Where We Live | Jefferson Manor in Fairfax County, Va.

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Jefferson Manor is a small subdivision just south of Old Town Alexandria in Fairfax County, Va. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

In Jefferson Manor, a small subdivision just south of Old Town Alexandria in Fairfax County, residents share more than their walls. This neighborhood of around 550 semidetached duplex homes comes with the community built-in.

“When you move in, you become part of the family,” said David Allen, who’s lived in Jefferson Manor for more than a decade.

New residents are greeted with a “welcome wagon” brimming with baskets of cookies, coupons, birdseed, the neighborhood’s bimonthly newsletter — printed in English and Spanish to be inclusive of the many Spanish-speaking residents — and a warm invitation to the Facebook group, which has been especially active during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve seen the neighborhood come together even stronger,” said Allen, referring to the pandemic. “If you walk around the community, you’ll see messages painted on stones, chalk writing on driveways, notes on windows encouraging folks to stay strong. We’re in this together.”

Political yard signs are also prominently on display here. On Edgehill Drive, a crimson Trump flag flutters close to a cluster of Biden signs staked firmly in the grass next door.

Developed in the postwar era between 1947 and 1949 by Clarence C. Gosnell, Jefferson Manor was advertised as a moderately priced “modern community.” At the time, The Washington Post remarked at the speed in which the neighborhood was being constructed, using prefabricated designs.

Before it became a suburban development, Jefferson Manor was home to Peyton Ballenger, a shoe manufacturer whose family farmed the land. According to Donald Hakenson, an author and local Civil War historian, two of Ballenger’s sons died fighting in the Confederate army, leaving Ballenger to watch as Fort Lyon and other Union forts mushroomed across his property to protect the nation’s capital.

In 1863, a massive explosion at Fort Lyon brought President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to the area to survey the damage.

After the Civil War, the area was left to farmers until development began in earnest after World War II.

The 1980s brought Metro’s Huntington station to the area along the Yellow Line. But by the 1990s, Jefferson Manor had fallen into disrepair. Many of the neighborhood’s winding one-way streets were cracked. Roofs were rotting, foundations crumbling.

“I bought my first house in Jefferson Manor in 1990 for $105,000,” said Tom Rickert, a resident and real estate agent with Coldwell Banker’s Alexandria office. “Frankly the neighborhood was pretty run-down back then, but it was all I could afford, and I knew it was a great location.”

Jefferson Manor is a five-minute walk from the Huntington Metro station, with easy access to Old Town Alexandria, downtown D.C., the Beltway and the Mount Vernon Trail.

The neighborhood formed a commission in 1991 to address the blighted homes and streets, and today, development around Jefferson Manor is also beginning to boom.

Bethesda-based architecture firm SK+I is designing a multifamily building near the Huntington Metro station. SK+I has also designed mixed-use and residential projects throughout the D.C. area, including the Apollo on H Street NE, and the Modera and Avalon buildings in Fairfax’s Mosaic District. And last March, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a sweeping land-use plan that aims to improve access to transportation along the Richmond Highway.

Changes are happening inside the neighborhood, too. Many homeowners have modified the original footprint of these tiny homes to suit changing needs.

“These houses are not spring chickens,” said Rickert. “They are over 70 years old and require upkeep, so maintenance is a big topic of discussion on the Jefferson Manor Facebook page.”

But he said, “Jefferson Manor is one of those special neighborhoods where just about every dollar you put into these houses can add to its current value.”

Another value add: free beer.

“I think we’re probably the only community in the metro D.C. area with a beer fairy,” said Allen.

The “beer fairy,” whose name is Daniel Watkins, works for a local brewery and often has a surplus of beer samples that he drops off on doorsteps. Naturally, there’s a waiting list, but Watkins has quickly become one of the most popular Manorites.

The citizens association also puts on an annual garden tour, block party and community yard sales, and other events that keep residents closely connected. The citizens association, run by volunteers, is active within the community and collects annual membership dues of $20 per household — $10 for seniors — to support its events. The block party “includes everything from a live band, face painter, a big buffet of food and drinks, paper goods, games, and grab-bags filled with kids’ toys,” said Alexis Glenn, the association’s president.

“When you look on a map, you’ll see Jefferson Manor as a neighborhood,” said David Allen. “But when you live here, you immediately know that it’s much more.”

Living there: Jefferson Manor is bounded by Farmington Drive and Jefferson Drive to the north, Virginia Route 241 on the east, Fairhaven Avenue to the south, Edgehill Drive to the southwest and Virginia Route 611 (Telegraph Road) to the west, according to the citizens association. It has two apartment buildings and four single-family homes within its boundaries. According to Fairfax County tax records, of the 556 properties in Jefferson Manor, 374 are “owner occupied” and 182 are “non-owner occupied.”

Three homes are for sale in Jefferson Manor. The highest-priced is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom semi-detached duplex listed for $530,000. The lowest-priced is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom duplex listed for $440,000.

In 2019, home sales ranged from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom Colonial for $370,000 to an updated three-bedroom, three-bathroom semidetached house for $647,000. The average price of homes sold last year was $464,681.

Schools: Mount Eagle Elementary, Twain Middle and Edison High.

Transit: Jefferson Manor is served by multiple bus lines and the Richmond Highway Express. The Huntington Metro station on the Yellow Line is adjacent to the northeast part of the neighborhood. Route 241 connects the neighborhood to the Capital Beltway and Route 1.