Hollin Hills brings nature to everyday city living

Real Estate

More like a deep-forest campground than an urban neighborhood 10 minutes from the Van Dorn Metro station, the wooded enclave of Hollin Hills is rich with trees, wildlife and homes designed to make nature a part of daily life.

The community boasts half a dozen parks including a wildlife sanctuary that is home to deer, woodpeckers and, on a recent afternoon, thousands of summer cicadas.

Nature is the focus here. Irregular streets bend and curve with the hilly terrain and often dead-end. Sidewalks line only one side and merge with the surrounding woodland. One- and two-level houses, distinctly Midcentury Modern in style, are hidden in the understory growth.

“They’re built and deliberately situated so you don’t look into your neighbor’s bedroom,” said Larison Helm, who moved here in 1993. “It all seems natural and unplanned, definitely not cookie-cutter style.”

Developer Robert Davenport bought this land in the late 1940s even though it was hilly and considered unbuildable. He hired architect Charles Goodman, designer of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, to build most of the roughly 450 homes that sit only 35 minutes from Washington.

“It’s a wonderful neighborhood because Goodman’s original concept has stayed with the community,” said Lee Braun of the Poole/Braun Team with Long & Foster in Alexandria. “He wanted neighbors to know each other, so he didn’t build fences. He designed the streets to be a friendly neighborhood.”

Some houses still have their original owners, so the neighborhood is a “wonderful combination of older people and younger ones coming in with families,” Braun said.

Catherine Krebs, a resident since 1976, said when the first houses went up in 1949, they started winning awards — but people “wondered if the ceilings would stay up because they had so much glass.”

The skylights and the expansive windows do make the houses in Hollin Hills unusual. Walking the streets, one sees wall after wall of glass, one and two stories high, wrapping around corners. Glass doors open to patios in the front, back and side.

Yards frequently blend into the surrounding woodland, where verdant ground cover melds with bushes and a tall canopy of trees — sweet gums, willow oaks and chestnut oaks, pine and spruce, horse chestnuts and sycamores.

Careful preservation over the decades has maintained the community’s distinctive style. A Design Review Committee that includes residents ensures all exterior structural changes are in harmony and keeping with Goodman’s original design.

Still, each home is different, and many owners have made interior changes and built additions.

“And that’s what Goodman wanted, for the houses to change over time with the residents,” Braun said. “The beauty is that the houses have evolved over the years.”

For ZIP Code 22306:
Average sales price June 2012: $428,253
Average sales price June 2011: $334,261
Average days on market June 2012: 56
Average days on market June 2011: 46
Average list price for houses sold June 2012 $434,882
Average list price for houses sold June 2011: $343,663

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