WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Door To Door: King Farm, Md. and Herndon, Va.

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David Lewis on his porch in the King Farm neighborhood of Rockville.
John Hines/WAMU
David Lewis on his porch in the King Farm neighborhood of Rockville.

King Farm, Rockville, Maryland

On the northern edge of Rockville, Maryland, in the late '90s, a developer bought a dairy farm owned for decades by the King family and set about building a new, different kind of suburb. The style, for lack of a better term, was called “new urbanism.”

The new neighborhood would be more compact and include multi-family as well as single-family homes with porches on smaller lots than in a typical suburb. Most people would live close enough to the grocery store so that they could walk there, if they wanted to. And when this “new urbanism” neighborhood was finished, it was given the old name of “King Farm.”

“We have a rule from our community association that if your house faces the park, it’s required to have a front porch. This is a porch and deck community. Lots and lots of entertaining and social interactions take place on porches or decks or yards,” says resident David Lewis.

Lewis notes, though, that from a practical, design perspective, the porches and decks may help a compact neighborhood feel bigger.

“We don't have big yards here. Land is expensive in Rockville, so most of it is compressed into the area of a porch or a deck,” Lewis says.

King Farm may be a new urbanist community, but Lewis says that many traditional community activities give King Farm an old-fashioned sense of togetherness.

“We have King Farm events such as a fall festival, the spring wine festival, the community yard sale … we have a summer swim team in the Montgomery County swim league in which 100 families in King Farm have their children participating in. So there is a sense of togetherness, “ Lewis explains.

While many Washington suburbs feature big houses on large lots, for Lewis bigger is not necessarily better.

“We're so close and easy to get to for other people… and we don't have gigantic lots and McMansions here, but it’s a really nice place to live, and I'm glad we picked it,” Lewis says.

Herndon, Virginia

Naval Commander William Lewis Herndon was something of an adventurer. In 1851, he led an expedition to the Valley of the Amazon, and in 1857 he helped rescue more than 150 women and children from a ship that lost power off the coast of North Carolina during a hurricane.

Several communities in the U.S. are named for Commander Herndon, including Herndon, Virginia.

“There’s a monument, an obelisk named for him at the Naval Academy, and we have a smaller version of that on our town green,” says Herndon resident Harlon Reece. “And we hold our annual Veterans Day ceremony at that monument.”

Reece says that bit of history isn’t the only thing that makes Herndon notable. The community is also well known for its lush tree canopy, he says.

“For over 20 years now we've been recognized by the Arbor Foundation as a tree city,” he says.

Reece lives in the historic district of Herndon, and says his older home is what drew him to the community. Over time, he’s also come to appreciate Herndon’s “strong sense of community.”

“It is a town with its own elected government. It’s that sense of community that you just don’t find if you’re out in [Fairfax] county somewhere else.”

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