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Door to Door: Glenn Dale, Md., and Fairlington, Va.

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Image of homes in Fairlington, Va.
Guy Land
Image of homes in Fairlington, Va.

It's our weekly trip around the region. This week, we visit Glenn Dale, Md., and Fairlington, Va.

Glenn Dale, Md.

Jim Titus, 57, moved to Glenn Dale, Md. in 1981. As a student at the University of Maryland, Titus was looking for a house with a bit of land that he could call his own. He settled in Glenn Dale, a seven-square-mile town in Prince George's County.

Glenn Dale is bounded on the east by Bowie, to the west by Lanham and Seabrook, to the north by Goddard Space Flight Center, and to the south by Maryland 450. The 2010 census counted the population at 13,466.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Gabriel Duvall owned land in the area, and his former home is now a historic property called the "Marietta House Museum." People can visit the museum for lectures and events, such as "Marching Through Time," a living history encampment that occurs in the spring. The event features reenactments of wars throughout history, from the 1st century Romans through the 20th century.

"During colonial times this area was basically farmland," Titus says. This changed after the Civil War, with the introduction of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Washington, D.C. branch line.

Although much of Glenn Dale's farmland has been built up and converted into roads and subdivisions, the town has maintained its tree canopy. "Quite often Glenn Dale is 3 to 4 degrees cooler than the surrounding communities," Titus says.

Titus says that, in a way, Glenn Dale is made up of two communities. "You have the old community on the old grid and they tend to participate in the citizen's association," he says. "Then we have a lot of individual neighborhoods where the people pretty much stick to themselves, and they have their homeowner associations."

Titus says the two communities are also divided by race, with mainly black residents living in the newer subdivisions and a majority white population in the older area.

Glenn Dale is also home to an abandoned tuberculosis sanitarium, which Titus says is known outside the area as "the haunted hospital." He says people in Glenn Dale don't like that characterization, but haunted or not, the property is certainly spooky. The former hospital has been crumbling since it shut its doors in the early 1980s, and efforts to sell the property for re-use have not been successful.

"We have an active citizen's association in Glenn Dale that focuses a lot on preserving the environmental quality of the area, the general aesthetic appearance, and making the place safer on the roads," Titus says.

Because Glenn Dale is surrounded by state highways, people don't have to drive through the middle of town to get from one place to another. "We have the WB&A trail going from Bowie through Glenn Dale, and we have a number of roads with very low volumes," Titus says.

He says the low-population density and quiet roads make Glenn Dale a great place to ride a bike. "I bike with my daughter to her school sometimes," he says. "I bike whenever I want to have lunch, or about half the time when I'm grocery shopping on a nice day."

In fact, Glenn Dale was the first community in Maryland to display the State Highway Administration's new bicycle safety signs that say bicyclists may use the full lane.

Fairlington, Va.

There's a joke in Fairlington, Va. residents like to tell visitors: "Mine is the brick house with the white trim." It's a statement that will get any visitor lost; every house in the condominium community fits that description.

This south Arlington neighborhood was first constructed during World War II to house defense workers, and now that it is recognized by the Virginia Landmark Register and the National Register of Historic Places, it's guaranteed that each home will continue to have a brick exterior with white trim. According to resident and Arlington County Board Member Libby Garvey, those facades shelter an intensely supportive community.

Garvey explains that the neighborhood's layout with courtyards and communal swimming pools encourages people to get to know each other. "And then, as you get to connect with people, life happens, and different people go through different hard times."

When Garvey's husband died, the community made every effort to support her and her family. Neighbors provided meals and sat with the family. And for Garvey, they did even more: "I would get up in the morning sometimes and come down and somebody was there just to be there to make sure we were okay."

For residents like Libby Garvey, that kind of community support makes Fairlington the perfect place to live. Garvey says, "It's tight living, but you've got everything you'd want with the community... with the support. It's a beautiful place to be. You couldn't ask for anything more."

[Music: "No, Girl" by John Davis from Title Tracks / "Wild Man Blues" by Woody Allen from Wild Man Blues]

Photos: Glenn Dale, Md. and Fairlington, Va.

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