A farmhouse-style home with a white picket fence in Alexandria's Lincolnia Park. (Eliza McGraw FTWP)

No two houses in Fairfax County’s Lincolnia Park neighborhood are alike.

Architectural styles range from the traditional to the well, offbeat, such as Nikki Santos’s home.

Santos lives in a distinctive house that children call “the castle.” Built in the 1970s from what she calls “spare parts,” it has stained-glass windows harvested from an old church, a kitchen counter made from a bowling-alley floor and a refrigerator from a Navy ship’s galley. It also has a front door with a rounded top that gives it a fairy-tale look.

“I feel like it’s my little ‘Hansel and Gretel’ home,” she says.

Easily accessible from thoroughfares including Route 395 and Edsall Road, Lincolnia Park is a quiet surprise for drivers turning off Little River Turnpike, which bustles with activity from car dealerships, fast-food restaurants and Landmark Mall. Visitors will find wide streets and approximately 675 houses on large lots — often around a half-acre — shaded by tall trees.

The neighborhood was established in the 1950s, according to the Lincolnia Park Civic Association, but the housing stock includes modest, low-slung moderns from the 1970s, ramblers, Colonials and grander recent homes. Homes also demonstrate various levels of upkeep. Some appear recently renovated or well kept, while others reveal significant disrepair.

Loretta Prencipe said the wide variety of housing styles is what drew her to the neighborhood more than a decade ago.

“We moved over from Ravensworth Farm, and we lived there for nearly 13 years. It was very cookie-cutter, and we would drive around and we would find ourselves in Lincolnia Park,” said Prencipe, president of the civic association.

“It is not a cookie-cutter neighborhood. And there are roads in this neighborhood that make you feel like you’re in the country inside the Beltway,” she added. “And we really liked that it was different than other neighborhoods.”

James Nellis II, a real estate agent with Re/Max Allegiance who specializes in Northern Virginia markets, says Lincolnia Park appeals to buyers because it has a “mature setting,” yet is near interstates 395 and 495.

Buyers, he adds, like the open floor plans and the idea of living on large lots inside the Beltway. The wide range of houses means a wide range of prices, too. In the past year, Nellis says, homes sold for between $299,900 and $649,900. However, turnover is low; those numbers for the past year represents only nine homes.

Prencipe says that the Lincolnia Park Recreation Club pool, situated in the middle of the neighborhood, anchors the community every summer with such traditions as a multi-age swim team and cookouts. She said she started the “ankle breaker triathalon,” an annual Labor Day event in which children and adults swim six lengths in the pool, ride bikes twice around the block and then run through the neighborhood.

Tatjana Fernandez serves on the civic association’s environmental committee. The neighborhood, Fernandez says, is concerned about “the universal headache: increased amount of litter in the streets and streams,” so residents are consistently searching for solutions, which so far have included a neighborhood clean-up day and a beautification day.

Another headache for Lincolnia Park is the traffic. Nearby highways mean that houses on the neighborhood’s fringes deal with plenty of vehicle noise. And the volume of cars causes delays that hinder residents. “Sometimes Saturday mornings you can see traffic backed up” on Route 236 (Little River Turnpike), says Prencipe.

Weekday traffic can also be a problem. Before the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure office moved to Alexandria, many of its workers sped through the neighborhood, using it as a cut-through.

To combat that problem, the community began a traffic calming project that included surveys and counting cars that drove down certain streets. Local government responded: In Santos’s portion of the neighborhood, stop signs now slow cars. “I have noticed a difference,” she says. In another section, speed bumps force drivers to limit their speed.

Lincolnia Park residents have confronted obstacles together before. In 2010, a company wanted to place a 110-foot-tall cell tower on land at Holmes Middle School. Residents were concerned about health implications for students and neighbors because the tower would have been within 150 feet of some homes. “We fought it tooth and nail, and they left running,” says Anne Wuhrer, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1999.

Wuhrer says 21 children live in eight houses on her cul-de-sac, where the back yards feature woods and play equipment.

“The kids just go out there and just play nonstop,” Wuhrer says.

“We have no TV issues, no computer issues. Everyone can see everyone’s kids, and all doors are open at all times,” Wuhrer says. “My husband works in Georgia and travels there every week, and we could turn around and buy a house that is twice the size and half the price, and I look at our kids playing outside and just say no.”

Eliza McGraw is a freelance writer.