September 14, 2014
Last week I decided to swing by Hammond Wood, the Silver Spring development of 58 mid-century modern houses designed by Charles Goodman and built from 1949 to 1951. I had driven through once before, but this time I parked and walked around most of the neighborhood.
It’s no Hollin Hills (Goodman’s masterpiece of a subdivision in northern Virginia), but Hammond Wood is still, its listing on the National Register of Historic Places says, “historically significant as an intact, architecturally cohesive example of Charles Goodman’s merchant builder subdivisions in Montgomery County.” The listing also notes that the houses “are largely intact and the Goodman ‘form’ can be clearly distinguished; alterations generally conform to Goodman’s Contemporary palette.”
That’s mostly true. I didn’t see anything spectacularly out of character, but Hammond Wood has only been on the Register since 2004, and Wheaton has never been a destination for the kind of people who rave about mid-century design. In other words, I get the feeling that ordinary middle- and working-class people still live in the neighborhood and have added their own touches to the houses, reflecting their varied tastes, over the years. I don’t love all the alterations, but paradoxically, I find this more heartening than if every house were to exhibit faultless, Dwell magazine-approved Good Taste. The homes really are as beloved and adaptable as Goodman hoped they would be.
Here are some of the Goodman variations I spotted on my short walking tour.
Wait, what happened here? An architect who once worked in Goodman’s studio, Harold Esten, apparently had a Philip Johnson moment and extensively redesigned the house. It’s no longer seen as contributing to the historic Goodman district. But it does have its charms.