Hawkins Lane: A Bethesda neighborhood preserved in time
Historical district neighborhood uninvolved in BRAC despite proximity to Navy Med
Folded into a community with some of the county's most lavish houses, a gravel road lined with bungalows of a long-ago era has survived.
Hawkins Lane, just off Jones Bridge Road, between National Naval Medical Center and North Chevy Chase Park, has preserved the simplistic lifestyle more reminiscent of the tired old town Harper Lee wrote of in her tale of 1960s southern life, "To Kill a Mockingbird," than the congested Bethesda-Chevy Chase area where it is located.
The area was purchased by a freed slave in the 1890s, built by his 12 children and remained in the family for decades. At the petition of residents who feared mansionization, the area was declared in 1991 a historical site by Montgomery County, to be preserved as a kinship community, said Clare Lise Kelly, the research and designations coordinator for the county's historic preservation office.
"You really feel transported in time when you go down Hawkins Lane," Kelly said. The district is in a rare category of county history historical preservation has studied one other kinship community, a development built around the family-run Friendship Farm in Damascus.
The neighborhood has also preserved itself from the political and development conversations that have engulfed most other communities near Navy Med, which will merge with Walter Reed Army Medical Center in September.
Hawkins Lane is one of two neighborhoods that share a land boundary with the military campus and is among the few neighborhoods that have not been involved in the community group that meets monthly to discuss the changes.
"I think we just like our street," said Robert Camps, the president of the lane's homeowners association. Camps described himself and his neighbors as "not very political."
James Hawkins, a slave during the Civil War, purchased the three acres in 1893 and built a home, where he raised his 12 children. As adults, Hawkins' children built their own homes, bungalows with porches and dirt basements.
The neighborhood is no longer predominantly black, but the sense of community for which it was given its historical recognition has prevailed.
"There's no longer the family ties, but we try to succeed that with neighborhood ties," said Kathy Sessions, who has lived on Hawkins Lane since 1993.
Earlier this year, Sessions went door-to-door to collect money for new gravel and a contractor's time. As a historic district, the county does not maintain the road.
Neighbors help shovel each other's walks, welcome neighbors' children into their homes and fetch mail from several boxes, which are lined at the lane's intersection with Jones Bridge Road.
"This is a microcosm of how life should be," Camps said.