In 1858, George Washington Riggs, a co-founder of Riggs National Bank, built a summer home on his country estate in Silver Spring. Six years later, Confederate and Union troops torched and plundered the area, and Riggs decided to sell the property.
His estate, however, remained unscathed by the skirmish, except for the loss of some hay, “eatables” and a valuable ox. The property was purchased by prominent businessman William Thompson, who expanded the house. Eventually, the spacious Second Empire and Italianate-style mansion became a convent and a school.
Today, the Riggs-Thompson house is on the market again, part of the 5.25 acres purchased by Bethesda developer EYA to create a community called Chelsea Heights. EYA is building 63 townhouses to the north of the historical landmark and has sold 25.
“The architecture [of the homes] is designed to create a transition from the high-density surroundings of downtown Silver Spring to the predominantly single-family neighborhood adjacent to the site,” says Preston Innerst, EYA vice president of sales and marketing.
Inspired by the Craftsman-style bungalows in the area, the three-story townhouses are clad in fiber-cement siding or brick, with bay and dormer windows. Three designs are available, ranging from three bedrooms and three baths at 1,661 square feet to four bedrooms and four baths at 2,627 square feet. Base prices range from $715,000 to $920,000. The first residents moved in during March and EYA anticipates the community will be completed by summer 2016.
Green, open design: EYA is building the townhouses to meet LEED for Homes standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council for eco-friendliness and energy efficiency. Energy Star appliances, double-paned windows, dual-flush toilets, insulated hot-water pipes and airtight building envelopes are among the green design features.
Inside the units, the main level has an open-plan layout so the living, dining and kitchen spaces flow together. Most of the houses have a rear, two-car garage on the basement level and a recreation room, which could be turned into another bedroom. On the top floor, a terrace set into the gabled roof provides a secluded outdoor space for relaxing and entertaining.
Two townhouses, both the three-bedroom Andrews design, are available for immediate move in. They are located within the row of homes nearest the Riggs-Thompson house and are being sold for $749,995 and $759,995. The units feature granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and hardwood floors as part of the base price.
Model homes and upgrades: The larger Bergman design at the end of the row currently serves as the sales office and a model home. Its teal siding reflects one of the brightest of nine paint colors being applied to the townhouse exteriors. The residence incorporates about $90,000 of upgrades, including quartz countertops, mosaic backsplash and stainless-steel KitchenAid and Whirlpool appliances in the kitchen.
The Crawford model home, which opened at the end of May, is the largest and most expensive of the townhouse designs. At 24 feet wide, compared with 16 feet for the Andrews and 19 feet for the Bergman, the Crawford accommodates three bedrooms on the second level, a rear deck and a more spacious terrace on the top floor. The model has $120,000 worth of upgrades, including gas fireplaces in the living area and top-floor terrace, and is well staged with contemporary furnishings by Carlyn and Company of Great Falls.
Mansion for sale: The historic Riggs-Thompson home at 715 Pershing Dr. is listed for $1.495 million as a single-family house but is not part of the Chelsea Heights community. The three-story, 6,940-square-foot residence, formerly home to the Chelsea School, has seven bedrooms on its upper two levels, but it currently has no kitchen and requires extensive renovation. (For more information about the house, contact Kyle Richards of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Bethesda at 301-718-0010).
Shopping and entertainment: Bounded by Ellsworth Drive, Springvale Road and Pershing Drive, Chelsea Heights is within walking distance of downtown Silver Spring. Residents can stroll to Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, the AFI Silver and Fillmore theaters, the Silver Spring Civic Building, a new public library and dozens of restaurants.
The community is across the street from Ellsworth Park and within walking distance of several other local parks and the ice skating rink in Veterans Plaza.
Schools: East Silver Spring and Rosemary Hills elementary; Sligo and Silver Spring International middle; and Northwood High.
Transit: Nearby transportation includes the Silver Spring Metrorail and MARC stations, and the future Purple Line. The Capital Beltway is within a five-minute drive.
Deborah K. Dietsch is a freelance writer.
25 Ellsworth Heights St., Silver Spring, Md.
The townhouses are priced from $715,000 to $920,000.
Architect: Lessard Design
Features: Townhouses have nine-foot-high ceilings, open-plan living levels, stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, recessed lighting, oak flooring, roof terraces, automation systems for controlling security and temperature settings.
Bedrooms/bathrooms: 3 to 4/3 to 4
Square footage: 1,661 to 2,627
Homeowner association fees: $145 per month includes trash pick-up, recycling, snow removal, maintenance of common areas.
View models: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at 21 Ellsworth Heights St.
Contact: Nick Yannitello, sales manager, 301-565-6700.