September-October 2008 | Home & Garden

10 Great Streets To Live On

Local streets that have a unique identity and a strong sense of community.

share this

Broad Street, Bethesda

On a day of torrential rain, the view through the soaring windows of the great room in novelist Bruce Duffy’s remodeled Broad Street home is jaw-dropping. Little Falls Creek appears anything but little, instead roaring through the V-shaped valley below Duffy’s house.

A cascading waterfall splashes down from the opposite bank, joining the rushing stream. The woods beyond the creek are untouched and wild, with not a mark of development. The scene is not exactly what one would expect on a Bethesda street about a mile from the Washington, D.C., line.

Located in the Brookmont neighborhood, Broad Street is sandwiched between Little Falls Stream Valley Park and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park off MacArthur Boulevard. Houses on the north side of Broad Street back up to scenic Little Falls Creek, providing residents with dramatic views of the water and of the steep, thickly wooded hillside that rises beyond the creek.

Many of the homes on Broad Street are closely spaced bungalows that look something like ski chalets with their colorful trim in blues or greens. There are also a few larger and remodeled houses—several brightly painted in a cheerful farmhouse style. In 2007, only one house on the street went up for sale. Duffy and his wife Susan purchased their house—which dates to the 1930s—in 2004 and moved in two years later after an extensive renovation.

Broad Street residents have easy access over a nearby footpath and pedestrian bridge to the C&O Canal Towpath and the Potomac River, where running, biking and kayaking are popular. In addition, a wide, grassy median lined with tall trees and park benches—known as the “village green”—begins halfway along Broad Street and makes an ideal dog-walking strip, says Ellen Wilner, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Bethesda. Until 1960, the median was the site of a trolley line that ran from Union Station in the District to Glen Echo.

“Residents of Broad Street are very eclectic—everyone is an individualist. That’s the flavor here, and their houses show it,” Wilner says. “Bruce [Duffy] is typical of the people here—writers, artists, people into yoga and meditation.” Broad Street homeowners who want to perfect their yoga poses or learn how to dance head to the ecumenical Brookmont Church at the corner of Broad Street and Virginia Place. The church functions as the neighborhood’s de facto community center, with a variety of classes, concerts and lectures. The church has an exercise facility for local kayakers, some of whom have been Olympic athletes.

“I love the quirkiness of the street, the texture of it. It feels like a small New England town,” Duffy says. “It’s a unique little place. And I love backing up to the woods. It’s wonderful to watch the creek rage during storms.”

Drummond Avenue, Chevy Chase

On the first day of school more than four decades ago, Dori Carroll sat on her front porch and watched Drummond Avenue children walk the short distance to Somerset Elementary School. She has done the same every year since.

Carroll, 85, loves the street as much today as she did the first time she and her husband, architect Elliott Carroll, saw it in 1964. That day, the couple wrote a contract for their 1905 home with high ceilings and a wraparound front porch. It proved to be a happy place to raise their three children. Drummond Avenue is a curiosity in Montgomery County: Two-thirds of the street is located in the Village of Drummond, which was incorporated in 1916 as a special tax district. Drummond is self-governing, with a committee of three elected officials and two town meetings each year. Its entrance off Wisconsin Avenue is marked by two distinctive stone pillars topped with period light fixtures.

“Residents have a high degree of pride in the Village of Drummond. It’s a very cohesive neighborhood,” says Bonnie Lewin, a real estate agent with Evers & Co. in Washington, D.C.

Though the street is narrow, Drummond Avenue looks like a boulevard. Fifteen-feet-wide swaths of grass stretch from curb to sidewalk on both sides, and the street is lined with mature trees. Each house is different, from bungalows to grander Victorian-style homes, with a few contemporaries interspersed. Many houses, including Carroll’s, have well-used front porches with wooden rockers and hanging swings.

At the end of Drummond Avenue is an entrance to Little Falls Stream Valley Park, with paved trails for walking and bike riding, and wooden benches for sitting in the sun.

