19 Townhouses May Replace Bethesda Home of Hungarian Star
A white ranch-style home on more than five acres on Goldsboro Road was once home to a Hollywood starlet and Air Force general, in a place locals called “Happy Valley.”
Now, the home may be razed to make way for 19 townhouses.
The long-vacant home alongside a creek belonged to Donald Dawson, an Air Force general, attorney and aide to Harry Truman. Dawson was married to Hungarian actress Ilona Massey — known for her role in the films “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” and the Marx Brothers’ “Love Happy.”
“She looks like Dietrich, talks like Garbo and will probably be smiling from all the fan magazine covers in no time,” The New York Times wrote after Massey’s 1939 film debut, according to The Washington Post.
A small group of developers (known only as 6789 Goldsboro LLC) want to build a row of 19 townhouses that would run parallel to the creek and perpendicular to Goldsboro Road near the traffic circle in Glen Echo.
Developers plan to apply for Planning Department approval by the end of the month, project lawyer Timothy Dugan said at a community meeting Wednesday night. Dugan said he wants to file the application before the county’s new zoning ordinance takes effect, as the developer has a better understanding of the existing zoning.
The area’s master plan (last revised in 1990) identifies the 5.23-acre property as suitable for as many as 26 townhomes, but Dugan said no more than 19 are planned.
About 40 locals attended the meeting, at one point forming a circle around Dugan and firing questions at him as if in a cross-examination. Many had concerns typical with townhouse or apartment projects in predominantly single-family home neighborhoods.
Locals voiced concerns about traffic (a project engineer said the townhomes would generate 30 peak-hour trips), the effect on an already over-capacity school district and tree removal. Others were worried about how the project might affect the nearby creek.
Dawson died in 2005. The house had been on the market since 2011 as a likely teardown, but garnered little interest. According to a 2012 story by Washington Post columnist John Kelly, the stream was a problem, as was the fact that the lot cannot be subdivided.
The group of developers bought the property for $1.35 million last year, state real estate records show.
The sketch shown to those at the meeting was preliminary, Dugan said. The 19 units won’t be taller than 35 feet, which was a key concern of Cairn Terrace residents, whose homes back up to the property.
Photo via MRIS