Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
A little over 50 years ago, the future descended on 240 acres of woodland slopes near Mount Vernon. It came in glass-and-wood-paneled packages: modest-sized contemporary homes scattered among the Virginia trees like fallen pine cones. Hollin Hills was a vacation retreat priced like an average suburban subdivision, and its creatorsD.C. architect Charles Goodman and developer Bob Davenportbelieved they had devised a new template for modern life.
Hollin Hills did everything the conventional postwar tract-home cluster didn’t. The streets meandered and turned back on themselves, with none of them taking you straight through the neighborhood. Some ended in cul-de-sacs, a feature then considered so cutting-edge that Goodman and Davenport caught flak from the Federal Housing Administration for using them. Fences were gravely discouraged. In the original part of Hollin Hills, there weren’t even sidewalks.
The land was divided into ample lots, none smaller than one-third of an acre. Yet property was visually communal. Your house might look into woods that belonged, in title, to someone else, but were indistinguishable from your own. Hidden among the trees, oriented at angles to the street instead of head-on, and nestled into slopes instead of planted on hilltops, the homes had brick chimneys and slightly pitched roofs. Otherwise, they were rigorously modern: Goodman exposed their wood-frame structure, opened up the floor plans, and specified lots and lots of glassthe better to take in all that untouched nature.
When architect Maria Wayne and her husband came to the Washington area in the early 1950s, she couldn’t imagine buying a house anywhere but the new development. A Czech émigré, she had lived in a Bauhaus-inspired home in Prague before the war. Later, she studied at Harvard under Walter Gropius himself, the former head of the Bauhaus collective in Germany, who proselytized a Machine Age aesthetic of glass, steel, and rational geometries.
In Europe, the now-86-year-old Wayne says, “No one considered it radical” to live in a glass box. The idea of sealing herself up in a brick coffin with double-hung windows repulsed her, and it was with relief that she saw Hollin Hills featured in an architecture magazine. The couple moved into a basic unit on Beechwood Roadthe shedlike Type 2 model, with less than 1,200 square feet of living space. Her version featured a 30-foot expanse of glass on the north wall, facing into the woods. Wayne would never install a curtain.
Hollin Hills was a sensation, attracting a combination of modern-design cognoscenti like Wayne, artists, and political progressives. In 1971, the development topped off at around 450 homes, the vast majority of them designed by Goodman. Many who moved in during the ’50s are still there, sporting “HH” stickers on their bumpers, mystified that people could ever live anywhere else. Wayne took her enthusiasm a step further: A year after moving into Hollin Hills in 1953, she went to work for Charles M. Goodman Associates, by then the hottest architecture firm in Washington.
Hollin Hills thrust Goodman into national prominence as a guru of modern housing. He designed several other subdivisions of modernist homes in the Washington suburbs, most of them along the same lines as Hollin Hills, earning himself attention in Life and other taste-making publications. In the American Institute of Architects’ centennial exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 1957, Hollin Hills was selected as one of “10 milestones in the future of America’s architecture.” And National Homes, the country’s largest manufacturer of prefabricated dwellings, hired Goodman in 1953 to design several product lines that would be deployed across the country by the thousands. This was quality architecture for Everyman: The original bottom-of-the-line Hollin Hills model could be had for less than $10,000.
It appeared as if Goodman had figured out how to mass-market modern architecture, breaking the stranglehold that the neocolonial had on the American home buyer’s imagination. And he had done so in the shadow of the George Washington-owned manse that had donated its DNA to millions of suburban microplantations.
In 1956, as the Hollin Hills build-out continued apace, an interviewer asked Goodman about the future of modern architecture. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s just as inevitable as the tide,” Goodman answered. “You can’t stop it.”
Two years ago, Valerie Tate and Gregory Arms went house-shopping in Maryland’s Montgomery County. The neocolonials bored them with their sameness, so they decided to shop neighborhoods instead. Tate’s best friend from high school had grown up in a particularly close-knit cluster off Connecticut Avenue in Silver Spring called Rock Creek Woods. It was the kind of place where residents celebrated the year’s first snowfall with a potluck dinner at one of their homes, and for that alone it was worth a visit.
Tate, 48, a labor activist, and Arms, 49, a massage therapist, had never heard of Charles Goodman, but his name appeared just below “Rock Creek Woods” on the sign welcoming them to the neighborhoodone of the few subdivisions in the area that announces its architect. The first house was finished in 1958, nearly a decade after Hollin Hills opened for business, when the median American income purchased more square footage and a second bathroom. Each of the 76 homes at Rock Creek Woods is a voluminous two-story cube, more than twice the size of the basic unit in Hollin Hills.
