In the ubiquitous world of online rankings of the snobbiest places to live, the tony neighborhoods of Washington might appear to be destined for success.

Recently, several Web sites, from the real estate blog Movoto to that of Travel and Leisure magazine, have taken turns placing D.C. atop lists of socially exclusive American cities.

The Northwest neighborhood of Spring Valley, with its imposing multimillion-
dollar Cape Cods, Colonials and ranchers, is likely the kind of place these out-of-town list-makers had in mind.

But to residents who call Spring Valley home, the distinction hardly seems appropriate.

Lydia Victorine, 57, who has lived there for 20 years, said residents on her block, who frequently get together for pizza parties, are especially friendly. If there are snobs in her midst, they’re rather covert, she said.

“Spring Valley is full of laid-back people who are very helpful without being too nosy,” said Victorine, a network consultant who rescues older dogs.

When issues arise, neighbors are quick to talk things through, she said.

“People are comfortable in their own skin, and there’s no need for posturing.”


Neighbor to American University: The community, which is built on land used during World War I by the federal government to test chemical weapons, has been undergoing a 23-year project to remove old munitions, said Dan Noble, Spring Valley project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said that the role of the Corps is to provide residents with information on the project, but that there aren’t any safety concerns that should worry residents or potential buyers.

“We feel that Spring Valley is a very safe community and we’re working to ensure that safety well into the future,” Noble said. “There are currently no construction restrictions other than zoning laws in place by the local government.”

Former presidents Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson lived there during the 1950s, when they served in the U.S. Senate.

Today, many foreign diplomats live in the community. In addition, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is a resident.

Tom Williams, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate, said that Spring Valley has a well-deserved reputation as an upscale neighborhood.

“This community is full of rolling hills and well-kept properties. It’s quiet, you don’t have a lot of through streets, you can walk the neighborhood, and it’s convenient to downtown, Maryland or Northern Virginia. What’s not to like?” said Williams as he showed a five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial Cape Cod on Upton Street NW with an asking price of $1.4 million.

In addition to great scenery, residents of Spring Valley enjoy a close relationship with American University, which is located blocks away, said Teresa M. Flannery, vice president of communication at the university.

American’s campus, dotted with Yoshino cherry trees and thousands of perennials, offers Spring Valley residents a host of amenities, including access to an Olympic-size swimming pool, a well-stocked library, a renowned arts center and an arboretum, Flannery said.

“It’s really important to have familiarity and an exchange of ideas between the residents and the university,” she said. “It wouldn’t serve anyone for us to be isolated from the community.”

Joan Perrin, a 1966 graduate of American, has lived three blocks from the school for 20 years and credits that proximity with her desire to remain in the neighborhood.

“The American University community makes Spring Valley vibrant,” said Perrin, a semi-retired international development consultant. “It’s a big asset and we all take advantage of all that the university has to offer.”

On a recent warm day, as parents led their children on bike rides and seniors walked their dogs, Guy Rohling power-walked his way through the community, extolling the virtues of his neighborhood of 20 years.

Rohling, who works as a director at a Northern Virginia-based government relations and consulting firm, said that he moved to Spring Valley in search of a larger home in the city.

“Spring Valley is like living in the suburbs with all the benefits of city life,” he said. “I have no plans of moving anywhere anytime soon.”


The Northwest neighborhood of Spring Valley is know for its large homes and tree-lined streets, as well as a coffee shop, a gourmet grocery and restaurants. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Living there: The neighborhood is bordered roughly by Dalecarlia Parkway to the west, Nebraska Avenue and Loughboro Road to the south and Massachusetts Avenue to the north.

During the past 12 months, 37 houses sold in the community, with prices ranging from that of a three-bedroom, three-bathroom Colonial which sold for $775,000 to that of a five-bedroom, six-bathroom French Country home which sold for $3,050,000, said Williams, the agent with Long & Foster Real Estate.

There are 12 listings in Spring Valley, with prices ranging from that of a four-bedroom, three-bathroom Colonial listed for $1,395,000 to that of a six-bedroom, six-bathroom manor home listed for $5,650,000, according to Williams.

There are five homes under contract in Spring Valley, at prices ranging from $1,495,000 to $5,500,000.

Schools: Mann Elementary School, Hardy Middle School and Wilson High School.

Transit: A wealth of public transit options are available to residents of Spring Valley. The neighborhood is serviced by the N4 bus and is a short walk to the Tenleytown-AU Metro station. American University, located a short walk from the neighborhood, also offers access to a public bike-sharing program.

Crime: From January to late August, there were four robberies, eight burglaries and 14 reports of stolen automobiles in the police area covering Spring Valley, according to the D.C. police Web site.

Lester Davis is a freelance writer.