Modern and Contemporary Mid-Century Subdivisions in Washington DC Area
Real estate buyers in the Washington Metropolitan area are going nuts for Modern and Contemporary Midcentury Homes for Sale! Often associated with California, the Midwest and Southwest, these iconic properties also have a prominent presence in and around Washington, from Alexandria to DC itself, and from Bethesda, Maryland to Falls Church. That includes entire subdivisions dedicated to this unique architecture.
Built from the 1940s to the late 1960s (with some aficionados extending the timeline on both ends), these visually striking designs stemmed from early modernism in America, which in turn drew influences from European forms. Among the most notable proponents of the 20th century in this country were Frank Lloyd Wright and his Prairie School homes, Ludwig Miles Van Der Rohe who merged cubism with flowing interior spaces, and Philip Johnson whose minimalist Glass House was completely see-through!
The influences of these and other well-known modernists segued into the mid-century modern movement and a post-World War II wave of new home owners thirsting for something different. But where in the DC area can we find large concentrations of these low-slung stylized structures with their big windows and linear designs?
For many enthusiasts, ground zero is the Hollin Hills neighborhood in the southern part of Alexandria. Built between 1949 and 1970, these aren’t the oldest modernist buildings in the region (Wright’s famous Pope-Leighey House was completed in 1940 in Falls Church and later moved to Alexandria). But with 450 iconic homes placed into woodsy settings—each facing different angles so as to promote maximum views through their window walls—these are certainly worthy of the award-winning attention that has been bestowed over the years.
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Set amongst the natural splendor of Alexandria’s Hybla Valley, Hollin Hills has been a serene enclave with a tightknit sense of unity for generations, with residents enjoying a community swimming pool and swim team. Like virtually all of the mid-century modern and contemporary subdivisons and neighborhoods in the Washington area, it is also a historic district.
Goodman was already an established local architect when the Hollin Hills project began. But its success brought a higher national profile and his design work continued with a number of other prominent projects. One example is the Hickory Cluster townhouse section of Reston in Fairfax County. With interesting grids of exterior beams and linear themes, these stylized abodes are emblematic of the visionary “New Town” concept of Reston, founded in 1964 by Robert Simon.
Among other contemporary styles that are prominent in Reston are the Waterview Townhomes near the community’s own Lake Anne. These were designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith, a trailblazer for women in architecture and a notable modernist and urban planner.
Fairfax County is home to a number of other mid-century modern homes and condos, as well as newer upscale contemporary structures from some of today’s top architects and builders. You’ll find numerous examples in McLean and Great Falls, including some of the most expensive homes in Northern Virginia.
Also in Fairfax is the delightful Lake Barcroft community, centered on the lake of the same name. The lake’s coastline is a myriad of ins and outs, lending to numerous homes with private docks and beaches, as well as a party barge for locals! Mid-century modern architecture is also on display with a substantial number of 1950s homes sporting wide shelf-like overhangs, carports and bold angles.
Not far from Lake Barcroft in the Falls Church area is Holmes Run Acres, typically referred to as “The Acres” by locals. This contemporary community was constructed in phases by three builders during the 1950s, with one and two-story homes designed by Nicholas Satterlee and F. Donald Lethbridge. There are 349 residences here, with post-and-beam interiors and a variety of exterior designs. Residents also enjoy lots of trees, park-like surroundings, three swimming pools, a rec center and a nature center.
Satterlee also formed partner ships with other modernist architects, including Arthur Keyes and the above-mentioned Smith. He worked with Smith on her Capitol Park townhomes in DC’s Southwest neighborhood, and eventually went out on his own, designing intriguing Brutalist buildings with rounded concrete exteriors. He also worked in Chicago and New York City.
Smith’s other work includes the Harbour Square mid-century apartments and townhomes in Southwest DC with a honeycomb façade of balconies and bays. She also created Waterside Mall in the same area, as well as commercial structures and embassies, including in Paraguay.
Goodman also worked in Washington’s Southwest quadrant during its time of transformation, designing the River Park Mutual Homes, a cooperative development consisting of two high-rises with 130 aluminum-clad barrel-roof townhouses in-between. The overall futuristic effect is unlike his other work.
Today, this same area is going through another massive transformation with the new Southwest Waterfront project, including piers, upscale condos, restaurants, shops and entertainment.
While you won’t find large concentrations of mid-century modern single-family homes in DC, there are a number of singular examples, as well as newer contemporary trophy homes in upscale northwest suburbs, including those set into Rock Creek Park. But right at the edge of the DC/Maryland border is yet another example of Goodman’s work, with five blocks of his modernist homes built in 1951 in the Takoma Park neighborhood. That section is now part of the Takoma Park Historic District.
Goodman was also active in the Silver Springs area in Maryland’s Montgomery County. Between 1949 and 1951—the same time that he was beginning work on Hollin Hills, he designed Hammond Wood. And between 1958 and 1961, he created Rock Creek Woods. Each are now historic districts, known for their signature Goodman themes.
In nearby Bethesda, Maryland is one of the largest treasure troves of mid-century modern design in all of Washington Metro. Carderock Springs is comprised of some 400 homes in nine original models, all designed and built by Edmund Bennett during the 1960s. The self-taught builder and community planner worked with architect David Condon on the project, combining cubism and other modernist designs with surrounding natural elements.
Bennett also worked with Condon, Keyes and Lethbridge on an enclave of 20 large contemporary homes in the Glen Echo Heights section of Bethesda. The development is known as Potomac Overlook. Isn’t it interesting how these same architects and developers keep cropping up again and again, in various different partnerships?
Also from the same team was New Mark Commons in Rockville, a wooded community with its own lake, clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts. Originally conceived as all contemporary single-family homes and townhouses, the project’s construction took longer than anticipated, lasting from 1967 to the mid-1980s. As a result, there are also some traditionally designed homes. In all, there are 384 total units.
And speaking of familiar partnerships, Smith, Keys, Sattterlee and Lethbridge all came together for the Pine Springs community in eastern Fairfax County near Falls Church in 1952, building some 122 mid-century homes that won numerous awards and were profiled in a number of national periodicals.
Arlington isn’t especially well known for mid-century modern homes, although you will find some examples in the northern part of the county butting up against the Fairfax County line, as well as in communities near the Washington Golf and Country Club.
But our man Goodman did pull off an interesting project in the southern part of Arlington—a cluster of 21 contemporary duplexes known as Height Point in the Virginia Heights neighborhood.
And finally, there’s the Moyaone Reserve in Accokeek, in Maryland’s Prince George’s County. It all began when Henry and Alice Ferguson started buying up forested land near the Piscataway National Park in the 1920s. Their dream was to create a naturalist oasis, and over the years they purchased some 2,800 acres. This eventually led to a mid-century contemporary enclave where like-minded people could buy everything from cubist flat-roofed cottages to large post-and-beam “cabins.”
Add an outdoor amphitheater, summer concerts, environmental workshops, swimming, cafes and coffee shops, and you have an idealist’s dream. And it’s all part of Washington Metro’s larger network of mid-century modern communities, where homes and condos for sale are much different than the casual observer might notice.
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Listing information last updated on April 21st, 2019 at 12:03am EDT.