In keeping with the secluded feel of the Virginia development, however, there’s only one way in and out of the neighborhood, an access road that bypasses another subdivision before taking you into the cluster itself. The site drops steeply from the entry toward a Rock Creek tributary called St. Joseph’s Branchthe kind of difficult terrain conventional home builders tend to avoid. The lots are much closer together than in Hollin Hills, and there’s less front-yard foliage. The houses lean into the slope, some almost completely hidden.
Scouting the neighborhood from their car, Tate and Arms spotted a unit that appeared empty. The owner, they learned, was living elsewhere while the home underwent renovations, and it took some convincing to get him in a selling mood. But once the couple had gotten a look inside, they wouldn’t let it go. “We were looking for an expansive room, with a lot of light,” says Tate. “I think we decided we like midcentury modern houses.”
From the street, the house doesn’t look like much; it seems like a conventional rambler, almost trailerlike, with limited glazing and a bare front yard. But the house extends nearly 40 feet back into the woods, and what you see at first is actually the second level. The bulk of the house is detectable only from the back yard, which is downhill. An early sales brochure calls it the Starview model.
From the front door, you enter into a long, narrow corridor. On the left of the corridor are the doors to two bedrooms, and on the immediate right is a small, open kitchen. A few steps down the corridor on the right, stairs lead down to the lower level, and running parallel to the stairs is a narrow gangplank that leads to a space that could easily double as a ballroom. This is the living and dining area, and it stretches 36 feet from the front of the house to the back. The space is even bigger if you count the kitchen, which channels seamlessly into it at one end, and an open den around the corner.
At the middle of the long side of the living area is a wide brick chimney, and at the far end are wood-framed, floor-to-ceiling glass panels that meet at a vertical wood support at the corner of the house. All the corners at the rear of the house are glazed, so from the outside you see two vertical glass towers.
“There are two words that come to mind,” says Tate. “The first is ‘loft.’ It reminds me of a loft space I’ve always yearned for. The other is ‘treehouse.’ Sometimes we sit and gaze outside our floor-to-ceiling windows, and we feel we’re in the trees.”
“[Goodman] had a lot of Japanese influence, the modular parts,” says Arms. “What you can do in the cube is move things around.”
The space is so big that it’s a challenge for the couple to use it without leaving dead zones. “Gregory likes to be in a small space looking into a huge space,” says Tate, pointing to a yet-to-be-furnished part of the living area just outside the kitchen. “So we’re going to have a small sofa here and a comfortable chair.”
There’s a similar-sized living area on the first floor, except that it’s oriented toward the back yard and has even more glass panels. Right now, the couple use the space for yoga and meditation, and they’ve also hosted a sensory-awareness class there. “You know what I’d really like to do with this space?” says Tate. “Have a dance floor and a mirrored wall and have tango classes.” Arms’ massage table is in a small area off to the side, in one of the rooms with corner glazing.
These days, those eager to live in a glass box have become a small, rabid bunch competing for a relatively scarce product. Contrary to Goodman’s expectations, his vision didn’t sweep the suburbs: There are only about 900 Goodman-designed single-family dwellings in the Washington area, and only a small fraction of the several hundred thousand homes built here since World War II are based on modernist principles.
At some point in the ’60s, modern residential architecture hit a wallmaybe because of the style association with cityscape-scarring housing blocks and office towers, maybe because the home-buying public never bothered to see Goodman’s houses from the inside out. “Once you’re in the houses and experience them, there’s nothing mystifying about them,” says Chrysanthe Broikos, a curator at the National Building Museum. “It’s not quite the same going over for dinner. It’s nice to spend time in them.”
Whatever their appeal, the stock of well-preserved Goodmans in the D.C. area is shrinking, as houses are altered into nonmodernist configurations or knocked down to make way for bigger homes. In January, Tate, Arms, and the other residents of Rock Creek Woods were invited to a meeting at a nearby church where Joey Lampl, a consultant to the historic-preservation section of the Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning, gave a talk about Goodman’s architecture.
Lampl has been giving such presentations for the past year. She’s leading a survey of the 250 to 300 Goodman-designed homes in the county, part of a larger effort to get the houses on the National Register of Historic Places. Tate and Arms were hooked: She volunteered to help organize the survey in Rock Creek Woods; he helped Lampl conduct research on the community at the Library of Congress.
