As the housing market heated up over the past year, one of the many D.C. neighborhoods where prices rose rapidly was Spring Valley, a Northwest enclave just inside the border with Maryland and consisting almost exclusively of single-family houses with spacious front and back yards.
But Spring Valley is more than just another Northwest neighborhood with nice homes. Its past and present residents include Supreme Court justices, billionaires and no fewer than three U.S. presidents.
It all started with one of Washington’s most well-known developers.
“The history of Spring Valley is connected directly with the W.C. and A.N. Miller Co., whose first homes in the neighborhood were available for sale in 1928,” said Bob Heiss, a retired government attorney who has lived in the neighborhood since 1992.
Miller continued developing in the neighborhood for nearly 80 years, according to Heiss, building Spring Valley homes into the early 2000s. The company designed some of the neighborhood’s streets to follow the curved contours of the land, following a then-new planning trend that is rare in D.C. but common in cities and suburbs across the nation.
But for decades, Spring Valley was also one of several Northwest neighborhoods that was deed-restricted, preventing the sale of homes to Black and Jewish buyers for many years.
Today, the neighborhood offers a mix of city and suburb, with sidewalks providing a measure of walkability. The streets are generally quiet and residents enjoy a generous amount of private space between houses. Spring Valley’s commercial hub on Massachusetts Avenue includes landmarks such as Wagshal’s, Compass Coffee, Pizzeria Paradiso and Millie’s Spring Valley.
“It has always had a very local feel to it — this is the hub of Spring Valley,” said Sassy Jacobs, a real estate agent with Washington Fine Properties who sells in the area. “It draws people to move here because there is walkability to come down and have coffee or have margaritas with your friends. That wasn’t the case until all of these restaurants opened up.”
Millie’s, operated by veteran restaurateur Bo Blair and chef David Scribner, occupies a site that was once a gas station and later a Chicken Out fast-food restaurant. Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema wrote in 2017 that Millie’s succeeds in “giving the neighborhood not just another place to eat, but a community center and a break from the day-to-day.”
Jacobs grew up in the area and remembers visiting the Garfinckel’s department store on Massachusetts Avenue as a child. Garfinckel’s closed in 1990 and its former space is now occupied by Crate & Barrel. Today, Spring Valley is again a destination that draws visitors from across the area.
Spring Valley is also the home of American University, with track and athletic fields on campus that locals can take advantage of. Sibley Memorial Hospital is just outside the neighborhood’s boundaries.
The neighborhood has attracted plenty of interesting inhabitants over its nearly 100-year history. Warren Buffett spent his childhood in a home on 49th Street, attending Wilson High School and starting the first of his many business ventures as a teenager.
Future presidents Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson and George H.W. Bush spent time in Spring Valley, with Nixon and Johnson living there during their terms as vice president. U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica, famed for his role in the Watergate trials, once lived there, as did Bucky Harris, the player-manager of the 1924 World Series champion Washington Senators.
Current residents include the owners of the Washington Nationals and attorney Brendan Sullivan. Spring Valley is also the home of several embassies and ambassadors’ residences, including those of Mexico, China and South Korea.
The neighborhood has a measure of diversity, according to Spring Valley Neighborhood Association co-founder William Clarkson, with several residents employed at nearby embassies and international organizations.
“You might have a D.C. native in one house, and then on either side you’ll have someone working at an international bank or a family that’s posted in the U.S. from a foreign embassy,” said Clarkson, an attorney by trade who moved to Spring Valley in 2014. “There appears to be a large diplomatic community in the neighborhood, and I think that really adds to the community.”
Clarkson described Spring Valley as a place where residents know each other by name despite D.C.’s generally transient nature.
“It’s a great community, and people are very engaged and active on a variety of issues, whether it’s supporting the local public schools or cleaning up Spring Valley Park,” Clarkson said. “My family has really enjoyed living here. It’s just a great place.”
Living there: Spring Valley is bordered by the Maryland state line and Massachusetts Avenue to the north and east, by Loughboro Road and Nebraska Avenue to the south, and by Dalecarlia Parkway to the west.
There are three homes for sale in Spring Valley. The most expensive is a seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom house listed at $2.2 million. The lowest-priced is a four-bedroom, four-bathroom house listed at $2 million. Thirty-five homes sold in Spring Valley over the past six months, ranging in price from $995,000 to just under $5 million.
Schools: Horace Mann Elementary, Hardy Middle, Woodrow Wilson High.
Transit: The Tenleytown-AU Metro Station is roughly one mile from Spring Valley. Several Metrobus routes serve the neighborhood.
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