goodman preservation

Updated August 9, 2018 ... click on images to enlarge
In The Making of Virginia Architecture, historian Richard Guy Wilson states "More than any other individual, Charles M. Goodman brought Modern Architecture to mid-twentieth century Virginia.  Goodman's impact can scarcely be measured ... .  His designs formed the basis of the generic Modern American house and school, widely imitated in every part of the country. ... The result was a body of architecture of great distinction that captured Americans' imagination for many years. ... " 

So it's no surprise that some owners try to preserve Goodman architecture through historic designations and other legal protections, and benefit from resulting tax credits and appreciating niche market values.

But why are many other Goodman buildings not formally recognized as historic treasures, not maintained, not protected, not preserved, and eventually demolished and redeveloped?

And considering both possible futures, what are the implications for Reston Hickory Cluster Goodman Houses?


Several HCA Members noted a Thursday, July 18, 2013 Washington Post article reporting that the Commonwealth added the Hollin Hills Historic District to the Virginia Landmarks Register (VLR) on June 19, 2013. 

Goodman's Hollin Hills joins the Charles M. Goodman House in Alexandria added to the VLR on March 28, 2013.  In June 2011, the Commonwealth endorsed the Reston Lake Anne Village Center Historic District VLR application, excluding Hickory Cluster, still in process. 

Hollin Hills is also listed in the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites along with numerous Reston buildings, including the Bowman Distillery, Brown's Chapel, Lake Anne Village Center, and Wiehle House.

The Commonwealth also recommended Hollin Hills for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.  On October 18, 2013, the National Park Service announced that Hollin Hills was added to the National Register as of September 30, joining the Goodman Hammond WoodRock Creek Woods, and Takoma Avenue Historic Districts in Silver Spring, Maryland.  However, none of these other Goodman communities are facing Metrorail expansion economic pressures.

Another significant and well-preserved DC area Goodman community similar to Hickory Cluster is the 1962 River Park Mutual Homes housing co-op described in numerous publications including a 2012 Washington Post article.  The 11.5-acre site is currently undergoing a massive common area update to provide more onsite landscaping and less concrete public surface area while remaining consistent with Goodman original design intent.  River Park showcases the use of barrel vaults and aluminum in residential housing and contains 134 townhomes and 384 high-rise units.

Historic preservation professional and author Elizabeth Jo Lampl summarized the situation in the 2010 book Housing Washington:  " ... As current interest in the legacy of Modern Architecture grows, so too does the local public's awareness of Goodman.  A groundswell of support from homeowners intent on preserving the neighborhoods he designed has reaped rewards.  ...  Preserving this work will become even more crucial as suburban land values continue to rise and the demand for higher-density housing increases. ... "


Frank Lloyd Wright was the greatest American Architect of all time.  Yet owners, developers, and others have destroyed more than 100 Wright-designed buildings, as documented in the book Lost Wright.  At least one, the magnificent Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo, New York, was demolished to make way for a parking lot.  If it can happen to Wright, it can happen to Goodman.  And it is happening to Goodman right now on a large scale, thanks to increasing real estate market values driven by Metrorail Silver Line expansion.

During Reston Hickory Cluster construction in the mid-1960s, Goodman designed a relatively unknown portfolio of commercial office, multi-family housing, and retail business buildings in Tyson's Corner, Virginia for real estate developer Westgate Corporation.

Included in that large body of Goodman work was the striking former TRW Building in the 268-acre Westgate Research Park in McLean, Virginia, on Colshire Drive, easily visible for many decades from northbound Route 123, and sadly demolished in 2015 to make way for new Metrorail market construction.  Northrop Grumman purchased TRW in 2002 and moved to newer Westgate office buildings nearby.

The first office park was so successful that a second nearby 313-acre Westgate development known as Westpark was launched in 1970 along Westpark Drive in Tyson's, including a headquarters building for the National Machine Tool Builders' Association, more recently The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), at 7901 Westpark Drive.

Sadly, this 1960s Goodman architectural gem now sits vacant and awaiting demolition, rather than being preserved and re-used, to make way for the new 200,000 s.f. 10-story glass City View Tysons.

Westgate Tyson's buildings include typical Reston Hickory Cluster Goodman House details such as flat roofs, large exposed concrete beams with extended ends, bay window boxes, and even a few tri-panel windows.  Some buildings mimic extended beam ends through overhanging top floor masses, as seen in the TRW and AMT buildings above, the Grant Building below, and others.

They also show Goodman's transition from Bauhaus-inspired Modernism to the growing contextual and sculptural influence of Post-Modern designs produced by architects Louis I. Kahn FAIA and Kahn graduate students Louis E. Sauer FAIA and Charles W. Moore FAIA.  Sauer designed the Golf Course Island townhomes in Reston and is known for Philadelphia high-density, low-rise housing redevelopment projects.  Moore is famous for the original Sea Ranch Condominiums in Northern California, with shed roof designs very similar to Sauer's Golf Course Island.

Westgate provided convenient nearby Reston-like housing for Tyson's office park employees in the form of The Commons of McLean, a 38-acre five-phase garden apartment and townhouse complex built in 1965-70 only a few steps away from the TRW Building and others on Anderson Road, just off of northbound Route 123.  The Commons contains three unique blocks of townhouses with many details similar to those in Hickory Cluster, as well as a small adjacent shopping center providing the same walkable convenience as the Reston Lake Anne Village Center.  The original Goodman shopping center buildings were reportedly demolished and rebuilt in 2009 leaving only the original Goodman gas station.