Having their houses listed on the register wouldn’t prevent people from doing what they wanted with their Goodmans, but those who followed certain guidelines when they renovated would be eligible for a state-property-tax break. In the meantime, Goodmanwho died at age 85 in 1992, a couple of decades after his reputation lapsed and just a few years short of the revival of interest in the serene, Eames-furnished spaces of midcentury modern designis getting a rehab of his own.
Lampl will forward her Goodman submission to the Maryland Historical Trust this montha first step toward the register. Hollin Hills sells Goodman-emblazoned memorabilia on its Web site and was featured on NPR last year. Real-estate agents now list houses as “Goodman”s, and some Goodman hunters pester Goodman homeowners with postcards, entreating them to sell. The National Building Museum, which has recently mounted exhibitions on California modernists R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra, is developing a Goodman retrospective, slated for about 2006 if funding allows.
“What’s unique about Goodman is, he engaged the contractor and laborers and the materials available and tried to make them fit the modern design,” says Broikos. “He was a practical type of guyhe wasn’t coming at it from theory. He tried to build this stuff, get it out there.”
In 1961, Goodman designed a Rehoboth Beach, Del., vacation home for aviation pioneer Henry Berliner, essentially a one-story viewing deck elevated on columns. As Henry Berliner Jr. tells the story, another beach resident, impressed by the home, decided she also wanted a Goodman-designed retreat, to be built next door. Neither Berliner nor the new client would have been satisfied with a design that was too similar to the original, so the second home would be two stories instead of one. And because the structural frame of the first home was black, Goodman specified that the second would be painted completely white, inside and out.
It didn’t take long for the resident of the new house to realize a tenet of interior design known to countless hospital patients: Relentless white starves the senses. She waited until Goodman returned to the beach to visit Berliner, a friend of his, and she asked him for permission to make a change.
“She said, ‘Mr. Goodman, we are very pleased, but couldn’t we have a little color?’” Berliner’s son recalls. “He said, ‘If you want color, wear a fancy-colored dress.’ That was it. She let it go.”
Chuck Goodman was a slight man who designed modest little houses, but he suffered the classic affliction of the modern architect: a monster ego. Many clients indulged his arrogancebowing to his demands was like an act of connoisseurship. But not everyone played along. Eason Cross Jr., 77, an architect who worked for Goodman in the ’50s, says that Goodman frequently hurt his own cause by berating the editors of architecture magazines who had declined to publish pieces about his work.
A flinty, irritable, blunt-speaking chain-smoker from Chicago, Goodman tended toward outburstsagainst Eisenhower, perhaps, or in favor of aluminum as a building material. “He would deliver not a lecture but a diatribe at the drop of a hat,” says Robert Lautman, 79, Goodman’s photographer for more than 20 years. “And he could be absolutely charming, too.”
Goodman worked out of an old clapboard house at 814 18th St. NW, above an optometrist’s office and with the drafting room in the back overlooking the garage. He would get sidetracked by hourslong conversations with whoever walked through the door; in the interest of productivity, Goodman’s staff eventually barred entry to all friendly callers.
He described himself as a liberal Democrat, and he said that his architecture was for “the people.” But his idealism sometimes seemed more theoretical than practical. Not long before she left Goodman’s firm, Wayne learned that as the office’s only female architectone of the few in Washingtonshe was also among its lowest-paid employees. Her starting salary in 1954 had been $1.30 an hour.
Goodman came to Washington from Chicago in the middle of the Depression, not long after earning his architecture degree at the Armour Institute of Technology. Nobody was building anything at the time except FDR’s New Dealers, and Goodman had gotten a job with the U.S. Treasury Department, then the agency responsible for all new construction of government facilities.
He was regarded as Treasury’s young hotshot designer, involved in projects such as the art-moderne-style federal building in New Orleans, the U.S. government pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, and Washington National Airport, which earned him a reputation as an expert in aviation architecture. Goodman entered private practice just before the United States joined World War II, and he quickly went to work designing classy, well-glazed homes for Washington’s elite. During the war, he designed aviation facilities for the military.
A child of the industrial Midwest, Goodman was curious how things actually worked inside: how they ticked, how they fell apart. He approached architecture from a foreman’s problem-solving perspective, as something built, not something drawn. Yet he was a fierce proponent of clean lines, free-flowing spaces, and everything else in the modern architect’s toolbox of ideas.
