. Four family weddings were held there – including Freeman’s. A large deck surrounds the oak tree — planted when she was a toddler — that now towers over the house.
Betty and Chip Emmons had their 3,700-square-foot geodesic dome house built from a customized kit in 2002. During construction, they lived in a 900-square-foot cinder-block house on the same lot; the house was where Betty grew up during the 1960s and ’70s. Chip, a fan of futurist Buckminster Fuller, designed the floorplan for what is now dubbed “the Southern Igloo.” The house sits far back from the street, so the bulk of their acreage is in the front yard.
Betty Emmons said she enjoys the spaciousness between houses. “Neighbors are close enough, but it’s not like they’re watching you brush your teeth,” she said. “We’re not isolated — they’re here if you need them, but we’re not always getting together.”
Even the community’s civic association, of which she is vice president, is low-key, meeting infrequently.
The Emmons looked into whether they could have a basement, but the high-water table in the community was not promising. Some residents on higher ground do have basements, though.
Periodically, someone floats the idea of installing curbs and gutters to deal with runoff from surrounding homes. But many residents don’t want to give up the country look of their streets, Betty Emmons said.
“I wouldn’t mind the curbs,” said Betty Johnson, whose property sits slightly lower than the street. Johnson and her late husband, Burton, purchased two acres in 1950 so they could grow gladiolas and Dutch irises for a D.C. flower market. Today, there’s still one acre for her family’s garden. The other acre now boasts a cute Victorian house, where her daughter’s family lives.
Lee Chaffin sought out Annandale Acres in 1978 when he and several friends wanted space to build a tennis court. The brick rambler at the front of the property wasn’t as important to him as the sprawling, level back yard. “Lots of good friends would show up every Saturday and Sunday to play,” he said.
Chaffin, now 87, still enjoys the game. His house is under contract now as he prepares to move closer to his family this summer. “My friends are mad at me,” he said, admitting to having mixed feelings about the move. But there’s something enticing about teaching his grandchildren to raise a racket.