MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. Today, we're all about the 'burbs with stories focusing on the complex and ever-changing communities that make up the Washington suburbs. Of course, as we heard earlier in the show, defining a suburban community can be trickier than you think. We kicked things off today by swinging by Mount Pleasant, which used to be considered a suburban, but is, of course, now part of the city proper.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
For this next story, we go way, way outside the city to a place that doesn't feel very suburban, but it's increasingly being swallowed up into the greater Washington region. Tara Boyle takes us on this road trip to Martinsburg, W. Va.
MS. TARA BOYLE
Walking into Patterson's Pharmacy on a Friday morning is like entering the set of a Hollywood movie, a movie about small town America.
MR. GEORGE KAROS
We have homemade sandwiches here, any type of salad you want, egg salad, chicken salad, tuna fish, cheese salad, combination sandwiches.
The long-time business in downtown Martinsburg has an old-fashioned soda fountain with stools for the morning coffee crowd and an antique phone booth in the back.
And it still works, believe it or not.
That's George Karos, the 80 year-old owner of Patterson's. He's also the mayor of Martinsburg and he knows how to sell his community.
The amenities are all here, it's small town location. The real estate taxes are extremely low, the services are excellent, they have an excellent city fire department, EMT services.
It's a community with a more languid pace. A community where people still know each other by first name and that elusive quality, says realtor Carolyn Snyder, is why many Washingtonians want to live here.
MS. CAROLYN SNYDER
We're here on Westbrook Street and we're two or three blocks from downtown Martinsburg, it's a historic district.
We're standing outside the offices of Snyder's firm as she points out the neighborhoods Victorian homes, many of which have been bought up by Washingtonians.
This was recently purchased by a fellow from D.C. who commutes. The house over here to my right, again are two fellows from the D.C. metro area. Across the street, she retired from the IRS.
Snyder says the burst of the housing bubble has hurt the local market but it hasn't killed it. That's because there are all sorts of historic homes for sell here and to prove that point we're off to visit a place called Aspen Hall.
Hi, Charlie. How are you?
MR. CHARLIE CONNOLLY
Okay. Welcome to Aspen Hall.
Charlie Connolley owns Aspen Hall, a mansion that he runs as something of an inn where he rents rooms by the month.
It's a total of 6500 square feet now with about 22 rooms. The oldest part, which is through that door over there, which is now my kitchen was built in 1745.
George Washington attended a wedding here on May 14, 1761 and speaking of Washington, the main entryway of this house is bigger than the grand hall at Mount Vernon.
So it's one of the finest Georgian period homes in the northern Shenandoah Valley.
The asking price, $599,000. Not exactly chump change but way more house than you'd get for the same price closer to the District and Carolyn Snyder says many houses on the market here are cheaper than this one.
You can get anything from $30,000, which surprising, all the way, you know, to the $100,000, $250,000, $300,000.
But there is, of course, a catch. If you're planning to commute from this place to Washington every day, you'd better like getting up before dawn.
MS. JANN LOGAN
I'm going to have to give you a call back on Tuesday, if that's at all possible and I look forward to...
Jann Logan is a community youth scheduler at Montgomery College.
And I book rooms for special events, department meetings, anything other than, of course, scheduling.
We're here in her quiet Rockville office, which is about 70 miles from her home in Hedgesville, W. Va. She commutes between the two locales every day and says sometimes that drive can be pretty brutal.
I like to leave the house at 5:30.
That's 5:30 a.m. On a good day, she can make it to Rockville in fewer than two hours, but on a bad day...
I have gotten into work as late as 10:00.
And she's hardly the only one making this sort of super commute. Officials in Berkeley County, W. Va., which includes Martinsburg and Hedgesville, say more than 12 percent of residents work in the Washington suburbs. That statistic doesn't even include workers who hoof it all the way into the city. So why put yourself through this trek every day? Logan's been doing the back and forth since 1995 and she says the time lost on the road is worth it. .
We're back in a secluded little part of heaven, I like to refer to it as. It's really lovely back there. It's just a different kind of life up there. It's a lot slower and we've really enjoyed it so we made the move.
And while many scholars predict the burst of the housing bubble will decrease this sort of super commuting back in Martinsburg, Major George Karos isn't so sure. This community, he says, is changing.
We still know people. You can see at the soda fountain there. They've been there since you and I have started this interview. We still have that so-called homebrew mentality at times but, yes, we have changed.
Changed, he says, and become more suburban, even if the big city that's feeding this suburban transformation is far, far away. I'm Tara Boyle.
Do you live in the far outer reaches of the Washington suburbs? We'd like to hear why you choose to live where you do. Just send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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