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Monday, May 23, 2011

Neighborhood Spotlight: Sleepy Hollow Woods has hidden charms

Sleepy Hollow Woods is a quiet Annandale neighborhood between Columbia Pike, Sleepy Hollow Road, Chanel Road, and Holmes Run. It’s full of well-kept ramblers, split levels, and bilevels, most of them built between 1959 and 1961.

But hidden from view, in the middle of a block, is a remnant from the past, when the land here was woods and farmland: There’s a pre-Civil War farmhouse known as the Chanel House. Previous owners, the Chanel family, sold much of their land to Community Builders, which developed Sleepy Hollow Woods.

At least one original resident of Sleepy Hollow Woods still lives there: Luta Cornelia “Corny” McGrath, age 103, had been in the Women’s Army Corp in World War II and took part in the Berlin airlift.
Over the years, Sleepy Hollow has gotten more diverse along with the entire Annandale area. “We love the diversity,” says Kent Rogers who moved to the neighborhood in 1964.  “When we moved in, there were many mid-level military families,” she recalls. “It was a fairly well-educated, basically white, middle class community.”

Her husband, Steven, was in the Foreign Service, and they rented out their house while they lived in New Delhi, Paris, Swaziland, Mexico City, and Pretoria. “But it was nice having a home here to come back to,” she said.

“Our neighbors looked out for us,” Kent says. For example, when a hurricane hit the area while they were out of town, a neighbor moved the Rogers’ deck chairs to a safe place. Both Steven and Kent served as president of the Sleepy Hollow Civic Association in the 1990s.

Steven and Kent Rogers
The current president, Michael Brady, grew up in Sleepy Hollow Woods but moved away after he graduated from JEB Stuart High School and joined the Coast Guard.

After returning to the Washington area in 2009 and looking for a place to settle down, Brady bought a house two doors down from the one where he grew up on Ivydale Drive. His parents moved away in 1997, and his mother, now a widow, lives with Brady’s family.

The appearance of the neighborhood hadn’t changed much since Brady grew up there, he says, although “some trees are a little bigger and gardens are a little more mature.”

One reason Sleepy Hollow Woods has been able to retain its original character is its architectural committee, which enforces the neighborhood covenant developed in 1959.

“We’ve been pretty successful in not having teardowns,” says Brady. The committee reviews homeowners’ renovation and expansion plans and determines whether they comply with the covenant. The civic association has a fund set aside for legal costs, if needed, but so far has never had to go to court, he says. “Everybody has been very cooperative. They are willing to work with us.”

One activity that appears to be unique among local community associations is the practice of installing benches to honor prominent residents who have died.

The Chanel House
The first bench, on the corner of Murray Lane and Maple Crest, has a plaque for Gretchen Lavell. She and her husband moved to the area in 1946 and used to have picnics in the woods before the neighborhood was built and became one of the first homeowners. The Sleepy Hollow Woods Garden Club held a party for Lavell’s 100th birthday.

Another bench, on the corner of Fern Lane and Ivydale Drive, honors retired Col. Charles Sell, who had been active in the citizens association.

Like many neighborhoods around here, Kent says it’s been a challenge to get younger residents involved in the citizens association. Years ago, meetings “would fill up the Belvedere cafeteria. Now, we’re lucky to get 12 people to come,” she says.
Neighborhood social events are more popular. The annual picnic, held at St. Albans Church, draws about 200 people, Kent says.

Brady says 36 families participated in the community yard sale May 14. The annual wine and cheese party will be May 26, and the association hosts an annual Halloween/fall party at the Golden Living nursing home on Columbia Pike.

The neighborhood also has an active e-mail network, which Steve says is especially helpful during snow storms.

Sleepy Hollow Woods snapshot
Number of houses: 377
Location: Generally bordered by Columbia Pike, Sleepy Hollow Road, Chanel Road, Rose Lane, and Holmes Run.
Fairfax County district: Mason.
Schools: Belvedere Elementary School, Glasgow Middle School, Stuart High School.
Home prices: In the last two months, homes sold for $430,000 to $484,000.


  1. Its a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

  2. Patrick DeMent - past SHWCA president6/2/11, 9:42 PM

    Nice article. I like the historical coverage and the overall balance between the old and the new. You have painted a vivid picture of my neighborhood. Thank you!

  3. it is a wonderful place i live in Sprucedale Dr.(the dead end.) Very beautiful!

  4. We moved there in 1967 and lived on Ivydale Dr, across from Corney McGrath until my parents moved in the early 1980's. I left in 1980 when I got married. It was a great place to live.