Insurance agent Jack Olson says he has a lot to look forward to on commutes home from his Alexandria office. There’s the relaxing final six miles along pastoral Potomac View Boulevard, a.k.a. “Stress Reliever Alley.”
And there are the waterside hammocks at home offering prime seating for a spectacular sunset over the Potomac. He says he and his wife, Lisa, often consider hopping on water scooters for a 10-minute jaunt to the tiki bar at Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse in Dumfries, or taking their boat 15 minutes upriver to dock at National Harbor for dinner.
Or perhaps they’ll just do a little bird-watching for bald eagles, and then walk to the community beach to see if there’s an impromptu neighborhood gathering there.
Sound familiar? Probably not, unless you, too, live in Hallowing Point River Estates, a Fairfax County community of nearly 200 homes on the tip of the Mason Neck peninsula. Located about 20 miles south of Washington, beside the 2,277-acre Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge, it is a neighborhood of natural beauty, abundant wildlife and people who treasure waterfront living.
Pam Bodager, an Army employee at Fort Belvoir, and her husband, Carl Jenkins, an Army retiree, were living in their “dream home” in Lorton when they discovered Hallowing Point in 2010. They said they were so taken with the community that they bought and renovated a 1973 riverfront home there but kept and rented their suburban home, thinking they might move back to it.
“We called it ‘The Potomac River Experiment,’ ” Jenkins said. “But now we’ve been here a year and a half, and there’s no going back.”
“It’s like a small town in the South,” Bodager added. “Everyone waves, stops and talks.” She noted that on their second day at Hallowing Point, while they were cleaning the beach in front of their home, a neighbor came by with tools and helped. It has been like that ever since.
“Residents like to share with us newbies, and give advice,” Jenkins said. He noted that a neighbor’s suggestion he create nesting areas for Purple Martin swallows to cut down on insects along the water has worked well.
Jenkins has a photo album on Facebook called “Things in Our Backyard.” It includes ospreys, beavers, a small cruise ship and a house on a barge. (The Maryland side of the Potomac, across from the couple’s home, has a deep-water channel.) A particularly interesting sighting occurred a few years ago, when the river froze and the ice broke up. “We watched eagles ride ice floats down river and then fly back and do it again,” Jenkins said.
Hallowing Point, once part of property owned by Virginia patriot George Mason, has homes of varied sizes and styles, from Colonial to contemporary. Mark Poulsen, a specialist with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and chairman of the community’s Architectural Review Board, said homes must be designed for year-round use, have a minimum living space of 2,500 square feet and a maximum height of 35 feet, and not duplicate the architectural design of another house on the street.
Poulsen and his wife, Sally, moved to Hallowing Point in 2007. “I didn’t want my kids growing up in front of a computer,” said Poulsen, a father of 8- and 11-year-olds. He often camps, canoes and hikes with his children.
Poulsen’s home is not on the river, but, like most residents, he owns a boat and spends considerable time on the water. “Boating, skiing, all water sports are huge,” Poulsen said. Although commercial fishing ended with the 2009 death of fisherman Louis Harley, Poulsen noted that Harley’s son, Brad, also a Hallowing Point resident, crabs part time. “If you leave a note on his door, he calls from his skiff when he has crabs and you can meet him at the HP dock,” Poulsen said.
While most seek out Hallowing Point for its secluded small-town lifestyle — the nearest grocery store is seven miles away — Susan Gray Chambers, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Previews International, came kicking and screaming. Chambers was living in Old Town Alexandria with her two children when she met and became engaged to Ty Chambers, a developer living in Hallowing Point. “I said, ‘No way in hell I am moving to the country!’ ” Chambers recounted, laughing. “I’d been in such a fast-paced life, this felt like the first time I stopped and exhaled. With breathing fresh air, and the calmness of the water . . . after a month, I thought, ‘I’ll never leave.’ ”
Chambers said that houses built in recent years have been much bigger than those five years ago, and that more homes are being renovated. The number of children living in Hallowing Point has exploded, from about a dozen 10 years ago to approximately 110 today.
There are also 30 households of families that have either parents or adult children also living in the neighborhood; Amy Coffin, an at-home mother of young children, is one example. “Here it feels secluded from the craziness of Northern Virginia, and safe because there isn’t much traffic,” said Coffin, who, with her husband, Chris, is building a house not far from her parents’. “My kids will be able to jump on a bike and ride, and I won’t feel panic-stricken.”
The socially and civically active Hallowing Point Citizens Association owns “The Point,” a gated seven-acre beach with a pavilion and grills that is a gathering spot for numerous organized activities as well as impromptu get-togethers. The association also owns a community boat launch, a park with tennis courts and a playground.
Jack Olson’s wife, Lisa, a marketing director and 25-year resident of Hallowing Point, says she will never leave the neighborhood. “When Jack and I get old, we’ll wheelchair out to the pontoon boat and go fishing,” she joked.
The once-reluctant Chambers agrees: “Once it’s in your blood, it’s hard to leave.”
Cheryl A. Kenny is a freelance writer.
ZIP CODE: 22079.
BOUNDARIES: Approximately, Hallowing Drive and the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge to the north, the Potomac River and River Drive to the south and east, and the wildlife refuge and River Drive to the west.
SCHOOLS: Gunston Elementary, and South County Secondary School for middle and high school. A new, separate South County Middle School is scheduled to open in September.
HOME SALES: Between May 2011 and May 2012, two homes sold, at prices of $624,000 and $1 million, according to Susan Gray Chambers, an agent with Coldwell Banker Previews International. Five houses are currently listed, with prices ranging from $630,000 to $1,335,000. Three contracts are pending, on homes offered for $649,000, $989,000 and $995,000.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Walking and biking trails, community playground, tennis courts, boat launch and beaches, Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.
WITHIN 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Mason Neck State Park, Gunston Hall Plantation, Pohick Bay Regional Park, Pohick Bay Golf Course, U.S. Route 1 (Richmond Highway/West City Avenue) shopping areas.
TRANSIT: There is no local bus or Metro service in Hallowing Point, but there is bus service along Route 1. The Lorton station for the Virginia Railway Express into Alexandria and Washington is about a 10-minute drive, and the Franconia-Springfield Metro station is 15 to 20 minutes away.