Where We Live | Tauxemont in Fairfax County, Va.

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Started in the early 1940s, Tauxemont in Fairfax County, Va., was founded by young federal employees who felt cramped in their Arlington apartments and wanted more room for their growing families. (Craig Hudson/for The Washington Post)

Country singer Doug Stone wasn’t singing about Tauxemont, a small suburb in Fairfax County, when he crooned that “love grows best in little houses.”

But the neighborhood sees Stone’s lyrics as a kind of love letter to their way of life — a validation of their modest, historic, one-story homes. So much so, they’ve included his verses in a brochure for new residents.

Started in the early 1940s, Tauxemont was founded by young federal employees who felt cramped in their Arlington apartments and wanted more room for their growing families.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal government was expanding dramatically, available housing in the Washington area was shrinking. A group of 20 families, many employed by the Agriculture Department, banded together in search of more space.

They founded Tauxemont. Named after the Taux, a Native American community that inhabited these shores long before John Smith surveyed the Potomac River, it was one of Fairfax County’s first suburban developments.

The goal was to build simple, single-story homes that could easily be enlarged as families and incomes expanded. Homes were built cooperatively, using inexpensive materials such as cinder block and surplus aluminum left over after World War II.

“I had a neighbor who said he thought they were joking [about the aluminum],” said Cindy Brack, a resident and former board member of the Tauxemont Citizens Association, “but then he tried to nail something into his wall and almost lost his arm.”

Hidden under large mature trees without streetlights or sidewalks, Tauxemont has attracted an eclectic mix of writers, artists, lawyers, yoga teachers, and federal employees. It has been home to civil rights leaders and women’s rights advocates including Virginia Williams, one of the founders of Black Women United for Action, and Jane Wellemeyer, the first president of the County League of Women Voters.

“It’s like a little village,” said Mary V. Thompson, a resident and research historian. “There are a lot of quirky characters.”

Homes are set back from the narrow streets and oriented to maximize privacy between neighbors. The original developers, including Robert C. Davenport, who later built Hollin Hills, didn’t regrade the land. Instead, homes were nestled into the natural topography.

“Tauxemont houses sit really low,” said Scott A. Surovell, a third-generation Tauxemonter who serves in the Virginia state Senate. “So, when you’re sitting inside them, it really gives you the impression that you are sitting in nature because when you’re looking out, you see nothing but green.”

Surovell’s grandparents were among the 20 homeowners who founded the neighborhood. Surovell and his father, Robert, were born in Tauxemont and still live there. Both attended the Tauxemont Cooperative Preschool. The nationally accredited preschool, where residents are given priority enrollment, was established in 1942, making it the oldest cooperative preschool in Fairfax County.

Tauxemont also boasts one of the last privately owned water systems in the county. Three wells draw from ancient aquifers, and the water is a wellspring of pride for the community. A resident had the water isotope tested and “it came back being like 20,000 years old,” said Surovell.

Until the early 2000s, Tauxemont remained largely unaffected by the creep of suburban development.

“We’ve always been this little section that people pretty much forgot about,” said Brack.

But in recent years, the expansion of multistory homes has started to encroach upon Tauxemont. Residents have watched builders raze original ranch houses and pave over this sleepy suburb’s history.

“They were very few homes being built in World War II,” said Surovell, “so it’s sort of representative of an era.”

The community applied for a historic designation in 2005 and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. But the designation isn’t bulletproof.

“Being part of a historic neighborhood, it’s an honorific kind of thing, but it doesn’t have any teeth to it,” said Thompson.

Some Tauxemonters worry it could lose its historic status. Although Thompson is doubtful that the status could be rescinded, others, like Surovell are concerned. “If the teardowns continue, it could be,” he said.

Many of the neighborhood’s original 100 homes have already been replaced or renovated beyond recognition.

“To see an original Tauxemont house, you kind of have to look hard and fast because they are going,” said Brack.

Losing the designation isn’t what concerns Tauxemonters. It’s losing the distinctive character of the place.

“This neighborhood has a particular style and feel to it, and we really don’t want to lose that,” said Brack. “Especially in this day and age, it’s nice to have that closeness and to have that sense of community.”

Despite the teardowns, Tauxemont has retained its cooperative, progressive spirit.

“We like to tell you we like being different,” said Brack. “We are definitely not cookie-cutter in our beliefs around here.”

Living there: Tauxemont is bounded by Fort Hunt Road on the west, Tauxemont Road on the north, Tauxemont Road and Accotink Place to the east, and Bolling Drive and Westmoreland Road to the south.

As housing prices have increased, fewer people can afford to live here.

“My grandparents paid $4,000 for their house,” said Surovell.

Now, homes in Tauxemont can sell for close to a million dollars.

There are three houses for sale. The highest-priced is a four-bedroom, four-bathroom house listed for $875,000. The lowest-priced home is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house listed at $699,000. The average price of homes sold in 2019 was $737,725.

Schools: Waynewood Elementary, Sandburg Middle, and West Potomac High.

Transit: The closest main thoroughfares are Fort Hunt Road and the George Washington Parkway. Tauxemont is about five miles from the Huntington Metro station on the Yellow Line. Several bus routes serve the neighborhood.