He had a complicated relationship with the Bauhaus architects, those chiefly responsible for setting modern architecture on its purist course. “The funny thing is, he really hated Bauhaus,” says Wayne. “I think it was a jealousy more than anything else, because, after all, he built the Bolling Air Force [Base] Officers Club, and that’s strictly Mies van der Rohe!”
If there was a serious point of departure from Bauhaus, it was that Goodman cut his clients some breaks: There are some private things people are justified in keeping private. “Sometimes you want to be in a room that is one with the outside,” he told Lautman. “And sometimes you want to be in a cave.” Goodman wouldn’t expose the functioning elements of the homethe heating and ventilation systems, for instance, or the places where two consenting adults might do whatever it was they chose to do in the quieter hours. To mask off private space, Goodman liked to use vertical wood siding for exterior walls. The siding began as a nice twist on a traditional detail, but the architect later developed it into a machine-produced grooved-plywood panel, Texture 1-11, which he would alternate in his modular designs with panels of glass.
In his own private life, Goodman kept mostly to himself, living with his wife and their daughter in a converted farmhouse in Alexandria. He didn’t glad-hand Washington society, hoping to harvest commissions, as some financially successful architects do. Instead, recalls Wayne, prospective clients tended to seek him out.
He attracted like-minded tinkerers and entrepreneurial visionaries. One was Berliner, son of the inventor of the microphone and the gramophone, himself an aviation innovator who helped develop the modern helicopter. After the war, Berliner commissioned Goodman to design a private airport for him, and in 1954, when Berliner set his mind to the manufacture of building products, he hired Goodman as a consulting architect.
The two of them collaborated in the development of the Tecfab panel, an ultrathin, prefabricated tablet of lightweight reinforced concrete. The fireproof panel served a double function, as both a decorative and a structural element, keeping buildings lean and costs down. It was Goodman’s idea to embed glass into the panel, so you weren’t simply “punching” holes for windows, but instead making transparency an integral part of the space you were creating. Fabricated at a Goodman-designed plant in Greenbelt, Md., the panels were initially conceived for residential construction, but their actual use was limited almost exclusively to nonresidential buildingsthe Washington Hilton, schools throughout Prince George’s County.
“There were probably half a dozen homes that used the panels,” says Berliner Jr., “and half of those were my dad’s.” One of them is the former Berliner home on Tilden Street NW, which Goodman designed as a sleek, flat-roofed box with Tecfab used beside glass panels in a downstairs living area. But a subsequent owner made it an ungainly fortress, adding a predominantly brick second floor with a hipped roof. “It was a lot purer when it was just a single story,” says Berliner Jr.
Most home builders likely avoided Tecfab, because few people besides its inventor would have wanted to live encased in concrete, no matter how thin it was. Yet Tecfab was more than just a building materialit was also a building system, and for Goodman, the beauty of the system was often what made the architecture beautiful. Sometimes, the system was more vital than what it created, even if Goodman wouldn’t admit it. To him, automation and prefabrication were more than mere gadgetry: They were man’s salvation.
With all the publicity from Hollin Hills, Goodman had opened a new market for modernist architecture. When he signed on with National Homes in 1953, he hoped to tap it. This production-line stuff had always been part of the modernist equation, but other architects had contented themselves with designing custom-made homes built from standardized parts. Who would dare take it further, making much of the home itself the standardized part?
More important, who would be willing to make the necessary concessions? After all, the buyers of prefabricated homes were not exactly the kind of clients who could be bullied into wearing a fancy-colored dress for the sake of their houses’ aesthetic integrity.
But Goodman was willing to compromise. He had already shown the willingness to pitch his roofs ever so slightly, even though his purist side preferred them flat. Was it really so much to give up some of his glass expanses and punch a few small windows into brick walls?
“Goodman was a bloody liberal social animal,” says Cross, “and he thought of going to work for National as a beneficial thing to do to make good design available to a wider audience.” Over the next five years, maybe 100,000 prefab homes of Goodman designmany of them more conservative versions of the smaller Hollin Hills unitswould sprout all over Middle America. There are scattered clusters of them in the suburbs, a single unit in Hollin Hills.
Goodman later acknowledged the whispers in the profession that he had sold his soul. “Of course, they don’t know Goodman,” he told an interviewer in 1956. The interview was recorded for a book that the Reynolds Metals Co. later published to highlight the architectural possibilities of aluminum, and it shows Goodman consumed by prefabrication, titillated to the point that he confused the means with the end, the process with the product.
