Where Sunshine Is

Where Sunshine Is

McLean History: Personal Accounts

My sisters and I are here today because in 1919 our mother, Julia Ann Sterling Knauss, took the real estate ads, shut her eyes and her pencil fell on Ingleside. My parents then bought property and a house on this very spot. Mother probably was teasing because no one else had heard this story.

However, it was always a mystery why my parents, who both came from 20th century homes with all the amenities, would move from a brick house in Washington, D.C. to a primitive house in rural McLean.

A clue can be found in my sister's baby book. In it, mother had written that she wished to move so "her beautiful daughter can have fresh air and sunshine." In 1918, there was a flu pandemic with 40 to 50 million people killed worldwide. Also, tuberculosis and other incurable contagious diseases were virulent.

At Ingleside, there was clean air, fresh vegetables, dairy products from the Magarity's dairy next door and eggs from the chickens my parents raised.

Ingleside was extremely beautiful. I visited when I was three years old and can still remember the streams and wildflowers. It was my first memorable aesthetic experience.

Our father, Norman L. Knauss, continued his career in Washington, D.C., where he was on staff of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Standards. He was also a court and congressional shorthand reporter. We have newspaper photos of him reporting congressional investigations and reporting to FDR at a World War I Victory Loan Rally when FDR was secretary of the Navy. Daddy went to work on the trolley, which stopped at nearby Ingleside station.

On the other hand, our mother lost any romantic illusions she had of country living and country neighbors fast. It was extremely difficult for her to be stuck in the country without indoor plumbing, gas, electricity and the household servants her beautiful family home had. Yet mother set the table with white linen. Her inherited fine furniture was stored in a barn for a better day.

Mother's salvation came with the purchase of a house in 1927 in McLean's first subdivision called Walter Heights. The house, which is beautifully restored by the Duncans, still stands on the corner of Marion Avenue and Dolley Madison Boulevard.

The new house had all the bells and whistles for the year it was built, 1925, and the usual one-bathroom which caused morning traffic jams for my parents and sisters. The Arnold buses stopped in front of our house and in 1929 mother was able to work for George Washington University's pathological laboratory as a bacteriologist.

Mother was offered a scholarship of $25 a month for expenses, and in exchange for her continuing work at the laboratory as an intern, would have free tuition for night school. However, these long hours were impossible because of children at home.

The Marion Avenue house had flowers, fruit trees, a vegetable garden and even chickens for a while. Daddy would bring home gourmet food from Washington. He said, "we don't have the most money, but we eat the best." Being near Washington, my parents were able to take me to museums, art galleries and concert halls. The family also visited historical sites in Virginia. Then, living in McLean was the best of all worlds.

Although there were fine private and public schools in Virginia, my sisters and I went to schools in both Virginia and the District. Part of my tuition for Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School and my sister Dariel's Madison College was paid for from the land account from the sale of the Ingleside property, which the McLean Community Center and Alden Theatre are now on.

Sometimes I think that maybe our parents shouldn't have sold the Ingleside land and it could still be in its beautiful pristine state, and would now be worth millions. However, I do believe our parents, especially mother, who as a teenager was an award-winning actress, she won a trip to the White House, would like it that the Alden Theatre is here.

<b>Sylvia M. Knauss-Sterling</b>

<i>The story as told at the McLean Centennial Celebration on June 26.</i>