Two years ago, Lauren Chelec Cafritz moved with her husband and two teenage children from the District to Bethesda’s Glen Echo Heights neighborhood.
In their short time in Glen Echo Heights, Cafritz said, they have come to know twice as many people as they did during their time in the District, which included 23 years in the Chevy Chase neighborhood.
“It’s very friendly. It’s a happy place,” she said. “We know all our neighbors.”
Cafritz said her new community, within walking distance of the Potomac River, “has a different flow.”
Indeed, the tree canopy, streets without sidewalks, the Potomac Palisades Conservation Park — a Montgomery County hillside park created in 1995 — and some houses that overlook the Potomac contribute to the distinctive atmosphere.
In addition, Walhonding Road, the neighborhood’s northern boundary, ends at MacArthur Boulevard, leading to Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath.
With its hilly terrain and its proximity to the river and Glen Echo Park, the neighborhood “has a country feel,” Cafritz said. Yet it is just 10 to 15 minutes north of the D.C. line.
There are 485 households in the community, a blend of older smaller homes and large newer ones.
“Everything’s a mix,” Cafrtiz said. “Not one kind of house, but all different sizes and all different eras.”
Controversy over tear-downs: Becky Barefoot Day, who has lived in Glen Echo Heights all her life, said her parents bought one of the original Glen Echo Heights houses in 1938. The price was $2,499 at the time.
Some of the dwellings were summer homes for those seeking to escape the District for purer air. Day, who works as a real estate agent, said she was among the first area homeowners to tear down an original house, in the early 1990s, and rebuild.
These days, it has become a widespread practice with developers often buying up the original properties, tearing them down and replacing them with homes that are three times as large — or even larger.
Not everyone is happy with the practice. Some residents say their neighbors are sacrificing the very trees that make the community distinctive.
“There’s no room left for the trees,” said Doran Flowers, president of the Glen Echo Heights Citizens’ Association. He and his wife, Tina Hsu, have three children, ages 12, 10 and 5, and are in the process of renovating their house.
“Trees are chopped down or excavating damages the roots,” and some trees eventually die, he added.
Roots in the 1880s: The history of Glen Echo Heights is somewhat tied to the early development of the neighboring area, including the Town of Glen Echo.
According to Richard Cook, who grew up in the area, Edward Baltzley, originally from Ohio, “purchased 516 acres on the heights overlooking the Potomac River just outside of Washington in Montgomery County” in 1888. At the time, the land cost $20,000 with a $2,000 down payment and a mortgage for the rest.
His brother, Edwin, returned to Washington, and the two men formed the E. & E. Baltzley Co., real estate dealers. The first section of residential lots, which opened in 1889, was called Glen Echo Heights, according to Cook, who is co-author with Deborah Lange of the book “Glen Echo Park: A Story of Survival.”
Despite packed schedules, neighbors come together for the association’s annual Halloween party, among other events.
This is a car-oriented neighborhood, but residents can walk to the Shops at Sumner Place, where there is a Safeway, a CVS, and three restaurants, including Passion Fin, an Asian fusion spot. Bethesda Market, which makes sandwiches and has a selection of wines, is among the other retailers.
Living there: The boundaries of the Glen Echo Citizens’ Association are, roughly, Walhonding Road to the north, Sangamore Road to the east, Westpath Way and Wapakoneta Road to the south, and MacArthur Boulevard to the west.
In the past 12 months, 21 properties have sold in Glen Echo Heights, according to Susan Sonnesyn Brooks, an agent with Weichert Realtors in Bethesda and a vice president of the association. They ranged from a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house for $500,000 to a five-bedroom, five-bath house built in 2011 with a swimming pool, waterfall and cabana for $2.7 million.
Six properties are on the market, at prices ranging from $599,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath 1939 Cape Cod to $2.145 million for a six-bedroom, six-bath house built in 2015. That Cape Cod originally sold for $2,500, Brooks said.
Schools: Wood Acres Elementary, Discovery Elementary, Thomas W. Pyle Middle and Walt Whitman High.
Transit: Montgomery County’s Ride-On buses serve the area, with destinations including the Friendship Heights station on Metrorail’s Red Line. Metrobus also has routes in the neighborhood, including service through Georgetown to downtown Washington.
Crime: In the past 12 months, there were three burglaries and 10 robberies in Glen Echo Heights, according to the Montgomery County police.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article omitted Discovery Elementary from the list of neighborhood schools.