- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Many children grow up grumbling that they feel as if they're living in a museum every time a parent tells them not to play ball in the house or jump on the furniture in the living room.

Peter Brock of Garrett Park had that feeling in 1987 when he moved into the boyhood house of his father, Pete, and for good reason. It wasn't a museum, but it was close. Thanks to the efforts of Pete Brock's mother, Adoria, who had registered it with the Maryland Historical Trust, the Brock house was an official historic site, and visitors could drop by almost any time, provided they made reservations first.

Today, 13 years later, they're all still there: Peter, now 18, has been joined by Daniel, 12, Joey, 10, and Christopher, 6. The house isn't a historic site anymore, but it still has plenty of fond memories and family legacies the Brocks wanted to pass on to their children.

Many families are doing or have done what the Brocks did, thanks to the generosity and specific wishes of their parents, or perhaps because of their parents' deaths. With housing costs in the suburbs out of reach for many middle-class families, some leap at the chance to move back into a house where one of the spouses grew up, even with the accompanying emotional baggage.

None of the local Realtor organizations contacted for this article had statistics on the number of families living in a childhood home because many of the transactions for such situations, like the Brocks', took place without an agent's assistance.

Several families who have made such a move say the emotional part wasn't as hard as they anticipated, and whatever difficulties they encountered in that area were more than compensated by the opportunities to pass on family history to the next generation.

A family legacy

Pete Brock says he wasn't excited at first about the prospect of moving back home. His wife, Kelley, a special education program director in the District, was much more in favor of it.

"I saw it as a beautiful home," Mrs. Brock says. "He needed prompting at first. We were tired of apartment life, and we wanted to have more children, so we needed a house of some sort."

What a house it is. The Garrett Park Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Adoria Brock received a matching grant from the Maryland Historical Trust in 1978 to make the house, which was built in the 1890s, a historic site. Under the terms of the 20-year easement, Adoria Brock, a widow since 1963, had to restore the house to its original condition and promise not to make any changes in the architectural structure for 20 years.

In 1987, she married Emil Frei, director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and moved there.

"[The Maryland Historical Trust] was trying something for the first time," Mrs. Frei says. "They were looking for houses in the historic district that could be historic sites but wouldn't be museums. They would be something that would still be lived in."

Mrs. Frei still visits occasionally, though the house no longer is a historic site. When the house's 20-year easement ended in February 1998, the Brocks decided not to renew it.

"Someone came back every six months to make sure we didn't make any changes to the house," says Mr. Brock, 41, who retired this past summer from his landscaping job and now works part time as an emergency medical technician for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad and is a proud stay-at-home dad to his four sons.

"People would come once a month to inspect it. We had to have a sign out front [identifying the house as a historic site]. It was a nightmare, so when the easement expired, we just let it go."

Mr. Brock says his mother is "very happy" the family still lives there, and if Joey has anything to say about it, the legacy will live on.

"I think I want to live in this house when I get older," Joey says. "I think it's kind of cool, knowing I grew up in a house so old."

Still a 'community-type house'

Chris Beveridge's father, Ralph, died in 1991, and his mother, Mary Ann, died in August 1995. The following spring, he moved back into the old house in Burke with his wife, Wendy, and daughter, Ashley.

"It was kind of weird," he says of his first night in the house, when he slept in the same bed his parents had used for so many years. "My parents had both passed away. Having them both gone … it's a lot different when the second one goes. It's like a break from that generation. It was just kind of a nice feeling to know, especially since she wanted [a relative] to be in there, that we could do that.

"And it was a real nice change from living in a town house, dealing with all the parking hassles."

Mr. Beveridge has spent just about his entire life in Burke, except for his college years at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. His parents were the original owners of the split-level house in the Kings Park subdivision, moving there in 1963, when Chris was 2.

He left home for college in 1978 and returned when he graduated four years later. He continued to live at home until he married Wendy in 1987, when he was 27. The newlyweds moved into a town house in Burke, just a few minutes away from his parents, and visited frequently for the next several years.

"Chris' mom said she wished the house would stay in the family, and we were the ones in a position to do it [when the elder Mrs. Beveridge died]," Mrs. Beveridge says.

"We had a child already, and the two-level town house we were living in wasn't working anymore. We wanted to get something bigger," says Mr. Beveridge, a senior contract specialist for the Navy's Strategic Systems Program.

Mrs. Beveridge, a day care provider, says she worried at first about having the freedom to redecorate and make changes to the house where her husband had spent most of his life, but Mr. Beveridge took the lead.

