Modern Movement in the DC Area

With the return of the WWII veterans and the expansion of the federal government, the Washington suburbs underwent a housing boom in the 1940’s.

Traditional home design dominated but modern architecture was firmly entrenched in the area by the 1950’s. Carl M. Freeman was probably the first to introduce “California contemporary”style into the region, following his work in Los Angeles with the renowned modernist architect Fritz Burns. In 1947 Freeman built 29 homes designed by Julian Berla and Joseph Abel in the Carole Highlands district of Takoma Park, which introduced the California lifestyle of indoor-outdoor spaces connecting with patios and balconies to Washington.

Charles Davenport and architect Carl Goodman brought media attention to their California contemporaries with the opening in 1949 of their Hollin Hills neighborhood in Virginia. So many people flocked to see the new style that they charged admission to see the models, and the community was featured in Life Magazine and Parents Magazine. Like other modern communities the homes were modest, sited to maximize views and privacy, and featured open plans with an outdoor connection.

Goodman’s 15 original designs were innovative and adaptable to the topography, with modular construction that allowed for variations and expansion. The absence of fences, varied lot dimensions, community center, and 30 acres of open space created a park-like atmosphere and a new sense of community.

Holmes Run Acres, a Virginia community built between 1951-1958, was designed by Donald Lethbridge and Nicolas A. Satterlee. Builders Gerald and Eli Luria introduced modestly-scaled homes within a community complete with a pool, a neighborhood school and 4.2 acre Luria Park. The Luria brothers built larger homes in nearby Pine Springs, with the firm Keyes, Smith, Satterlee and Lethbridge, and ventured into Maryland with “High Point”, a 10-home community off Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda.

The first large tract of contemporary homes in Maryland was built on a former golf course in Bethesda. Named Bannockburn and established as a cooperative, the first homes opened in 1949. By 1960, the greater Bannockburn community featured 275 medium-sized and large custom homes.

Both Arthur Keyes and Donald Lethbridge, two of the three Carderock architects, played a role in Bannockburn’s development. Bradley Park, built by Ken Freeman, was also part of the 60’s modern movement in Bethesda. Carderock Springs also came along in the 60’s, a part of the second generation of modernist tract houses.

Like the Bradley Park homes the Carderock houses were larger and had more amenities than those built during the baby boom. Rising incomes and the continued movement of government offices into the suburbs created a new demand for housing that Edmund Bennett answered with the development of Carderock Springs.

For a more thorough look at Carderock’s history and architecture visit the other sections of this web site.

This information was compiled by Mary Lou Shannon, resident and realtor in Carderock Springs. Copying without permission is not permitted.

Michael Shapiro
Michael Shapiro
4650 East-West Hwy Bethesda MD 20814