Today, the street has an abundance of young couples and families. “The neighborhood is absolutely top-notch—we’re here for each other. People promenade down the street, and there are lots of dogs. It’s very heartwarming to see that it hasn’t really changed. People are still out enjoying the street,” Carroll says.

On the corner across the street from Carroll’s house, a bench with an engraved plaque sits on a flagstone slab. The plaque reads, in part:

“…Over the years, the residents come and go, but Drummond remains the same…A place where each person can say, ‘There’s no place I’d rather live.’”

Waverly Avenue, Garrett Park

How can one not fall in love with charming Waverly Avenue in Garrett Park, where the colorful and picturesque Victorian-style homes and the accompanying mix of bungalows and Cape Cods immediately cause house envy. At the end of this winding street, the popular Black Market Bistro offers Sunday brunches, alfresco lunches and cozy dinners.

The street wears its history proudly, with houses (and at least one resident) dating back more than 100 years. Waverly Avenue is named after a popular series of early 19th century historical novels by Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, according to town archivist Barbara Shidler. The Victorians, with their turrets, decorative moldings and wraparound front porches, help give Waverly Avenue a strong sense of its own identity in a lively town: Garrett Park declared itself an arboretum in 1977 and a nuclear-free zone in 1982.

Black Market Bistro is located in the Penn Place complex, a charming building owned by the town that also is the site of town offices, an art gallery and the post office. With no home mail delivery, residents greet neighbors on a daily basis while collecting their mail and chatting and reading the notices on the community bulletin board. A MARC train stops just steps from Penn Place, providing an easy commute to Union Station. Next to Penn Place is Garrett-Waverly Park, with two tennis courts, a basketball court and an inviting open space that is the site of many community gatherings. Century-old trees line the sidewalks along the street.

Kitty Roberts, a retired journalist, and husband Glenn Roberts, the head of a trade association management firm in Washington, D.C., moved to Waverly Avenue 18 years ago and raised two daughters in their 1889 Victorian, one of the development’s original six houses.

“We love that we see our neighbors every day at the post office—it’s a way of staying in touch with the community,” Glenn Roberts says. “Waverly Avenue is the ‘Main Street’ of Garrett Park, yet it’s so quiet. People walk down the middle of the street and stand there talking—there’s so little traffic.”

Pleasant Hill Drive, Potomac

The secret of Pleasant Hill Drive—west of Falls Road—isn’t visible from the street. It’s the secluded 10-acre lake with two attendant streams. Private canoes and rowboats are kept there, and catch-and-release fishing is a popular pastime, as are afternoons spent leaping from an old-fashioned rope swing that hangs over the water.

Two houses on Pleasant Hill Drive are next to the lake. The other homes on the street have an easement along a former bridle path. W.C. & A.N. Miller Realtors’ Graciela Haim and her family moved to Pleasant Hill Drive 18 years ago, attracted by the quietness of the street and the feeling of living in the country. On the far shore of the lake is a grassy hillside shared as common property, where a trail head adjoins the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

In addition to the lake, residents love the privacy afforded by mature trees and spacious lots. Most of the street’s home sites, which were developed in the 1960s and early 1970s by W.C. and A.N. Miller, exceed the neighborhood’s 2-acre zoning minimum, with several homes on 5 to 6 acres.

“If you’re walking or driving, it’s a street you can’t help but slow down and enjoy, with its tall trees. It winds just the right way—it doesn’t just burrow straight through,” says Krystyna Litwin, a real estate agent with Long & Foster and a Potomac resident for more than 20 years. Rather than flashy, these homes are stately and reserved.

Resident Donna Solomon, her husband Merrill and their two daughters have resided on Pleasant Hill Drive since 1991. “A lot of interesting people live here,” Donna says, mentioning a couple that helped develop the first home HIV test in the late 1980s. Members of the Marriott family own two properties on the street, including a house under construction on 5-plus acres.