Explore Hollin Hills, A Midcentury Modern Community in Alexandria, Va.

Posted on: May 12th, 2014 by Meghan Drueding 3 Comments

Credit: Robert C. Lautman, National Building Museum

Most of the nation’s architecturally distinctive Midcentury Modern housing developments are concentrated in sunny California. But others exist in pockets around the country, one of the most notable being Hollin Hills in Alexandria, Va. Located about 14 miles outside Washington, D.C., the 326-acre community with more than 450 homes serves as a well-preserved paradise for midcentury aficionados.

Credit: Robert C. Lautman, National Building Museum

Architect Charles Goodman designed the Hollin Hills houses to bring in more natural light than a typical home, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and flowing floor plans. Goodman, developer Robert Davenport, and landscape architects Lou Bernard Voight, Dan Kiley, and Eric Paepke made sure the homes blended into the wooded setting, rather than dominating it.

“We felt drawn to the houses. They gave us the feeling we were in a camp by a lake,” recalls 20-year resident Mary Ann Rametta. “We didn’t know anything about Midcentury Modern. We just knew we liked it.”

Credit: M. Drueding/National Trust for Historic Preservation

All that glass strengthens the homes’ connection to the outdoors, a quality that was definitely on display at the 2014 Hollin Hills House Tour, held on May 3. More than 903 visitors explored the 11 houses on the tour, including the residence of Jaelith Hall-Rivera and David Rivera, shown above and below.

“It’s like living in a treehouse,” Rivera says.

Credit: M. Drueding/National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Hall-Riveras have filled their home with Midcentury Modern furniture and accessories, including a trio of bright-red Eames chairs in the entryway. In 2012 the home, which the couple bought four years ago, won The Washington Post’s Mad Men Look contest.

Credit: M. Drueding/National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Hollin Hills houses were built between 1949 and 1971, and tended to be relatively small by today’s standards. Most have been modified with additions (with oversight by a strict design review committee) but some, such as the 900-square-foot house shown above, still occupy their original footprint. High ceilings, open floor plans, and an efficient use of space make them feel larger than they really are.

“The volume you sense is just extraordinary,” said architect and longtime Hollin Hills resident John Burns in a pre-tour lecture.

Credit: Robert C. Lautman, National Building Museum

Fences are uncommon in Hollin Hills, and the houses are sited at varied angles along streets that curve around the rolling topography. The homes fit the landscape so well that they seem to have organically grown out of it.

“At night, we love sitting on the back deck,” Rametta says. “The houses are like little lanterns in the woods.”

Hollin Hills was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, as well as the Virginia Landmarks Register. For more information on the community’s history and design, visit Hollinhills.net.

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Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for mid-century modern, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

Architecture, Modern Architecture, Slideshows

3 Responses

  1. Preservation Magazine Recaps Hollin Hills Tour | Modern Capital

    May 13, 2014

    […] Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour, Preservation magazine managing editor Meghan Drueding has a brief recap. On a beautiful spring day, more than 900 visitors toured through the National Register-designated […]

  2. Doug Evans

    May 13, 2014

    It is almost eery to see the formal similarities between these houses and what was happening in Australia at the same time. It is heartening to see that the heritage values of this beautiful neighborhood have been recognized. There is an important lesson in this for Australia where equivalent areas of great cultural and aesthetic value languish completely without protection and are steadily degraded and destroyed.

  3. Mary Beth Saffo

    May 13, 2014

    It was a joy to visit this enlightened and sensitive development a few weekends ago. Its environmental and architectural intelligence especially stands out in northern Virginia, whose beautiful landscapes are, sadly, being scarred more and more by oversized McMansions and tear-downs in its residential neighborhoods, and ever denser high-rises, strip malls, and out-of-control traffic in the commercial districts.
    Hollin Hills is not only an oasis in this area, but a model for how we are SUPPOSED to live.