As he discussed National Homes, Goodman dubbed himself a “pioneer” in prefab housing. It was his calling, his responsibility as an architectas sacred, he said, as the doctor’s oath to do no harm. He spoke breathlessly of manufacturing 24-foot walls as one panel, with the windows already in place right where they ought to be.
Hollin Hills was standardized. Each lot came with a list of the specific house types, out of the approximately 10 total, that were buildable on the site. But only some of the units could be properly called prefabricated, with some of the structural wood frames assembled off-site. Goodman, however, imagined more, arguing that automation would one day allow houses to come off the assembly line like cars.
During the Reynolds session, the interviewer asked Goodman what he thought would be the biggest change coming to buildings or society. During this era of mad urban-renewal schemes and civil-rights struggles, Goodman answered, with oracular certainty, that, thanks to the increased work-hour productivity bestowed by automation, “the greatest social change is going to be the four-day work week, without question.”
But mass production distanced the architect from his own work. In Goodman’s office, Wayne was responsible for site planning on dozens of National Homes projects. She would carefully study a topographical map for a given subdivision, then accommodate the units to the contours or adjust the contours to the units. The job rarely took her away from her drafting table. She was like a military commander issuing orders far from the battlefield, with no sense of the vistas or the tree shadows that might make all the difference.
One day, Goodman received a surprise in the mail: an award for Wayne’s planning on a development somewhere in Pennsylvaniaa site she never saw and a plan she says Goodman never bothered to review. “His philosophy for handling the land by that time was 100 percent tuned,” she says.
By the ’60s, residential modern architecture was headed in a dreary direction. Modernist planners were clearing neighborhoods and warehousing the poor in dehumanizing towers. What worked on a small scale in the suburbs was often devastating when implemented on a larger scale in the city.
Such was the case with much of the Washington waterfront when Southwest D.C. was leveled and the architects got their hands on it. Reynolds Metals developed River Park, a parcel south of N Street, as a showcase for aluminum building products. The company commissioned Goodman to design a huge apartment block and a cluster of town houses, which were completed in 1962. Goodman had never worked on this scale; the apartment block alone could house all the residents of Hollin Hills.
Goodman made the best of it. He alleviated the imposing mass of the block by lifting it on thin columns and sectioning it into four parts. At ground level, the entrance pavilions are delicate Miesian cubes.
The aluminum requirement was a reversal of the ideal: Here man was in service to material rather than material working for man. Still, when punched with diamond-shaped perforations, it served as an adequate screen for apartment sunrooms and a good way to break up the visual monotony of the building’s vast façade.
The town houses gained immediate attention for the aluminum barrel vaults that capped some of the units. Just as on the apartment buildings, punched aluminum was also used as a decorative shading element. But the flat aluminum panels on the faces of the houses are lifeless industrial tablets, better suited to a strip-mall bank. The aluminum screens have been known to rattle in the wind.
In a house in the woods, small spaces don’t feel small. But here, where curtains are always drawn, there is little visual escape from cramped rooms. Openness isn’t as easy to achieve in the city, with people living on top of each other, no matter how much glass you use.
Ieva Veidemanis, a 40-year-old international-development consultant, bought one of the boxier units at the edge of River Park last year, attracted by the affordable cost and the relatively large living area that consumes most of the first floor. The small kitchen at the front of the house has only clerestory windows, and privacy demands that the large side window facing the outside walk be permanently masked in drapery. So there are four sides and only one view: of a small walled patio visible through the glass panels at the rear of the living area.
Plenty of light streams in from that direction, and Veidemanis says the patio gives her a private outside room. But here, too, Goodman’s modernism hasn’t quite kept pace with the modern world: River Park is slated to become a gated community because of security concerns. “I’m not sure I’m crazy about it,” she says. “It’s going to feel like a prison.”
Goodman’s last major local residential commission took him back to the familiar ground of the woods, to what was then rural Reston, Va., where, in 1962, developer Robert Simon created an artificial lake and the seeds of a planned community. The first grouping of housing was given to Goodman to design.
In his Hickory Cluster town houses, Goodman built large concrete frames that could be bricked in, glazed, or left open as patios. From the most public sidethe parking lotthe attached units appear as one undifferentiated, uninviting mass of brick and concrete. But the side of the building opposite the parking lot is a glazed wall facing the woods behind. From the forest path at night, the modules of Hickory Cluster glow with warmth.
