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Goodman House Aims for National Register

The North Quaker Lane home is part Victorian farmhouse, part Modernist structure.

Old Town Alexandria isn’t the only part of the city alive with history.

Margaret Grubiak, an Alexandria resident and architectural history professor at Villanova University, spent months last year researching the Charles M. Goodman house—part 1870s Victorian farmhouse, part 1950s Modernist structure—in the 500 block of North Quaker Lane.

Her research allowed the city’s Board of Architectural Review to unanimously vote in February to support the designation of the house as eligible for the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

“A lot of things in the city are focused on Old Town,” Grubiak said. “But I think this is part of (the city’s) interest and focus to recognize more than what’s the Old Town core.”

The house is now a private residence and is not open to the public.

Goodman, a well-known architect in the area, was perhaps best known for designing homes in Hollin Hills, a community near Mount Vernon. His signature style included open floors plans and using glass to create transparency.

His personal Quaker Lane residence, which he remodeled in 1954, didn’t receive as much attention. Goodman had taken the Victorian farmhouse and, rather than tearing it down, which many people were doing at the time, kept the house, changed the exterior and added a one-story, flat-roofed, Modernist glass pavillion.

The outside of the home received a complete makeover, although Grubiak suspects the original exterior might hide underneath today’s plywood panels. The panels were originally stained black but painted beige within the past 10 years.

“What’s so special about it is it’s the personal home of a modern architect, where he married a Victorian farmhouse from the 1870s and added on a modern glass addition,” Grubiak said. “So, what’s so important about it is it was an important act of historic preservation at a time when historic preservation was not popular. 

“... Goodman was a person who thought very practically about using and reusing materials. He didn’t want to waste a 1870s farmhouse. He used common materials in new ways, and the whole house is a study in that.”

The original two-story farmhouse was constructed between 1873 and 1879 by an unknown builder and architect.

Goodman, who was born in New York City to Polish immigrant parents, lived also in California before settling in Chicago. There, he graduated from the architecture program at the Armour Institute of Technology in 1931. In Chicago, Goodman was exposed to the architecture of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

While Goodman left the Armour Institute of Technology before it became the Illinois Institute of Technology and before famed German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Robe took over its architecture school in 1938, Mies also influenced Goodman. Goodman reportedly said he was from the "Mies van der Rohe School," implying that he closely identified with Mies's frank revelation of structure and minimalist palette of materials.

By 1936, Goodman had moved to the Washington area, where he continued in a job as an architect with the United States Treasury. In addition to Hollin Hills, he designed Oak Forest in Fairfax County and homes in Maryland.

Goodman designed his last buildings in the 1980s. He died in 1992.

The home's residents could not be reached for comment.

Read more about West End Alexandria architectural history:
History on the Hill: Seminary Hill’s Historic Homes

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