Luxury Set in Stone
A Bethesda quarry is transformed into the latest in condominium living
The Stoneyhurst Quarry on River Road in Bethesda has been supplying stones since the 1920s for some of the great landmarks of Washington, D.C., including the National Cathedral. Now its owners are hoping to carve out a new reputation for the property as a bastion of upscale condo living, catering to those who want to downsize without sacrificing all the conveniences of a single-family home.
One of the few condo projects to move forward in today’s economy—and one of fewer still planned for a previously undeveloped Bethesda site—Quarry Springs at Stoneyhurst will feature 97 units. The largest was slated to be 4,600 square feet, but developer Thomas Brault already has worked to expand units for several prospective buyers, moving walls and changing floor plans to fit their requirements.
Prospective buyers, he says, include affluent older residents, some of whom reside on nearby estates nearly twice the size of Quarry Springs’ largest abodes.
“This is not the market that’s going to want to sit atop a Metro station in a tiny apartment,” says Brault, president at Woodside Ventures & Realty Services, the Chevy Chase company developing the project for the Rickman family, the Rockville-based commercial developers who own the property as well as the Ocean Downs Racetrack in Berlin, Md., and Delaware Park in Wilmington, Del.
The quarry was first opened in 1924 by Lilly Stone, a local farmer reeling from a fire that had destroyed a year’s harvest. She was a widow already in her early 60s, and she ran the quarry’s day-to-day operations at a time when women were just getting used to the vote. She didn’t turn over the business to her son until the mid-’50s, according to the Montgomery County Historical Society, which Stone helped establish. Stone died not long after, at age 98.
Stoneyhurst, known for gneiss and mica schist, two types of rock similar to granite with eight color variations, supplied stones for the Bethesda Post Office, the National Zoo and other local landmarks.
Then it passed into the hands of William Rickman, a commercial builder and racetrack owner. He was the one who came up with the idea for Quarry Springs.
“This project was in his own backyard and he wanted the best of everything,” recalls Michael Agnoli of Robert M. Swedroe Architects in Miami, Quarry Springs’ designer. “He believed there was a local market for this kind of luxury living.”
Rickman already had begun envisioning his own condo unit, Brault says. But he died in 2005 at age 84, years before the project got under way, and his son, William Rickman Jr., took over.
When it’s completed, Quarry Springs will have four five-story residential buildings with limestone and stucco façades grouped around a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, an outdoor pool and manicured lawns within view of a manmade waterfall. With so few condos on 13 acres, the project is aiming for a neighborly atmosphere.
As with single-family homes, buyers can choose large kitchens and family rooms, as well as formal living and dining rooms, dens and additional bedrooms. Stoneyhurst’s granite-like rocks will be used for the fireplace surrounds, and also for the clubhouse, gatehouse and gazebos.
Ceilings will rise as high as 11 feet, and most units will have two balconies overlooking the pool, the terraced “vertical gardens” or parkland across River Road.
One parking space will come with each unit, but additional spots can be purchased, including a secure “three-car garage” in the underground lot, which will have storage space and walkways leading to the clubhouse.
Instead of banks of elevators and common hallways leading to front doors, the condos will have “direct access” elevators that will open into the units’ foyers. Residents will be able to enter the elevators from the underground garage, calling the lifts by swiping a key card or pressing their thumb on a computerized reader. They will be able to send the same elevators down to guests entering through ground-floor vestibules.
“If you come home and your neighbor down the hall has been cooking fish for dinner, you don’t have to smell it,” Agnoli says. “Instead of walking down a common hallway, the elevator doors are your front door.”
Agnoli’s firm has designed private elevators in Florida high-rises and buildings elsewhere around the country for a couple of decades. But Quarry Springs is the first project in Montgomery County to get approval for the exclusive lifts, according to county officials.