For Raymondale resident Catherine Dubas, the sound of home is the song of the first spring peepers. “My mom is blind. When we sit on my deck and listen to the sounds of life from the forest, we joke about them quieting down.”
For Sarah McGowan, who also lives in the Fairfax County neighborhood, it’s the chirping of crickets. “When my daughter was a newborn, I’d take her into my back yard and let her listen to the crickets in the woods behind my house. It always made her stop crying.”
Nature is abundant in the wooded yards of Raymondale, a 144-home enclave just inside the Beltway. The community wraps around the stream and greenway of Holmes Run Stream Valley Park, and it appeals to nature lovers and the environmentally conscious. It also draws fans of accessibly priced mid-century homes.
“We have one-story contemporaries, raised ramblers and some split-levels,” said real estate agent and seven-year resident Sandy McConville. “Buyers move here for the open feel of contemporary homes, and they can get one for a decent price. They’re now mostly in the $400,000s.”
Except for one cul-de-sac of 1960s custom homes, Raymondale was built in the mid-1950s by Westwood Properties Inc. and promoted as the ultimate in modern living. Home styles range from the one-story “Raymondaire,” with large windows and a low roofline, to the “Mark II” brick rambler. Most homes, originally about 900 to 1,200 square feet, sit on quarter-acre lots.
Art teacher Mark Muntain used to pass Raymondale and its retro neighborhood sign while commuting, and he decided to check it out. In 2008, he and his artist wife, Westen, bought a Raymondaire home with the original metal kitchen cabinets — pink upper cabinets and blue lower. The original laminate countertop was painted over, but an unpainted patch behind their sink revealed it was pink and blue plaid, “presumably . . . to tie the whole monstrosity together,” Westen said. When the couple renovated recently they followed the home’s original design, but they replaced the cabinets.
When McGowan bought her one-level home with walk-out basement in 2009, she too discovered unusual remnants from the 1950s. McGowan kept the NuTone “food center,” consisting of the mechanical bases for a food processor and blender that are built into the kitchen countertop; the appliances and their instructions are also intact. But a shuffleboard court created from the basement floor tiles of what was originally marketed as her home’s “Teen Basement” did not fare as well: She painted over it.
McConville said although there are no architectural restrictions, most residents strive to renovate in keeping with Raymondale’s mid-century character. Christine Nolan, who grew up in Raymondale, returned in 2003 to buy her parents’ home, and then enlarged it to share with her mother, Wanda. She kept the addition true to the four-level “Tonian” style, carefully matching the roofline and triangular windows. “It was important that I have the same design and architecture,” said Nolan, who built the addition so that her mother “would not have to move out of the neighborhood she has loved for 53 years.” The Nolans’ yard has been the site of the Raymondale annual Easter-egg hunt for the past 25 years.
Raymondale’s civic association is in a “rejuvenation” phase, said McConville, its co-president. One goal is to expand social activities beyond the annual picnic and National Night Out gatherings. Another is to improve communications and recruit more residents who are new to the community and whose first language is not English.
Raymondale’s natural setting helps define and unify the community. The civic association has established an environmental task force, partly in response to construction along Interstate 495 and in the Merrifield area. “Runoff from construction is so powerful and very unhealthy for the stream,” said McGowan, a member of the task force. “The stream has widened a lot with the extra runoff.”
The environmental task force has organized a stream cleanup and an invasive-plant pull, and it has brought environmental speakers to neighborhood meetings. “Longtime residents said they had noticed a decrease in frogs and snakes and were concerned, so we had a naturalist come to discuss the health of the stream,” McGowan said. The community also participated in discussions with the Fairfax County Park Authority about the agency’s proposal to create a new trail to nearby Providence Recreation Center. “For now, it looks like the county will fix up the existing trail instead,” McGowan said.
The stream, woods and park are natural attractions for Raymondale’s growing population of children. “This neighborhood is very 1950s in the best sense of the word,” said association co-president and 10-year resident Whitney Redding, a mother of two. “There’s a renaissance of young families. Kids can ride bikes to school, the library, the park and the pool.” Woodley Pool, a neighborhood gathering place built in 1954, “looks like you could walk in and expect to see ‘Mad Men’ in the lounge,” Redding said, chuckling.
Luria Park, which Redding called her “outside living room,” is a short, pleasant walk away, along a wooded trail and foot bridge over Holmes Run stream. “I’ve met some of my best friends at the park,” Redding said. “Even if they’re from a different neighborhood and school, it’s like we’re all part of the same neighborhood because of the park.”
Dubas has raised four children in Raymondale. She likes that it’s a place where her kids can skip rocks and build forts, watch the tiny fish that hatch during the spring and learn about fauna and flora. But she said that’s not the best part of Raymondale.
“For me, my neighbors are the defining feature,” Dubas said. “I’ve never met someone who was turned back if he needed help. People here always have a moment to spare.”
Cheryl A. Kenny is a freelance writer.
ZIP CODE: 22042
BOUNDARIES: Roughly, Brad Street to the north, Carol Lane to the east, Annandale Road to the south and Fallowfield Drive to the west.
SCHOOLS: Westlawn Elementary, Luther Jackson Middle and Falls Church High.
HOME SALES: Between November 2011 and November 2012, one home sold, for $380,000, according to Sandy McConville of Weichert Realtors. One home is currently listed for sale, at a price of $464,900.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: Woodley Pool, Loehmann’s Plaza, Providence Recreation Center, Thomas Jefferson Public Library, Roundtree Hill and Luria parks, Holmes Run Stream Valley Trail.
WITHIN 15 MINUTES BY CAR: Washington, Tysons Corner, Merrifield, Ballston, Eden Center and Seven Corners shopping areas, Reagan National Airport, city of Falls Church.
TRANSIT: The Orange Line’s East Falls Church, West Falls Church and Dunn Loring Metro stations are all within a 10-minute drive of Raymondale. The Metrobus 3A line runs along Annandale Road to the East Falls Church and Rosslyn stations. Major roads, including the Beltway and Route 50, are less than a mile from Raymondale.