When they were completed in 1964, they sold slowly. Modernism’s limited domestic moment was over by then, its image in the consciousness of the home-buying public poisoned by the style’s ugly domination of other aspects of life. The design was also more challenging to the common taste than the earlier Goodman developments had been. Predictably, many of Hickory Cluster’s residents are artists, graphic designers, and architects, who seem to have been conditioned to the glass box in advance of living in one.
The largest unit in the cluster, for instance, was recently purchased by stained-glass artist Brenda Belfield and her husband. The couple doesn’t like to stay in one place too long. They’d done Old Town Alexandria and a house by the Chesapeake Bay, and they were looking for something less traditional. “What we want to achieve is simple, essential, bare,” says Belfield. “Something that has clean lines to it and that releases your mind of all the clutter.”
When the two of them toured the glass box in Hickory Cluster, they were ready to buy immediately. The unit was a ready-made art studio and gallery, not only because of the wide-open floors, but because of all the glass panes Belfield could replace with her own work.
It’s not exactly what Goodman envisioned, but Belfield seems unconcerned. “For once,” she says, “I’m going to have glass I can live with.”
Goodman’s personal slowdown came in his 60s, at the point in an architect’s career time line when a body of work and a solid reputation often lead to bigger, more prominent commissions or maybe even a deanship. His failing health was a major factor. “He didn’t have enough work,” says Wayne, “and he lost the energy to chase after projects. Some people collected his clients and leftthat didn’t help. And I was getting bored not having enough work to do.” In 1968, with work at a trickle, Wayne left for a larger firm.
Goodman Associates never grew much beyond 10 architects. Goodman wouldn’t bring his employees into the business as partners, says Cross, because his ego wouldn’t allow it. This stubbornness cost Goodman a lot of talented architects, who either migrated to competing firms, as Cross did in 1959, or set up shop on their own. “I think he would be as prominent an architect as anyone was anywhere,” says Cross, “but he wouldn’t share the joy.”
Goodman spent the last decade or so of his life cooped up at home, hooked to an oxygen tank, before his body finally succumbed to emphysema. In the years before Goodman’s death, Gregory Hunt, an architecture professor at Catholic University of America, interviewed him extensively about his career. “One of the things Goodman lamented was that there weren’t more Hollin Hills,” says Hunt. “He said, ‘I don’t understand why. I can’t figure out why.’”
The converted 19th-century farmhouse Goodman lived in sits on a wooded plot off North Quaker Lane in Alexandria, surrounded by a wood fence. Goodman lived in the old place for a couple of years before expanding it in 1954. The addition is essentially a glass box, with some areas masked off with grooved Texture 1-11 plywood. In its center is an open-air courtyard.
When he designed it, Goodman had just signed on with National Homes, and business was thriving. With the new inflow of cash, he decided to make his own home a demonstration project. In a shop off-site, workmen assembled 21 wood frames, filling some with glass, some with both glass and a panel of plywood. The frames were trucked to Quaker Lane and then erected in just two days by three workmen. The wood-and-glass frames were strong enough to support the roof by themselves, so there wasn’t any need for interior walls or columns.
“In our house, we use every stick of wood and we use it well,” he told House & Home in 1956. “We don’t waste any of it.”
Goodman could have knocked the old house downa common response to traditional architecture at the timebut his first wife was fond of it. So he decided to preserve the structure in modern dress. Workers tore the clapboard skin off the farmhouse and replaced it with the same glass- and wood-paneled system as the new addition. The wood panels were then stained black, an odd choice for a farmhouse. But Goodman liked dark colors.
Today, much of the original property has been sold off and developed into neocolonial McMansions. Some of the modern furniture inside has been sold. Goodman’s old studio and the garage it sat above have been torn down. But the home itself is still there, Venetian blinds sealing off the glass panes. Peer upward through the clerestory windows and you can see where Goodman put wood flooring on the ceiling to give the sharp-cornered space a warmer feel. Hemmed in by its brick-encased neighbors, the black house looks as if it’s in mourning.
According to tax records, the property’s assessed value is $1,561,200. It’s still in the possession of Goodman’s widow, his second wife, who moved out several years ago. So far, she’s been unable to sell it. Even more than 50 years into the future, it seems, most Americans still like their farmhouses to be farmhouses. And they prefer them in white. CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Charles Steck.