Nestled between two of Bethesda’s busiest commuter roads lies a piece of the community’s history.
Bordered by Rockville Pike to the east, Old Georgetown Road to the west, the Capital Beltway to the north and Cedar Lane to the south, what is known as the Maplewood-Alta Vista neighborhood is the site of what local historian William Offutt has called Bethesda’s first “real neighborhood.”
Alta Vista — one of several subdivisions that make up the Maplewood neighborhood — was built in the late 1800s at the terminus of a trolley line starting in Tenleytown, according to Offutt’s 1995 book “Bethesda: A Social History.” The trolley line was eventually extended to Rockville and ran until 1935, Offutt said. The neighborhood remained, and grew, Offutt said.
These days, residents are more likely to be attracted by Maplewood-Alta Vista’s proximity to the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center than to a streetcar line — Maplewood-Alta Vista lies less than a mile from both. (The former site of the streetcar line was paved and turned into a six-mile walking and biking trail several years ago.)
The French International School also serves as a draw for residents, many of whom commute to downtown Washington to work at places such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
“It attracts people who want to be near those facilities, which leads to a very eclectic population,” said Allen Myers, president of the Maplewood Citizens Association.
Still growing: The neighborhood has varied architecture, from the historic homes on Beech Avenue to contemporary houses on Linden Avenue. Colonials and split-levels are also common, said Sherry Brennan, 54, an agent with the Estridge group of Long & Foster who has lived in Maplewood-Alta Vista for two decades.
The neighborhood has continued to grow and change, with new subdivisions added periodically. Most recently, plans called for roughly 30 new houses to be built at Old Georgetown and Alta Vista roads as part of the Bethesda Mews development.
Myers said residents have largely supported new development initiatives.
“There’s been new construction over the years, but pretty much the flavor of the neighborhood has stayed the same,” Brennan said.
Still, folks looking for a neighborhood in which they can walk to a corner market or cafe will want to look elsewhere.
“You could maybe walk to the Marriott to get coffee, but there are no little neighborhood places to grab a quick bite,” Brennan said.
Brennan said residents can easily bike into downtown Bethesda, and they can take advantage of events at YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase, which lies within the neighborhood’s boundaries. The neighborhood streets serve as the course for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Chase 10K every Thanksgiving weekend.
Residents can also walk to Maplewood-Alta Vista Park, which offers a playground, tennis and basketball courts, and a baseball field.
“My children are adults now, but when they were growing up, I loved they could go over to Maplewood-Alta Vista Park to play,” Brennan said.
The Maplewood Citizens Association also sponsors an annual gathering in the spring with a potluck dinner and children’s activities.
Living there: Myers said real estate prices have soared since he first moved to the neighborhood 13 years ago.
Nineteen homes have sold in Maplewood-Alta Vista in the past 12 months, at prices ranging from $600,000 for a four-bedroom split-level to $1.5 million for a six-bedroom arts-and-crafts-style house, according to Melinda Estridge of Long & Foster. Three homes are on the market, from $709,000 for a four-bedroom Dutch Colonial to $800,000 for a four-bedroom brick Colonial.
“You would be hard pressed to find anything below $600,000,” Estridge said. “If you find one, you can count on it being in disrepair or very small.”
Transit: Proximity to major commuter roads such as Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road, not to mention the Beltway, means traffic can get hairy at rush hour.
“I’m retired, and I joke that I only take the car out between the golden hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” Myers said. “It’s too congested the rest of the time.”
Longtime residents say the walk to Metro — the Medical Center station on the Red Line — doubled in time and distance when NIH fenced off its perimeter several years ago.
“It’s about a mile from my house, which is a little far for some people to walk,” Myers said. “We used to be able to walk through the NIH campus, which took just a few minutes.”
Many residents, nevertheless, commute via Metro, or via the J2 and J3 Metrobus lines, which run through the neighborhood.
Schools: Wyngate Elementary, North Bethesda Middle and Walter Johnson High.
Crime: The most common crime in Maplewood-Alta Vista is theft from a vehicle. Lucille Baur, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County police, says there were 26 thefts from a vehicle in the past 12 months, in addition to one assault, four residential burglaries and one commercial burglary.
Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.