When Jen DeMarinis, 42, was looking to move closer to Northern Virginia from Kensington, Md., a friend told her about a house in a wooded area in Montgomery County, off River Road.
“I was amazed by the trees and how wooded it was,” DeMarinis said, referring to Carderock Springs, a section of Bethesda. Most of the community is just outside of the Capital Beltway and part of Carderock South.
She and her husband, Tony, 45, didn’t buy that first house the friend told them about back in 2008. But another one, which they liked even more, came on the market within a week, and they purchased it.
About a year ago, when they needed more space for their son, now 8, and daughter, 5½, they moved to another house in the neighborhood. “The cul-de-sac we moved to is teeming with kids,” she said.
Unlike a lot of suburban neighborhoods in Montgomery, Carderock Springs is marked by “situated modernism,” a style dating to the 1960s. Houses were designed to blend with the natural landscape.
The style was developed by Edmund Bennett with houses designed by principal architect Don Lethbridge of the firm Keyes, Lethbridge, Condon and Florance. The approximately 400 houses were built between 1962 and 1967, according to Jack Orrick, president of the Carderock Springs Citizens’ Association and a lawyer who now works in Bethesda.
Most of the original homes have four bedrooms and three baths and were designed to bring the outdoors in with lots of windows. Some are two levels, while others are one level and conform to the land. “There are six to eight different models that fit the topography,” Orrick said. “They are not center hall Colonials. It’s unusual in this town.”
Yet situated modernism doesn’t appeal to everyone. “Not everybody likes the big windows,” said Jen DeMarinis. “Some people feel like they’re living in a fish bowl.”
Views of wooded lots: The Orricks, who raised three daughters in the community, were living behind Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1989 when their growing family needed more space.
For Margie Orrick, 61, a sense of community drew her to Carderock Springs. “The architecture was a draw, but for me, the value of community is what I was looking for,” she said.
Said Jack Orrick: “We wanted a place where we would know our neighbors. We looked at a bunch of neighborhoods, and this seemed to be the most cohesive.”
Carderock Springs is enchanting in its own way, diverging from the typical suburban neighborhood in the Washington suburbs. “It’s not laid out as a grid,” Orrick said. “It’s a meandering circle flow to traffic here.”
It’s a throwback to the 1960s, when anything seemed possible. Each house is built on a third- to a half-acre to capture the light and views while preserving as many trees and shrubs as possible. Many of the houses have atriums, and some have flat roofs characteristic of mid-century design. Some back up to a stream, the woods or Congressional Country Club.
“You aren’t looking into somebody’s window,” said Margie Orrick, who works in information technology in Washington’s Chinatown.
Carderock Springs houses were built with four bedrooms and three baths, though owners have expanded homes with screened porches and additions, which have to be approved by the community’s Architectural Review Committee. It reviews additions and any exterior changes to homes such as fencing, sheds, exterior color schemes and live hardwood tree removal, according to the association’s Web site. The neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 as a “prime example of situated modernism.”
Swimming, tennis and shopping: The centerpiece of the community is the swim and tennis club, which those in the neighborhood have a “preferential right” to join, Jack Orrick said. Many join the swim team, dive team or tennis team. Family activities such as dinners are scheduled every week during the 12 weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day. “It’s like a big party every Saturday night,” Jen DeMarinis, children’s social chair, said.
The swim and tennis club is “the glue that holds us together,” said Margie Orrick. “Everyone knows each other because we see each other at the club.”
Nearby shopping includes the Bethesda Co-op at Seven Locks Road and MacArthur Boulevard, where there is a post office and some restaurants. Otherwise, residents drive to the Whole Foods Market on River Road or the Giant at the Westwood Shopping Center on Westbard Avenue.
In Carderock Springs, children ride their bikes to Carderock Springs Elementary School, which is within the boundaries of the neighborhood. The neighborhood attracts people who are interested in good schools and are often environmentally conscious, Jack Orrick said.
“They come and they stay here for a long period of time,” he said. Some original homeowners still live in the neighborhood, while newcomers move in as the life cycle continues. Some adult children move back into the house in which they grew up or buy another house in the neighborhood.
Living there: The area is bounded roughly by River Road to the northeast, Seven Locks Road and the Beltway to the south, Persimmon Tree Road to the southwest and Congressional Country Club to the northwest.
In the past 12 months, 18 houses sold in Carderock Springs, according to Mary Lou Shannon, a real estate agent with Long & Foster Real Estate. They range from a four-bedroom, three-bath house priced at $985,000 to a four-bedroom, three-bath home for $675,000. No houses are currently on the market.
Schools: Carderock Springs Elementary, Pyle Middle, Whitman High.
Transit: Carderock Springs can be reached from the T2 Metrobus from the Friendship Heights Metro stop on the Red Line. The 32 Montgomery County Ride On bus runs along Persimmon Tree Road.
“It’s more car-oriented,” said Jack Orrick. “People do drive and use cars.”
Harriet Edleson is a freelance writer.