Okay, all you historic homes buffs: take a look at the picture on the left.
Where would you think this is? In the US? Holland? Poland? Someplace in the Baltic? And when do you think the houses were built? In the 19th century? Or the 17th?
Well, try again. How about 2008, brand-new construction in the Washington, DC suburbs?
Yes, you read that correctly. The National Park Seminary in close-in Silver Spring is the quirkiest new development in our ‘burbs, an eclectic mix of townhouses and condos that are sleek and contemporary inside and feature facades in Tudor, Colonial and whatever-period stucco style.
(Okay, I admit, tinting my picture in sepia was a little misleading. To make up for it, I show you a "real" one on the right. That's the old town market square of Wroclaw in Poland, formerly Breslau, Germany. The oldest building dates from the 14th century. :-)
In any case, the pleasant weirdness has a tradition at this location. The site was once the campus of one of Americas finest “finishing schools” for wealthy girls, then a Seminary, and finally owned by the US military for many decades before most of its buildings started their decay into a silent, slow death. The ruins of the school’s gymnasium with its then state-of-the-art heated indoor pool and of a magnificent multi-story ballroom (check out the history and old pictures on the developer's website) are being restored, and so are those of a castle-like dormitory or a pagoda-look-alike sorority building.
There is parkland all around, there are some replicas of ancient statues and a lot of other fun stuff. There’s a newly paved road going through the whole thing, and even a new access path to the Rock-Creek Hiker-Biker trail is about to be inaugurated.
So, it’s great fun. Just one thing seems truly out-of-whack, at least to me, the city girl. It’s such an urban picture: townhouses, sidewalks, tiny yards, roof decks. And it is indeed barely more than a mile from the DC city limits. But where is the infrastructure? Where are the urban amenities to go with the images? Where are the cafes, the bakeries, the newspaper stands? Perhaps they will follow.
I love the place, and I have been trying so hard to come up with buyers to show those homes to. But it seems, they’re always either-or. Either they want the suburbs, a detached house and a big yard and the neighborhood pool. Or they want the city, the noise, the stores, the metro, the minimal commute, fast pace.
This is a little neither-nor.
© 2012, Catarina Bannier