When 6-year-old Gage Sams takes walks with his parents along the main streets in Marietta, he usually asks the same question.
"It's always, 'Why are the houses so close to the street?'" his mother, Angie, said.
Gage has grown up along the allusive Browns Alley that jaunts off Virginia Street on Marietta's west side, inhabited only by a few houses and a small apartment building. It's all separated by sprawling lawns around the street that dead ends into their driveways.
JACKIE RUNION The Marietta Times
Marietta resident James Sams, left, spends time outdoors with son Gage and Bear at their house on Browns Alley in Harmar, as two of just a small handful of people that inhabit the street.
Browns is just one of many less-traveled alleys that make it onto a Marietta street map, and residents said for the most part, it is the peace and quiet of having a street with no traffic that they love the most.
"I love it back here," said Gage's father James, 42, who has lived on the alley for 15 years with his wife and now his son. "This particular alley only has a couple of houses, but a long time ago it used to connect to Route 7."
The alley as it sits today is less than 500 feet long.
Location: Off Virginia Street, less than one mile from exit off Ohio 7.
Browns Alley addresses: Two houses and one apartment building.
Length: About 450 feet long.
Now, the little paved road simply stops in the middle of the grass, and turns into a gravel driveway leading to the Sams' house and the apartment building next door, which typically only has one or two tenants.
"The city maintains the paved part pretty well, and it's quiet, but with Route 7 and Virginia Street right next to us that part gets busy," James said.
He said the family moved from another house in Marietta for a win-win situation-they got the peace and quiet of the alley but a front seat view of the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival fireworks show.
Angie said she loves the location too, which allows plenty of room for Gage and the family's rescue dog, Bear, to run and play.
"There's no sidewalks, and there's no neighbor kids or many people around at all, which is a bit of a disadvantage," she said. "I wish he had some kids around here to play with, but we still like it."
The Sams did put on an addition to their house that allowed for a large deck, which without any other options, served as a place to teach Gage to ride his bike.
"I like all the extra room," Gage said.
And when it comes to visitors, the Sams said local pizza delivery joints can almost always find their house, but out-of-town people, like the UPS drivers, typically end up lost on Browns Road in Reno.
Shirley Wendelkin, 79, built her house on the corner of Browns Alley and Virginia Street in 1981 with her husband Richard.
"And we also own the house behind us on the alley, that our son lives in," Wendelkin said. "There's not many people here, but we know most of them pretty well."
The Wendelkins agreed with the Sams that the alley neighborhood is a fairly sharp contrast from Virginia Street.
"The only alley traffic we get is people coming and going from the other houses on it, and a lot of people will miss the turn around to the condos next door and use this to turn around," she said. "But since Virginia is so busy all the time, it's nice the alley is so quiet."
Wendelkin said the city does a fair job of maintaining the alley's paved section.
"They plow it in the winter just like the other streets, and a few years back they even widened the opening of it to make it safer for traffic," Wendelkin said.