The original English design elements of George Wenchel’s house in Chevy Chase Hamlet accent the neighborhood layout of cul-de-sacs and a “motor court,” a common area that makes this community in Montgomery County, Md., stand out along Connecticut Avenue.
The fronts of the houses face out, but they back up to a common parking area where residents see each other coming and going in a communal setting. “Even today it still works,” he said.
Wenchel grew up in the Hamlet and bought his grandparents’ house in 1994. It was one of the original houses of the development built by the Chevy Chase Land Co., and his grandparents were among the nine original residents from the 1930s. He said he loves the contact he has with his neighbors through that style of neighborhood design. One neighbor had a New Year’s Eve party and “all the other neighbors I’d see out back were there,” he said.
Chevy Chase Hamlet is a 245-house community on the east side of Connecticut Avenue, featuring pre-World War II houses with “slate roofs, copper flashings, plaster walls, hardwood floor and interesting architectural features,” said Wendy Soroka, a former resident who loved the walkability of the community in the 1970s and ’80s when she lived there. “We walked to nearby schools and had a local grocery and pharmacy and coffee shop we could walk or ride bikes to,” she said.
This neighborhood on the southern end of Chevy Chase is conveniently located, with quick access to job centers and attractions. Soroka, now a real estate agent with Long and Foster, said she has clients asking for the hamlets in particular. “The area is very convenient to D.C., downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring, Rock Creek Park trails and the Beltway,” she said.
Parades and barbecues: Unlike other parts of Chevy Chase that encompass part of the District and Maryland, the Hamlet is entirely in Montgomery County.
The location makes the Hamlet “the best-kept secret,” said resident Alyssa Crilley, who finds the architecture and the neighborhood’s unity attractive. Crilley is part of the unofficial homeowners association and helps organize activities such as parades and barbecues.
Coming up this winter is the annual party for adults at the nearby Columbia Country Club, and on July 4 is the Independence Day parade. “Children decorate bikes, we have hot dogs, the ice cream truck comes and the fire department opens the hydrant for the kids to run through,” she said. There are also Halloween events and food truck parties around Kerry Lane Circle.
The “motor court” concept features an English style of residence instead of American Colonial, and common property instead of backyards, according to the community website. The part called the “Old Hamlet” is between Leland and Blackthorn streets. The “New Hamlet” is north of East-West Highway, Crilley said.
Crilley said she loves the cul-de-sacs and the connecting walkways. “There’s cul-de-sacs off of cul-de-sacs,” she said.
Some residents like the Hamlet so much, they buy their parents’ house and stay through adulthood. Crilley tried to count how many residents that fit that description and gave up after finding them more prevalent than she thought.
“It happened so many times it’s crazy,” she said.
The senior apartment complex at 8101 Connecticut Ave. that borders the Hamlet has some residents who previously lived in Hamlet houses. Others are eyeing the building as a place to move in the near future so they can stay in the immediate area.
Crilley, as the social contact for the unofficial homeowners association, keeps in touch with everyone via email, even the seniors who aren’t as computer-savvy. “We try to keep everybody connected,” she said.
Living there: The Hamlet is bordered by Connecticut Avenue to the west; Chevy Chase Lake Drive to the north; and Jones Mill Road, East-West Highway, Glendale Road and Leland Street to the east and south.
Crilley, a real estate agent with Washington Fine Properties, is listing a five-bedroom, five-bath, 5,900-square-foot house for $1,699,000. The only other Hamlet property on the market is a five-bedroom, six-bath, 4,667-square-foot house built in 1948 listed at $1,450,000.
Two other houses are under contract. During the past year, seven houses in the Hamlet were sold, with a median price of $1,250,000.
Schools: Students living south of East-West Highway attend Rosemary Hills Elementary, Chevy Chase Elementary, Silver Creek Middle and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High. Those living north of East-West Highway attend Rosemary Hills Elementary, North Chevy Chase Elementary, Silver Creek Middle and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High.
Transit: The Hamlet is centrally located, and it’s easy to drive to Silver Spring, Interstate 495, the downtown area and Bethesda, where there’s a Metro station. The Purple Line, a light rail system, is coming in 2022 and will increase the travel options. The Capital Crescent bike trail is an option for bikers and walkers.
Crime: There was one assault in Chevy Chase Hamlet in 2018, according to Montgomery County police.