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Charles M. Goodman


Charles M. Goodman, Architect [1879-1946]

Charles Morton Goodman [†] (1906-1992) was born on November 26, 1906, in New York City, New York. 149 He attended high school in Chicago, Illinois, and received an architecture degree in 1931 from the Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology). Nicknamed the "pipe-rail architect" at school, Goodman promoted modern, minimalist design even in his early career. Although he graduated before Mies van der Rohe became the Dean of Architecture at Armour in 1938, the spirit of modernism this esteemed architect offered existed on the campus during Goodman's time there. Goodman was greatly influenced by Mies's International Style of architecture. Living in Chicago, he also was exposed to Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. The pared-down architecture of these two prominent architects greatly affected Goodman's work. Wright's Prairie Style houses especially inspired Goodman's later house designs.

In 1934, Charles Goodman began work with the Public Buildings Branch of the U.S. Department of Treasury, initially in Evanston, Illinois, and, by 1936, in Washington, D.C. He worked principally on the design of post offices, but, in 1939, he was assigned the task as lead designer for Washington National Airport (1939-1941, now Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport). Elizabeth Jo Lampl recounts Goodman's thoughts on the design of the airport, "There wasn't any real terminal or airport grounds .... We began it. ... It was the future of aviation!" Goodman initially designed an expansive building with a window wall opening onto the airfield that would "ease ... [travelers'] intellectual/emotional discomfort" by direct observation of the airfield. Lampl continues:

Programmatically, his design created the first two-level airport in the country to offer separation of baggage on one level and passengers on the other. His design also revealed his premise that the building should be configured so that additions could be easily made, an approach that would become a trademark of his work. However, Goodman resigned from the project when it became clear that federal authorities and advisors would not accept all the bold aspects of his design. As realized, the building was much smaller than the one he had envisioned due to budgetary and other practical considerations. On the other hand, the classicizing portico, which appears to have been encouraged by [President] Franklin Roosevelt himself, and some less major modifications were driven by conventions of taste. 'I never got over it,' Goodman later pined. 'They went down the wrong track.'

Goodman, disillusioned with government work, went into private practice and established his own firm, Charles M. Goodman Associates, in 1939. He was joined by architect Eason Cross, Jr., designer David Condon, structural engineer Milton Gurewitz, and secretary Edith O'Neil. In the 1950s, designer Harold Esten and site planner Maria Wayne joined the firm. "While the firm was always small—less than ten people—it included a number of talented modernists during the 1950s and 1960s—men and women who helped fulfill Goodman's vision."

During World War II, Goodman rejoined government service as the principal architect for the Army Air Forces Air Transport Command. He was the lead designer for a wide variety of building types, including air terminals and operations buildings, hangars, barracks, mess halls, and offices, among many others. It was during this period that he developed a modular system of construction to facilitate design and construction, and because of this system, almost all of his buildings were expandable.

Charles Goodman returned to private practice at the end of the war but continued to work on some aviation and technological complexes. In 1947, he prepared a master plan for The American University campus in Washington, D.C. However, housing design, and particularly merchant-builder housing, came to dominate his practice and it is for this work that he is best known. According to one authority on Goodman:

It was Goodman's social conscience that propelled him into the arena of builder and prefabricated housing and kept him there for most of his career. He was inspired by the idea of creating affordable modern housing and did so in a variety of projects across the metropolitan area. As Eason Cross, Jr. describes, "His passion was to provide shelter for a wide range of need." He did so by teaming up with unconventional builders who were willing to take a risk on subdivision layout and Modern architecture. He loved working in the housing sector.

Goodman and his firm designed more than 700 distinctive houses that are scattered across the Washington region, most created for local builders. "Goodman pioneered a paradox in Washington—affordable housing that was not standard tract housing .... He promoted variety in his communities by designing enough models to respond to variations in topography, purchasers' budgets, and family size, as well as the need for individuality." His first subdivision was Hollin Hills, which won him national, and even international, renown as a precedent-setting subdivision of modern dwellings nestled into a landscape that retained its natural features. Simultaneously with the development of Hollin Hills, he was responsible for all or part of seven separate subdivisions and for the creation of several prominent custom houses in Montgomery County, Maryland. Goodman employed the principles born in Hollin Hills at the smaller subdivisions of Hammond Hill, Hammond Wood, and Wheatoncrest, which also were touted by the national architectural press for their modern architecture and landscape plans. By 1956, at the age of 49, and after a productive run as a lead designer for the prefabrication giant National Homes Corporation, Goodman would be responsible for a design that resulted in the construction of more than 32,500 houses across the country.