The Commons' historic significance was documented in a 2011 eligibility assessment commissioned by the current owner, MR (Monument Realty) Commons LLC.  In that report, architectural history experts determined that "Phases 1 and 3 meet the criteria required for inclusion on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites ... . ... Phases 1 and 3 are significant for their association with Fairfax County's trends and developments ... ; locally, regionally, and nationally prominent figures ... ; and an important architect (Charles M. Goodman)."

Yet despite recognition by experts of The Commons as significant architecture, MR Commons LLC June 6, 2011 Statement of Justification submitted to the Fairfax County Dept. of Planning & Zoning on June 9, 2011, states that they " ... have carefully evaluated the architecture of the existing structures ... and have determined that they do not merit preservation.  Further, the benefits of preserving any of the existing structures are greatly outweighed by the positive impacts of full redevelopment intended to maximize Metro ridership, walkability, and quality parks and open space amenities.  The Applicant believes the best course of action is to document the existing development in photographs and narrative and make that documentation available to the County for its records. ... "  The public version of that documentation is now available online.
MR Commons also proposed an option to preserve Phase 2 Building J containing 55 apartments, but according to the experts, " ... Research revealed that the design of Phase 2 was dramatically altered during the planning phases and ... Due to Phase 2's derivative design ... finds it to be of lesser significance, and thus not eligible for inclusion in the ... Inventory ... ." 

Sadly, some Goodman buildings in Tyson's including the Cleveland and TRW buildings have already been demolished, and some, including the AMT Building, are vacant and awaiting destruction.  Others, including The Commons, remain partially occupied but slated for phased demolition and redevelopment.


Fairfax County is on track to add Hickory Cluster to the Inventory of Historic Sites by 2014.  However, honorary designations like this, or that of the U.S. National Park Service National Register of Historic Places, do not protect buildings from demolition and redevelopment.  National Register designation provides only limited protection through National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 reviews prior to related expenditures of Federal funds.

As described in the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites website, "The Inventory itself is, quite simply, a catalog of historically significant sites within Fairfax County.  ... At least sixty of these sites have been demolished since the creation of the Inventory. Inclusion on the Inventory is an honorary designation, and does not impose restrictions or limits as to what an owner can do with his property.  The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan recognizes these sites, and lists them by area in the Heritage Resources sections.  The Plan encourages their preservation when possible."

At least one viable protection mechanism exists and is currently being used to preserve the Lake Anne Village Center.  That portion of the Reston First Village was designated a Fairfax County Historic Overlay District in 1984, well before its 50th birthday when buildings are typically considered to be historic.  This much stronger designation is used specifically " ... to protect against destruction of or encroachment upon such areas, structures, and premises ... " and to prevent possible redevelopment demolition.

Like Tyson's Corner, Reston is experiencing market value increases driven by Metrorail expansion.  Such growth motivates developers to replace older, smaller, lower-density buildings with newer, larger, higher-density buildings that return larger future profits.  This process has occurred as part of public transit system expansions nationwide. 

Like Hollin Hills, but unlike The Commons, individual Reston Hickory Cluster Goodman Houses are privately owned.  However, Hickory Cluster is currently almost 30 per cent non-owner occupied, and redevelopment can be triggered by an application to Fairfax County from only 75 per cent of neighborhood homeowners.  And it is not unreasonable to expect redevelopment investors to buy and accumulate individual properties to reach their goals.  The bottom line:  When money talks, architecture walks.

But some HCA Members doubt that Hickory Cluster will be redeveloped anytime soon because it is great architecture by a great architect.  Or because it is part of the original Reston First Village.  Or because it survived the late-1990s Block 3 garage crisis and at least one developer buy-out attempt.  Or because of restrictions imposed by pending Stream Restoration easements.

However, history shows that when many millions of dollars are at stake, determined businesspeople find creative ways to fulfill their own dreams, often at the expense of the dreams of others.  The pending demolition and redevelopment of most if not all of Charles M. Goodman's Tyson's Corner architecture is but one example.

Another triumph of apathy over architecture was the September 2016 demolition of the most significant work of Modern Architecture in Reston, and the only work of its architect in Virginia:  the 42,334 s.f. 1972-78 American Press Institute building at 11690 Sunrise Valley Drive designed by 1920s Bauhaus professor and legendary Modern Architect Marcel Breuer.  Even the original modern furniture and fixtures were destroyed rather than preserved.

The API Building and its 4.6 acre site were vacant and on the market since 2012 without serious preservation efforts until too late in 2016, despite warnings to major preservation groups more than a year earlier.  In addition, Fairfax County failed to recognize this, and numerous other significant modern buildings, within its inventory of historic sites.  As a result, this notable work of mid-century Modern Architecture was replaced by more generic, traditonal townhomes

So the Goodman architecture preservation versus redevelopment questions remain: 

Will 1960s dreams and low-rise, low-density suburban townhomes like Hickory Cluster be preserved and survive for another 50 years or more? 

Or will 1960s neighborhoods like Hickory Cluster become disposable and be replaced by new dreams of larger, higher-density housing like those envisioned by Metrorail redevelopers for nearby Parc Reston and Fairview Apartments? 

It all depends on who plans and acts most effectively to mold the future.

According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, threats to historic properties like those designed by Wright and Goodman include intentional direct demolition, slow deterioration leading to eventual claims that the building is unsalvageable, or encirclement by inappropriate development that diminishes the building and its site.

Hickory Cluster is taking initial steps toward Fairfax County historic site designation.  But honorary historic designations alone are not enough to preserve historic architecture from such redevelopment threats when huge profits are at stake.

Savvy developers are highly motivated and highly skilled at doing what it takes to redevelop older neighborhoods in hot real estate markets.  However, communities like Hickory Cluster can also plan ahead and act to preserve them.