"I had been looking at doing some little stuff around the house, tweaking it a bit," he says. "I wanted to finish off the carport into a full garage, that kind of thing. Wendy wanted to redo the kitchen. So it wasn't much of a problem. I never had a problem with that aspect of the move."

Mrs. Beveridge also wanted to keep the house as a center for social activity, the way it was when Mr. Beveridge's parents were still alive.

"Chris is very close with his three brothers, and people were over here all the time for dinners and holidays," Mrs. Beveridge says. "I didn't want everybody to feel like this wasn't still a community-type home and I have the final say over who comes over and when. It hasn't been like that."

Ashley, 9, is going to the same elementary schools Mr. Beveridge attended 30 years ago. She went to Kings Park Elementary (which has grades one through three) and now attends Kings Glen Elementary (grades four through six), where she just started the fourth grade.

As an eighth-grader, Mr. Beveridge was part of the first student body at Lake Braddock Secondary School when it opened in 1973. Kings Park was undergoing a renovation of its own when Ashley went there.

"After they finished renovating, it was like she was part of the first graduating class at the new Kings Park, so it's kind of like a cycle she has with Chris," Mrs. Beveridge says.

"Before the renovation, Kings Park was pretty much like it was when I was there," Mr. Beveridge adds.

He says he likes the opportunity to pass on his personal history to Ashley in a way she can literally see and touch.

"It's nice to pass on the kind of stuff I did when I was a kid," says Mr. Beveridge, whose father was a president of the Lake Braddock Boys Club and got Mr. Beveridge involved in several sports as a child. "My daughter is big into sports, so we go to football games at Lake Braddock sometimes. She plays basketball, and so we'll watch girls' basketball games, too. It's nice to pass on what I did and where I did it and have her relate to it a little bit more than other kids can."

Roots that run deep

When Nancy and James Hockersmith bought the three-level house in University Park where Mrs. Hockersmith grew up, they were the youngest family on the street.

That was in 1966. They are still there, and Mrs. Hockersmith says with a laugh, "Now we're fast becoming the oldest [on the street]."

The Hockersmiths don't believe in a lot of change in their lives. With the exception of a few years during college and after their first child, James III, was born, Mrs. Hockersmith has lived in the same house all of her 65 years. The Hockersmiths meet with most of the same friends they developed in the 1960s, usually on the first Saturday of each month since the 1970s.

"It just happened that way, I guess," says Mrs. Hockersmith, a retired nurse. "It wasn't planned that way necessarily."

The Hockersmiths bought a house in Seabrook in 1964, when their son was 2. They had lived there for about a year and a half when Mrs. Hockersmith's mother, Clara Kirk, decided she was ready to give up the house because it was too much work.

"She said, 'Do you want to buy it?' We jumped on it right away," Mrs. Hockersmith says.

Like Mr. Beveridge, Mrs. Hockersmith had the experience of seeing her children attend the same schools she did, all the way through college.

"We moved in here, and Jimmy was able to start at University Park Elementary School," she says. "When he started, some of the teachers I had were still there."

Then came Sue, now 35, and Janice, now 33. All three children attended University Park Elementary, then Hyattsville Middle School, then Northwestern High School and then the University of Maryland, where the Hockersmiths met as students in the 1950s.

Mr. Hockersmith, a general contractor, says he was comfortable treating the house as his own when they moved in because he and many of Mrs. Hockersmith's other friends had come to view the house as their "second home" during college.

"Back then, the sorority houses all had curfews, so we'd all end up here," Mrs. Hockersmith says. "My parents never knew how many people would be here at any one time, but they were ready any time."

She says one of her old sorority sisters still remembers the house fondly, to the point that when she found out the Hockersmiths were toying with the idea of selling it many years ago, she told Mrs. Hockersmith: "You can't do that. That house is my home, too."

Mrs. Hockersmith says that when the time does come to sell, she probably will do what her mother did sell it to her daughter. Sue Hockersmith, a bank manager, plans to keep the house in the family as long as she can.

"It would be my ultimate goal to buy this house from them and live here for a good many years," she says. "I think this is a great area. What I remember most about University Park growing up was it was very family-centered. We grew up with people we knew, and we're still friends now with people we knew back in kindergarten.

"And because my sister and brother and I are relatively close in ages, I'm good friends with his friends' and her friends' siblings. We all still have the same friends."

Looks as if the roots still run deep, even between generations.

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