Hugh Hammett, 76, a retired vice president of external affairs for the State University of New York, moved to Fairwood five years ago with his partner, Dan Christopher, a development officer at the University of Maryland.
The location is ideal for Christopher’s nine-mile commute, Hammett says. But the couple were also drawn to the neighborhood for its well-educated neighbors. Hammett, who serves as secretary of the Fairwood Community Association, cites a demographic report the association commissioned in 2018 that found 36 percent of the majority African American community’s residents have graduate degrees and 31 percent have bachelor’s degrees.
“It’s a pleasure to live in a neighborhood where there are all kinds of people that are nice and smarter than you,” Hammett said.
Driving down the tree-lined streets past homes of stone and brick, you see people walking on the many trails through woods.
“The very first thing we noticed was the neighbors,” says Jonathan Brown, vice president of the Fairwood Community Association. “They were walking around, very happy, and joyful that we were just thinking about living here.”
Brown, a program manager with the Navy who has an MBA, moved to Fairwood in 2016 from Bladensburg, Md., with his wife, a nuclear engineer, and teen daughter. In just three years, they have regulars at many activities sponsored by the community association, which is the heart of the neighborhood’s social life, Brown says.
From an annual yard sale in the fall and jazz concerts in the summer to Caribbean night parties at the community pool and an Easter egg hunt for the children, the social committee makes it a priority to bring people together, Hammett says.
Established in 2005, the young neighborhood has already outgrown its community clubhouse.
“That gives you a good idea how active we are,” Brown says.
The rambling subdivision had a population of 5,762 people in 2017, of whom 77 percent were African American, and a median income of about $157,000, according to the community’s demographic report. About a third of the residents have a household income of more than $200,000, making it one of the most exclusive majority African American communities in Prince George’s County — and the nation, Hammett says.
Given its demographics, Fairwood has an unusual history. It was carved out of an 18th-century plantation called Fairview owned by Maryland’s 34th governor, Oden Bowie. It was one of the largest slave plantations in Maryland, with 47 enslaved people. The irony is not lost on Hammett.
“Wherever the old slave owners are, I hope that they look up and see the high-income, highly educated African American population who lives here now,” he says.
The Bowie family transformed the property from a tobacco plantation into a cattle farm until the 1950s. Then Eugene Bowie Roberts Sr. turned the grounds into a turf farm that supplied sod to the Washington area, including the lawns of the White House, the Capitol and the Mall.
By the late 1990s, the turf farm had fallen on hard times and the family decided to sell part of it to the Rouse Co., developer of Columbia, Md., and Harborplace in Baltimore, to transform it into the planned community it has become.
Living there: Fairwood is bound by Annapolis Road (Route 450) to the north, Collington Road to the east, John Hanson Highway (Route 50) to the south and Enterprise Road to the west. The neighborhood has around 1,900 condos, townhouses and single-family homes.
Before the mortgage crisis, houses sold for more than $1 million. Starting in 2008, however, the area was hit hard by a rash of foreclosures and many homes lost their value, according to Yvonne Lee, a real estate agent with Re/Max Allegiance. Half the loans on newly constructed homes in Fairwood during the housing boom in 2006 and 2007 ended up in foreclosure, according to a 2015 Washington Post article.
“But it’s bounced back over the past 10 years,” Lee says. “Now it’s the hottest real estate market in P.G. County.”
In 2018, according to Lee, 75 homes in the neighborhood were sold, at an average price of $456,722. Fifteen homes are for sale; the lowest-priced is a two-bedroom, three-bathroom condominium for $320,000. The highest-priced is the original Fairview plantation house. Built circa 1790, the five-bedroom federal and Greek revival home on 10 acres is listed for just under $1 million.
Fairwood’s home values are one of the secrets of Maryland’s real estate market, says Hammett.
“If you were to transfer our homes to Silver Spring or Bethesda or Northern Virginia,” he adds, “they would cost double or triple and be a lot older.”
Just 15 miles from downtown Washington and Annapolis, the location is another draw, says Jessica Slaughter, who has lived in Fairwood’s Sanctuary Townhomes since 2010.
The retired Air Force health-care administrator also likes how quiet, safe and walkable it is. “I can even walk to my beauty salon to get my hair done,” Slaughter says as she sits under a hair dryer at Salon DK in the neighborhood’s main shopping center on Fairwood Parkway, which also has a Safeway, restaurants, a nail salon and a Gold’s Gym.
Brown says a lot of people want a community where you can go through the different ages and stages of your life.
“People have asked me ‘This is your first home, are you going to buy another one?’ ” he says. “Not unless I can take my neighbors with me.”
Schools: Elementary schools are Tulip Grove, Woodmore, Glenn Dale, Whitehall and High Bridge. Middle school is Benjamin Tasker. High schools are DuVal and Bowie.
Transit: The New Carrollton Metro Station on the Orange Line is about four miles from the center of Fairwood. A Metrobus runs from Fairwood Parkway and Annapolis Road to the station.