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Door To Door: Occoquan, Va., And Washington Grove, Md.

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Judy Randolph at her home in Occoquan, Va.
Robbie Feinberg
Judy Randolph at her home in Occoquan, Va.

It's our weekly trip around the region. This week, we visit Occoquan, Va., and Washington Grove, Md.

Occoquan, Va.

June Randolph's home doesn't exactly fit in with the houses around her on the coast of the Occoquan River in Occoquan, Va.

Randolph's house is quaint, a one-story residence with a small porch overlooking the river. But compared with the colossal mansions surrounding it, her place looks a little underwhelming.

But Randolph likes it that way. She's lived in this house for over 50 years. And she moved here at a time when her house didn't look out of place, but fit right in with the landscape. Randolph still remembers exactly what brought her to this "sleepy little town."

"I never wanted to leave," Randolph says. "It was just the town. It was some place. I knew people. You could walk down to the post office and you saw people you know. It was very friendly. Very different from living in Arlington, where I had come from... the buildings were simple. There were enterprises that I missed when they left. We had a florist shop. We had a drug store. A hardware store."

Occoquan has certainly changed since Randolph settled here. Houses have been torn down and rebuilt. Businesses have moved in. And over the past few decades, Occoquan has become an artist's destination, too, with a twice-yearly craft show bringing tourists here. But those changes won't make Randolph leave.

"Well, I don't like all the townhouses," Randolph says. "It just doesn't look like Occoquan to me. But the people who we have brought there have participated in our government, and maybe some of them have a shot here. So there are good and bad things."


Washington Grove, Md.

Once you enter Washington Grove, you'll feel like you've been transported to a different world.

Trees dominate the landscape, surrounding the houses and, in one case, even going straight through a resident's porch. Homes are bunched together, with some residents living only 5 or 10 feet from their neighbors. And most of those houses don't face paved roads. Instead, they're surrounded by unpaved, gravel walkways with barely a car in sight. It feels more like a summer camp than a modern town.

That look is intentional, says Joli McCathran, a longtime resident of the town. In fact, she says, the town started as a summer vacation spot for religious leaders.

"In 1873, a group of Methodists from Washington, D.C. wanted to build a summer camp for summer programs, revivals and worship services," McCathran says. "They started on a circle area, where there initially was a tabernacle built at one time. And it's a walkway, and all the walkways radiate out from that. There are seven avenues that are walkways. So, in Washington Grove, most of the houses face walkways, and that was to protect the women and children. So you walk on the avenues, and you drive on the roads."

McCathran says that the town has largely kept that same, old-school feeling since it was founded. She says that new houses have been built, but the community's traditions have largely stayed the same.

"It's very family-oriented. It's very community-oriented," McCathran says. "There's the Fourth of July parade we have every year. The mayor of the town rides the tractor. And I guess the best part about it is we have no spectators. Everybody's in the parade. We have a band, a muskrat band. A kazoo band. People dress up and we give out prizes to the children."

While Washington Grove hasn't changed much, the area around it has. And McCathran says that preserving the town in the face of constant development and construction hasn't been easy.

"We spend a majority of our time trying to protect who we are," McCathran says. "That's been very hard with development of the ICC, 370, and other communities around us kind of pushing us at the borders. So it's been a real challenge trying to maintain... we want people to come and enjoy it. But we want to be careful of protecting ourselves because we love who we are as a community."


[Music: "No, Girl" by John Davis from Title Tracks / "Float On (Karaoke Version)" by Stingray Music from Karoake - In the Style of Modest Mouse, Vol. 1]

Photos: Door to Door

Explore previously featured neighborhoods on our Door to Door map:

This map shows previous Door to Door segments, and includes links to photos and show audio. The yellow marker represents neighborhoods featured in Washington, D.C., the blue represents neighborhoods in Maryland, and the red represents neighborhoods in Virginia.

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