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Washington Metro’s Mid-Century Modern and Contemporary Homes
Those interested in mid-century modern or contemporary homes for sale in the Washington DC Metro area should take heart—there are more of these properties than one might expect. In addition to the many standalone examples, aficionados of the style will find entire subdivisions and neighborhoods created through a movement that generally spanned the early 1940s to late 1960s—although some extend that timeline to include the 1930s and 1970s.
Mid-Century Modern Collection by Andre Perez and Compass
Scroll down to see the all the mid-century literature and content.
Mid-century modern and contemporary architecture (modern and contemporary often used synonymously these days) stemmed from the earlier modern movement and often espoused principles of design that merged architecture itself with its natural surroundings. The pioneering work of modernists such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson and Ludwig Miles Van Der Rohe led directly to those whose main bodies of work would be decades later.
In the DC area, certain architects come up time and again when looking at major mid-century modern accomplishments. Often, these individuals partnered with each other in prolific firms of the day. But Charles Goodman is one whose name is most frequently mentioned due to his broad portfolio of work, including custom-designed houses, commercial buildings and entire avant-garde subdivisions.
Perhaps the most famous of Goodman’s projects is Hollin Hills, a suburb of 450 iconic homes with flat roofs, linear designs and expansive walls of glass set into the rolling woodsy terrain of the Hybla Valley portion of Alexandria, south of Old Town. Like the vast majority of modernist communities of this era, Hollin Hills is now a national historic district. The homes are positioned at different angles on ungraded lots, allowing unencumbered views of nature. Residents also enjoy a clubhouse, pool and swim team.
Among Goodman’s many other works in the region are the Hammond Hill subdivision of 20 homes in Wheaton, Maryland; the High Point modernist duplexes in Arlington’s Virginia Heights, and the Hickory Cluster section of townhomes in Fairfax County’s Reston—a “New Town” community developed by Robert Simon beginning in 1964.
Reston is notable for its forward-thinking concepts and mid-century homes, including the Waterview Townhomes near Lake Anne. These were the work of Chloetheil Woodard Smith—another name that comes up often in architectural circles of the day. Smith is widely regarded as the era’s most notable female architect and was also a major urban planner.
Smith headed a large architectural firm that at various junctures included such well-known partners as Arthur Keyes, F. Donald Lethbridge and Nicholas Satterlee. One of the firm’s largest projects involved the government-sponsored renewal of DC’s Southwest quadrant in the 1950s and 1960s. This is an area that has evolved greatly over the District’s long history and continues to transition today with the massive current Southwest Waterfront development.
Smith’s Capitol Park and Harbour Square developments in the area were large-scale combinations of apartments, condos and townhouses for sale, with contemporary design work such as staggered bays and balconies giving a honeycomb impression.
Goodman was also active in the Southwest transition, contributing the River Park Mutual Homes cooperative in the 1960s. Here, two high-rises were connected by a highly unusual cluster of barrel-roof townhomes. With shiny aluminum trim and lots of windows, the overall space-age look was quite different from Goodman’s usual low-slung houses.
While the District itself isn’t known for its large-scale mid-century modern subdivisions of single-family homes, there are quite a number of individual examples, including custom-designed houses for Washington’s society denizens of the day. Goodman was also responsible for a five-block section of modernist homes in what is now the Takoma Park Historic District at the DC/Maryland border.
Fairfax County is home to a number of mid-century neighborhoods, including Lake Barcroft in the southeastern part of the county not far from Falls Church. The centerpiece is the lake itself with its beaches and boating, with upscale homes for sale all around. And while the community isn’t exclusively comprised of modernist and contemporary structures, you’ll find a significant number of flat roofs, jutting overhangs, cubist concepts and huge windows complementing the designs.
Wessynton in Fairfax County near Mount Vernon, is a community of 156 homes on 65 acres of land that was once part of the original Washington family land grant. Built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there are five models that reflect the evolution of contemporary architecture into other norms. Residents enjoy, a community pool, clubhouse, tennis, 20 acres of forest and a boat dock on Little Hunting Creek.
Pine Spring is yet another modernist community in Fairfax County with 121 single-family homes built in 55 acres of land in 1952. The architects were the aforementioned Keyes, Smith, Satterlee & Lethbridge, and the development won numerous awards, as well as write-ups in such publications as Time Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post.
Additionally, Satterlee and Lethbridge created a notable mid-century contemporary subdivision in Falls Church known as Holmes Run Acres (“The Acres” to locals). Built during the early 1950s, there are approximately 350 post-and-beam homes here in both single and bi-level models. The community also boasts three swimming pools, a rec center, nature center, wooded areas and hiking trails.
Maryland’s Montgomery County is rife with modern and contemporary homes for sale. Goodman designed Hammond Wood (near the earlier mentioned Hammond Hill neighborhood) between 1949 and 1951, and Rock Creek Woods nearly a decade later. You’ll find classic Goodman themes on display in these historic districts, including low roofs, bold angles and large windows placed side-by-side.
One of the largest collections of mid-century homes is Carderock Springs in the Bethesda area, where builder and community planner Edmund Bennett teamed with architect David Condon in the 1960s. There are some 400 structures here in nine original models, blending linear concepts with woodsy surroundings. Bonus points for tennis, swimming and a clubhouse!
Bennett also teamed with Keyes, Condon and Lethbridge on Potomac Overlook—an enclave of 20 luxury modern homes in Bethesda’s Glen Echo Heights subdivision. The same team was responsible for a very large project known as New Mark Commons in Rockville. With over 380 single-family homes and townhouses, this ambitious development came at the tail end of the mid-century movement, built during a lengthy two-decade stretch beginning in 1967.
And while Prince George’s County in Maryland is better known for recent construction, the Moyaone Reserve in Accokeek is a fascinating mid-century exception. It is comprised of 180 modern and contemporary home, most on very large lots of five acres or more. It all began when Henry and Alice Ferguson bought 130 acres of land adjacent the Piscataway National Park in the 1920s, naming their refuge Hard Bargain Farm. So began a long tradition of weekend and vacation getaways for those seeking respite from the city.
The Fergusons continued their land acquisition until it reached 2,800 acres, selling lots to friends and family. And thus was born a community of fascinating and often very individualistic properties, ranging from cubist treehouses to giant post-and-beams. Ravines, a river, an outdoor amphitheater with summer concerts—these are just a few of the attractions in this unique oasis.
There are other subdivisions and mid-century modern homes for sale in the DC Metro area beyond those that are listed here. Suffice to say that Washington isn’t only about row houses and traditional forms of architecture. Call District Partners at Compass to learn more, 202-798-3600.