Allie Ritzenberg and his wife, Peggy, were headed to the airport in 1974 to pick up their daughter, Katy, when they spotted a for sale sign alongside MacArthur Boulevard in Bethesda. Intrigued, they took the winding road up a wooded bluff and discovered a midcentury modern house with an amazing view.
The Ritzenbergs had not been looking to buy a house. But the view was something they couldn’t pass up.
For the next 45 years — for the rest of their lives — they remained in the home, watching the Potomac River change with the seasons and listening to the sounds of the Little Falls.
“They really appreciated the view up and down the river and the falls right below them, the soothing noise,” Katy Winn-Ritzenberg said. “The house was a beautiful house.”
The view and the seclusion are what set the house apart. But they are not what makes the house special to the Ritzenbergs’ children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is the memories that were created here — the four weddings, the anniversaries and the other celebrations, such as Allie’s 100th birthday party, when 130 people came to fete the centenarian 11 days before he died in November. (Peggy died in 2015 at 95.)
“All of our — my brothers and I — children grew up going to [the] house and playing in [the] house,” said Katy, who was married at the home in 1980. Her son was married here in 2015. “All the family get-togethers. It was the real rock of the family, which is why it’s so hard to let go.”
Allie Ritzenberg remained a fixture of Washington’s tennis world until his death last year. For 43 years, he ran the St. Albans Tennis Club and taught the sport to Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, media heavyweights and other VIPs, including Jacqueline Kennedy and George H.W. Bush.
Ritzenberg, who began playing tennis with his two brothers on public courts in the District, was the No. 1 player at the University of Maryland from 1937 to 1941. When he retired from competition, he was the top-ranked 85-year-old player in the world. He will be inducted into the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame next month.
According to a 1989 Washington Post story, Ritzenberg’s home reflected his devotion to the sport. “The Bethesda ranch house overlooking the Potomac River that is home to 71-year-old Allie Ritzenberg has all the trappings of a museum — a tennis museum, that is. Centuries-old lawn tennis scenes adorn the walls. Antique rackets jam the closets.” The brass door knocker is in the shape of a tennis racket.
The Ritzenbergs were only the second family to own the 1957 house, which was designed by Deigert & Yerkes, a well-known modern-architecture firm. The only structural change they made to the house during more than four decades was extending the dining room and adding a glass wall to give them a better view of the river where it bends toward Poolesville.
Although the Ritzenbergs lived in several houses after they married, once they found this house they never left. Now, the children are having a hard time saying goodbye.
“It’s very sad for all of us,” Katy said. “Once you move in there, you’re not going to want to leave. You’ll be able to share it with generations as we were able to do.”
The four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,800-square-foot house on 1.1 acres is listed at just under $3.9 million. An open house is scheduled for Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.
Listing: 6677 MacArthur Blvd., Bethesda, Md.
Listing agent: Kara Sheehan, Washington Fine Properties
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