The National Register Multiple Property Documentation (MPD) form entitled "Subdivisions and Architecture Planned and Designed by Charles M. Goodman Associates in Montgomery County, Maryland," by Elizabeth Jo Lampl, argues for Goodman's housing to be "seen as part of the Modern Movement in architecture that took place during the 20th century, especially as it was created in the United States in the postwar period." Lampl continues:

His work should be seen alongside not only that of his Washington peers but of other Modern pioneers like Anshen & Allen and A. Quincy Jones who designed thousands of homes for California builder Joseph Eichler; Carl Koch who developed a successful prefabricated dwelling known as the "Tech-built" home; William Wurster, the main fashioner of Modern homes in the San Francisco Bay area; Clifford May, who reinvented Spanish Colonial into a Modern house in southern California; and Victor Lundy and Paul Rudolph who created the progressive works of the "Sarasota School." When discussing Goodman's structures within this historical context, his works, like those of the architects mentioned above, are identified as part of the Modern Movement.

After working on the design of Hollin Hills for more than a decade, Goodman withdrew from the project to concentrate on other work. In 1960, he produced River Park Mutual Homes in Southwest Washington, D.C. The project was initiated by a Reynolds Metals Company subsidiary established to advance urban redevelopment through projects that demonstrated how aluminum could be utilized in construction. Architectural historian Richard Longstreth describes the project:

Here, Goodman combined an apartment block (actually two blocks externally rendered as one) and clusters of attached houses ... the two types were set in dynamic opposition to one another, the apartment block extending the length of the eastern end of the enclave. The buildings, too, were more conspicuously abstract and hard-edged ... with an array of window-walls, colored panels, and aluminum screens. Many of the houses sported barrel roofs. Pavement predominated over plant material in the public spaces.

Goodman's next project was Hickory Cluster, a planned community of Reston, Virginia. Also known as the Goodman Cluster, the subdivision was a departure from traditional housing stock of rural Fairfax County in the early 1960s. As the Art Deco Society of Washington website states, "In the midst of plentiful land, [Hickory Cluster] consisted of townhouses grouped onto one tenth of the site, the rest featuring watercourses, woods, paths, and plazas. The homes, with dramatic balconies and walls of glass, opened onto striking views and—before the trees had grown—onto vistas of the lake." One of the few individual projects undertaken by Goodman during the 1960s was the Unitarian Universalist Church at 4444 Arlington Boulevard in the Barcroft neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia. The church, completed in 1963, is the only non-residential building designed by Goodman in Arlington County, and one of just four churches he was responsible for designing in the Washington metropolitan area; only three were constructed to his designs. The modern design received the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade's award for Excellence in Architecture in 1965 and more recently was honored with the Virginia Society of the AlA's Test of Time Award. It has been recognized as one of the 30 most significant Northern Virginia buildings dating from the mid-twentieth century.

Charles Goodman, in addition to his contributions to the design of suburban housing, promoted what he had learned in his partnership with Robert Davenport about the benefits of architect/developer collaboration. He "became a critical player on local and national committees charged with promoting the collaboration of architects in the builder process" through the AlA. Charles M. Goodman & Associates, along with Keyes, Smith, Satterlee & Lethbridge, the only other Washington firm designing non-traditional subdivisions, "became leaders in the field of Modern subdivision design in Washington and nationally for promoting the collaboration of architects and builders in the development of excellent subdivision design."

In the mid-1960s, Goodman began receiving commissions to design office buildings, principally in Northern Virginia. Between 1964 and 1973, he designed 15 office buildings in the Westgate and West Park research parks in McLean. By the mid-1970s, he was focusing most of his attention on his own home in Alexandria, Virginia, and he went into semi-retirement in 1986. Goodman died in 1992 at the age of 85.

Charles Goodman received awards for architecture throughout his career. Such honors include the Architect of the Year (1951) from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, for Hollin Hills and the Award of Merit (1955) from the AlA for his own residence in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1959, he was made a fellow of the AlA. One year later, in 1960, Goodman was awarded the Gold Medal from the Art Directors Club of Washington. In 1963, he received the Centennial Honor from Rice University. In 1964, he won the First Honor award of the FHA, despite the government agency's refusal to provide mortgage insurance for the first group of houses in Hollin Hills. In 1986, he was awarded the Professional Achievement Award of the IIT Alumni Association. Goodman's work was widely published in both the professional and popular press. In 1994, he was included in The History of Modern Architecture: Interviews with the Greatest Architects of the 20th Century.

† Laura V. Trieschmann, Architectural Historian; Andrea F. Schoenfeld, Historian; and Jere Gibber, member of the Civic Association of Hollin Hills; EHT Traceries, Inc., Hollin Hills Historic District, Fairfax County, VA, nomination document, 2013, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.


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