"I moved here because I couldn't afford to live in Takoma Park," said Perry, as she let out a belly laugh.
She didn't realize it at the time, she said, but Mount Rainier has many of the qualities that attracted her to Takoma Park — trails and park space, established neighborhoods, and proximity to stores and businesses. And with real estate a fraction of the price of many houses in Takoma Park, Mount Rainier turned out to be a diamond in the rough that's grown more valuable after nearly two decades, she said.
"I live on a street with six houses and when I look out my back yard I don't see anything but woods," Perry said. "I love it because since my neighborhood is historic, I won't wake up one day and find myself staring at a massive development," said Perry, who lives in a 925-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom Colonial that was built in 1923.
Artist community: Founded in the first years of the 20th century as a streetcar suburb of Washington, Mount Rainier has been transformed over the past dozen years from a sleepy community a short distance from downtown to a lively destination with an established arts scene and growing options for dining and shopping, said Christian Anderson, an agent with Exit Deluxe Realty.
The community has served as a magnet for artists, thanks to its designation as a Gateway Arts District, a distinction that provides housing incentives for artists who live and work there, Anderson said.
"Mount Rainier is perfect for people who want to be close to D.C. but prefer a little more land and space," Anderson said. "A number of investments the city made, from a development standpoint, are beginning to pay off as more shops and restaurants open and help attract more people."
The community is a historic area with a number of mail-order houses from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue and Craftsman-style homes, a designation that helps combat overdevelopment and high density, two things that can turn away potential buyers, Anderson added.
Janet Thomas, who moved to the Washington area from Texas in 1986, said she discovered the town by chance during a drive. Mount Rainier's small-town vibe reminded Thomas of her home town of Prairie View and she said she thought, "If I ever buy a house I want to live here."
A few years later, when Thomas was ready to purchase a house, the first neighborhood she searched was Mount Rainier, she said.
"When I first moved here, we were kind of off the beaten path," said Thomas, who lives in a 750-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom 1920s Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue house on 37th Street.
Dawn Sims, 34, who's lived in Mount Rainier since childhood, said she hasn't considered living anyplace else and is attracted to the community's diversity.
"The cultural diversity in Mount Rainier is a great asset," said Sims, who lives in a 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom, two-level brick house on Wallace Road.
"Other neighborhoods in the area are just too segregated," she said. "This is the perfect place to raise a family."
Living there: Mount Rainier is bordered by Queens Chapel Road on the north, the town of Brentwood to the east, the CSX rail line to the south and Eastern Avenue at the D.C. line to the west.
In the past 12 months, 40 properties have sold in Mount Rainier, ranging from a 1,388-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom Cape Cod for $191,100 to a 1,548-square-foot, five-bedroom, three-bathroom Colonial for $545,000, said Anderson, the real estate agent with Exit Deluxe Realty.
There are seven homes on the market in Mount Rainier, Anderson said. They range from a 1,183-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom bungalow for $339,900 to a 1,560-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom Colonial for $539,000.
Schools: Mount Rainier Elementary, Hyattsville Middle and Northwestern High.
Transit: Several routes on the Metrobus system and Prince George's County's The Bus serve Mount Rainier. The neighborhood is a short car ride to the West Hyattsville Station on Metro's Green Line and the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Station on the Red Line.
Crime: In the past six months, there have been 45 reports of stolen vehicles, 41 assaults, 27 burglaries and 17 robberies reported in the area that includes Mount Rainier, according to crime data provided by the police.