Art and architecture come together in Hollin Hills, a community in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, Va., where many potters, painters and photographers who’ve found inspiration in the geometrically-shaped homes from the 1950s live.
Connie and Mike Thomasson have lived in Hollin Hills since 1981, and the artsy feeling there attracted her from the start. Connie Thomasson takes advantage of the unusual lighting on certain days. “Being among like-minded people attracts artists — I know it adds to my work,” she said. “The potters are famous here.”
Inside their three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, there are a few of her paintings on the wall, but space for them is limited. There aren’t many walls because each room is dominated by the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The midcentury modern homes in Hollin Hills were designed by renowned modernist architect Charles M. Goodman to be in harmony with the surrounding wooded area.
The harmony Goodman pursued is apparent in the natural tone exteriors and the roofs, which come in low-sloped gable with overhanging eaves, flat or butterfly low-sloped V-shaped styles. “The landscape will provide the privacy,” Mike Thomasson said.
High maintenance: According to the Friends of Hollin Hills, the Hollin Hills Historic District was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register in 2013. “Hollin Hills is considered historically significant due to its pioneering modern architecture, natural siting, and landscape design,” according to the website. Other nearby communities Goodman designed include Hammond Wood in Silver Spring, Md.; River Park in Southwest Washington; and Hickory Cluster in Reston, Va., said John A. Burns, an architect who moved to Hollin Hills in 1984.
Burns first came for the architecture but now values the sense of neighborhood, too. “It is a very special place,” he said. Although Goodman had the vision, “developer Robert Davenport was willing to take a risk in developing a hilly site for housing, a challenge most developers would walk away from,” Burns said. “Landscape architects Eric Paepke, Bernard Voight and Daniel Urban Kiley were also key to the overall development,” he added.
Most of the houses in the 450-home community are one level, with no basements and minimal storage, so that limits the accumulation of things. “We built an attached shed,” Mike Thomasson said. Many of the other houses have sheds, too, but they are not of the aluminum, prebuilt variety.
Jodie Burns (no relation to John Burns) has lived there since 2006 with her family. After moving in, they noticed the lack of closet space and went to put one in with the approval of the design review committee. The project turned into a master bathroom addition, too.
Burns, a real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, is in the unofficial civic association.
Since the houses in Hollin Hills are on concrete slabs which contain some of the plumbing, renovating is “not cheap,” she said. The flat roofs can be problematic as well, so the designs make fixing or updating a little more than a trip to Home Depot. “They’re a little high maintenance,” she said, “venting can be a little wonky.”
One of the residents, Robert Fina, a contractor, has perfected the home improvement process in Hollin Hills. “He did our windows,” Jodie Burns said. The Thomassons needed their front door lock fixed, so “we had him in here last week,” Mike Thomasson said.
Neighbors look out for each other. Jodie Burns said one neighbor was injured in an accident and neighbors chipped in to help her. “Neighbors built them a ramp. It was all donated — the community totally got together,” she said. “It’s that kind of community.”
Welcoming newcomers: When someone moves in, there is a “greeter family” that pays them a visit, supplies them with community information and interviews them for an article in the upcoming edition of the newsletter. “We were greeted when we moved there in 2006, and it helped us feel welcome immediately,” said Jodie Burns, who became a greeter herself. Recently, a family moved in, so Burns hosted a wine-and-cheese party at her house, and many of the surrounding residents attended.
Every two years, a well-attended homes tour is held. There are signs in some of the yards that read “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you are our neighbor.” In 1999, the civic association published a book “Hollin Hills: Community of Vision” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the neighborhood.
Living there: Hollin Hills is bordered on the south by Sherwood Hall Lane, on the north by Paul Spring Road, on the east by Fort Hunt Road and on the west by Elba Road.
There were nine sales in Hollin Hills in the past six months, ranging from a five-bedroom, four-bathroom 3,000-square-foot house with a fireplace listing for $940,000, to a three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,200-square-foot house for $599,000. There are three houses on the market: a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,495-square-foot house for $700,000; a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,759-square-foot house priced at $599,000; and a three-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,500-square-foot house priced at $829,400.
Schools: Students living in Hollin Hills go to Hollin Meadows Elementary, Carl Sandburg Middle and West Potomac High.
Transit: Hollin Hills is between Richmond Highway and the George Washington Memorial Parkway, with an accompanying bike trail, and is about five miles from Old Town Alexandria. The Huntington Metro Station on the Yellow Line is nearly four miles away, north on Richmond Highway.
Crime: According to the Fairfax County Police, in Zip code 22307, where Hollin Hills is located, there have been 15 burglaries, two robberies and 22 larcenies from vehicles in the past six months.