Where We Live | Drumaldry in Montgomery County, Md.

shareShare
Drumaldry was built starting in 1970 by homebuilder Miller & Smith, and designed by architect Nick Pappas with David N. Yerkes and Associates. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)

Driving into the Drumaldry neighborhood in Bethesda, you are transported from a sea of Colonials in the surrounding area to an unusual island of California contemporaries.

“You come into the area and it’s like 1971 all over again,” said community board president John Delaney.

Drawn together by their love of mid-century modern architecture, neighbors here revel in the bright, airy designs of their six model homes “inspired by exotic courtyard dwellings of yesterday,” as described in the development’s original 1971 brochure. Homes feature vaulted redwood ceilings, open floor plans and roofs made of cedar shingles.

“Living here makes me feel better about the fact that I’m not in California,” said Rin-rin Yu, who lived on the West Coast for years before coming to the D.C. area.

Yu’s home, like most in the 50-year-old development, features a flood of light streaming through two-story-high windows in the vaulted living room. A previous owner of her house, known in the neighborhood as the “Disco Dentist” thanks to a vanity license plate, renovated the house sometime in the 1980s, building a bathroom extension that nearly doubled in size, Yu says.

“It’s enormous — we call it the disco bathroom,” said Yu, who moved to Drumaldry about a year ago with her husband and two children.

The dentist also opened up the kitchen and family room space to create one large room. All Yu had to do was paint, she says.

The small neighborhood of 104 single-family houses lies within the Courts of Wyngate subdivision. It was built starting in 1970 by home builder Miller & Smith, and designed by architect Nick Pappas with David N. Yerkes and Associates. Pappas’s house designs were also inspired by the rustic feel of English country villages, according to resident Murray Goldstein, 94.

An unusual feature of the neighborhood is that each home is surrounded by a six-foot-tall brick fence that creates private outdoor spaces. Neighbors can’t see into the backyards, giving a heightened sense of privacy. In addition, the homes are designed so that windows don’t look into any windows of the houses next door, furthering the sense of seclusion, according to Leni Preston, who has lived in Drumaldry for 16 years.

“I like to say that I could run naked in my rear garden and nobody could see me,” Preston said.

Social committee chair Lisa Finn also appreciates the privacy and bucolic setting. “It’s like I live in the Secret Garden,” she said.

As the oldest resident in Drumaldry, Goldstein is considered the neighborhood historian — he still lives in the house he and his wife bought here in 1973, which has never been renovated or updated.

Goldstein, who was director of the Neurology Institute at the National Institutes of Health until retiring about 20 years ago, says the name “Drumaldry” derives from the Celtic word “drum” meaning a knoll or a hill. Drumaldry Drive, the center of the neighborhood and the only street to allow entry and exit, runs up a hill with four streets intersecting along the way.

The history of the area stretches back to pre-Colonial Maryland, Goldstein said, when the Magruder family arrived in Maryland in 1651. The colony was still known as Terra Mariae. By the 1700s, the Magruders were granted land near Bethesda in an area called Leake Forest, (now a street name in current-day Drumaldry) and included in the forest was Drumaldry.

The area was a wooded stretch of land until Miller & Smith developed it starting in 1970, Goldstein said. He said the community’s architectural committee has strict guidelines to maintain the integrity of the original designs. The neighborhood is managed by an elected board of directors.

The neighborhood is planning to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, Finn said. The committee is still working on event specifics, she said, but it will certainly honor the community’s breezy California feel and distinct house designs.

In addition to the architecture, residents are attracted to Drumaldry by its convenient location, Delaney said. “You can walk to the elementary school and middle school,” he points out, and Walter Johnson High School is nearby.

Much as residents enjoy their privacy, there is a vibrant social life in Drumaldry, according to social director Finn. For the holidays the neighborhood holds an annual pot luck, she said. “With so many international people here, everyone brings a dish from their homeland,” she said. During the summer, there are pool parties since many of the homes have backyard pools.

Finn said one social highlight is occasional “creative tours” by individuals in the neighborhood. The tours are progressive parties where volunteers show renovations, or creative projects — anything from jewelry-making to a piano recital to a reading by a poet.

Living there: Drumaldry is bounded by Greentree Road to the south and west, Sword’s Way to the north and the Bulls Run stream to the east. Drumaldry Drive runs through the center of the neighborhood.

Owners like to hold on tight to their architectural treasures, according to real estate agent Linda Chaletzky. In the past year only four homes have sold, with prices ranging from $824,500 to $953,500. Chaletzky said no homes are for sale or under contract.

She touted Drumaldry’s status as a rare Washington-area development that features patio homes, with bedrooms on the first floor. She said buyers who work at nearby NIH are also attracted to its location.

Schools: Wyngate Elementary, North Bethesda Middle and Walter Johnson High.

Transit: The Bethesda and Medical Center Metro stations are both about three miles from the center of Drumaldry. The Montgomery County Ride On Bus 47 runs to the Bethesda station along Greentree Road to Old Georgetown Road. Bradley Boulevard and the Capital Beltway are the closest major thoroughfares.