Photo credit: Jennifer Robbins , 09/26/2003

Property Name: Takoma Avenue Historic District
Date Listed: 12/15/2004
Inventory No.: M: 36-51
Location: 7906-7914, Takoma Avenue, Silver Spring, Montgomery County

Description: The Takoma Avenue Historic District consists of five single-family dwellings, properties number 7906, 7908, 7910, 7912, and 7914, on the northwest side of Takoma Avenue on the border of Takoma Park and Silver Spring. All five houses were constructed in 1951, are identical in their layout and construction, and were designed by Charles M. Goodman. In Goodman's parlance, the house was titled Unit House No. 1-2L (presumably, Unit No. 1 with two levels). The houses sit on the border of the railroad suburb of Takoma Park (one house is technically within the suburb while the other four are just over the line in Silver Spring), just to the north of the Takoma Park Historic District, which is both a local and a National Register historic district. The area immediately surrounding the Goodman houses was primarily developed between the 1910s and 1940s with two-story Colonials, Cape Cods, and bungalows. The street pattern is a modified grid. Mature trees line the streets. The houses on Takoma Avenue, some of Goodman's earliest work in the county, exhibit signature features of Charles M. Goodman's design credo: angled or "skew" siting on their lots, the actual placement of the houses within the lot to conform to topography, the interesting juxtaposition of a variety of materials (brick, wood, plywood, and glass), and a preponderance of glass to provide a connection between the interior and exterior environments. Goodman's designs were noteworthy for making a small house seem quite spacious by employing an open plan and large expanses of glass that reached out to incorporate the outdoors. The plan used comprises a brick-veneered ground-level mass set up as a base for a framed first-floor block that cantilevered out over it on two sides. The light-filled house was set into the landscape in such a way that the ground floor had some excavated, finished space and some crawl space. Poured concrete steps led up from street level to a first-level side entry, the door of which was recessed under an overhanging roof and featured an exterior planting bed. Four of the five houses have enclosed this porch using transparent materials such as windows and sliding glass doors in order to gain more interior space. Windows were a combination of steel casements and wood-framed "view walls" of plate glass. The kitchen and living/dining room zone took up the back end of the house while the bathroom and three bedrooms occupied the street end. The rear living/dining room wall featured a striking exposed-frame end wall that was almost entirely glazed except for a door. The bedroom zone's elevation--the end-gable street side--featured vertical tongue-in-groove wood siding with a center infill component of fixed glass, steel casements, and plywood panels. Goodman's sensitivity to issues of siting and privacy are evident in that the street elevation typically featured more solids and fewer voids, whereas the non-street elevations--the more private part of the house--were almost entirely glass. As with most Goodman houses of the period, the original roofing material was built-up tar and gravel. All five of the houses now employ asphalt shingle, a material Goodman used in many of his designs from the late 1950s. The houses exhibit the "open floor plan" that was characteristic of all of Goodman's work. This flexible plan facilitated a more casual style of living, and responded to the changing status of women by integrating the kitchen area into the activities of the household. In addition, Goodman was well known for making the most out of small spaces. The Takoma Avenue houses exhibit his trademark tools for accomplishing this, including using ceilings that matched rooflines, having short hallways, and siting windows across from bedroom doors for more expansive sight lines.

Significance: The Takoma Avenue Historic District is significant as an example of a merchant builder group of houses planned and designed by Charles M. Goodman. The houses represent the Contemporary idiom in architecture as practiced by Goodman in the Washington, DC area in the pos-World War II period. Goodman was one of a small group of American architects whose work propelled the Contemporary vocabulary onto the national scene. In addition, he played a primary role, nationally, in incorporating the trained architect into the merchant-builder housing process. In a metropolitan region known for its architectural nostalgia, the houses on Takoma Avenue represent an avant-garde architectural statement. With their cantilevered, glazed first stories perched above the ground-floor used-brick box, these houses are strikingly distinct from the small Cape Cods, bungalows, and Colonial Revival houses in their immediate environs. The district is significant for its association with the architecture of the American Contemporary movement, especially as it was developed in the mid-Atlantic by Charles M. Goodman. The exteriors of the Takoma Avenue houses exhibit the features that make Goodman residences so distinctive: extensive use of glass, exposed window frames as structure, expanses of used brick, innovative positioning of the house on its lot, and lack of superfluous trim. Inside, the houses feature open and flexible floor plans, handled in a subtle way to expand the sense of space and volume. Goodman is increasingly recognized as a pioneering and innovative architect of the post-World War II period who, in addition to other accomplishments, brought affordable, Contemporary housing in naturalistic settings to middle-income people.


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