Monday, February 21, 2011

Silver Spring Bauhauses

One of the benefits of Silver Spring being an older suburb is the interesting variety of pre-war homes we enjoy in some of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. With many of these homes being one-off custom designs, you can find all sorts of unique residences, including even a white castle. As mentioned a couple weeks back, Silver Spring even has a residential pagoda, and it's for sale! (For those interested in this sort of thing, the neighborhood of Woodside Park has a self-guided walking architecture tour.)

One thing I've noticed that's somewhat unusual is that Silver Spring is home to a handful of International Style houses. Outside of Greenbelt, you won't come across many homes in this area constructed in this style. While the label "International Style" can be applied very broadly, in terms of single-family homes it is characterized by a white or gray color, cubic form, and an absense of ornamentation.

If you visit the the National Building Museum's Designing Tomorrow exhibit (and I highly recommend that you do), be sure to check out the section on the Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. The following house from that exhibit, called the "Design for Living Home", is an excellent example of an International Style house.

Design for Living Home, 1933

While this may have been touted as the look of the future in the 1920's and 30's, it never really took off, as most Americans preferred traditional brick homes to the stripped-down European look. Nonetheless, there are few examples in Silver Spring that I have stumbled across, demonstrating that there were at least some modernist home buyers here in years gone by.

I apologize for the quality of the photos that follow - standing out in front of people's houses and taking pictures felt a bit stalk-y, so I instead opted to utilize Street View photos from Google's worldwide stalking network.

My personal favorite of the bunch, and really one of my favorite houses in Silver Spring, is this 1938 house on Wayne avenue. I particularly like how the design incorporates an upstairs patio off what I assume is the master bedroom.

Just around the corner can be found a similar house, constructed a few years earlier in 1935. The front of the house appears to have gone through extensive modifications over the years, so it's difficult to get an good idea of the house's original appearance. On the left side of the house you can see the corner windows, one of the style's common features.

While the front of the house is partially obscured by vegetation in the above photo, an overhead view clearly shows the structure's signature flat roof.

While I like the look of flat roofs, I certainly wouldn't want to have to climb up on one and shovel off multiple feet of snow during one of our recent Snowmageddons.

There's also this 1938 house, located just off Wayne Avenue a few blocks from downtown Silver Spring.  A similar house can be found next door, however modifications over the years to that one have led to it having a pitched rather than flat roof.

 I do love the lime green door.

This style may not be for everyone, and the lack of ornamentation may be completely anathema to many in today's McMansionized society, however I think it's nice that some examples from this relatively brief period in architectural history have been preserved here in Silver Spring.

If you've got more examples that you've come across, let me know and perhaps I'll append those homes to the post.


As Rebecca pointed out in the comments, there's a nice example in the District on Portal Drive, just steps from Silver Spring. This one sold for a cool $1.15 million a couple years back.

(I have to admit, I never knew that neighborhood was called Colonial Village.)

And here's another one in DC, just a block away. Bonus mod points: they have an Avanti!


I came across this 1937 Washington Post article describing some 'modernistic' home being exhibited at the time in Silver Spring, yet I have no idea where this location is. There is neither a Montgomery Avenue nor a Montgomery Court in present-day Silver Spring.


paulidin said...

Oh, man, these are EXCELLENT. I'd seen some futurist-designed buildings in downtown, like on Wayne ave and Fenton, but hadn't known about these residences.

Mr Joel said...

There's also the Polychrome Historic District on Colesville Rd. Five houses made with John Jospeh Early's secret colored-concrete formulas.

Sligo said...

I've covered the Polychrome Historic District before, albeit briefly. Those houses are from about the same time, but are of a somewhat different style. I was planning on doing something more in depth in the future.

Rebecca said...

Just over the DC line in the Montgomery Blair Portal are several examples of this style...hard to tell the address on Google Maps, but 1738 Portal Dr looks to be right.

Sligo said...


Good call. I forgot about that house (the actual address is 1732), as I haven't taken that street in ages.

It sold a couple years back for $1.15 million.

Anonymous said...

Would give a vital body part to live in one of these...

Mike said...

My wife and I looked at that house on Portal about 7-8 years ago, when it wasn't anywhere near that price. And for good reason. It looked okay on the outside (though not as good as that pic), but the inside was a complete dump. We stayed about five minutes. Glad to see someone could fix it up.

liz said...

Wonderful post, thank you. I laughed when I got to the part about not wanting to be a stalker. I stalked that property myself a couple weeks ago when I drove by and had to pull over to stare at the car in the driveway. nothing exciting guys, just car shopping) So I drove back the next day and took a picture. (of the car) Great house.

Thayer-D said...

Love these houses. Thanks for the write-up.

WashingtonGardener said...

Years ago when there was a Silver Spring House & Garden tour- two of these Wayne Ave houses were on it and I got to see the insides - found the rooms smaller and darker than I'd have imagined. Love the exteriors door, esp. the lime door one.

PS we NEED to bring back the SS H&G tours could be a great fundraiser and expose the public to the best in SS residential architecture again.

Sligo said...

"PS we NEED to bring back the SS H&G tours could be a great fundraiser and expose the public to the best in SS residential architecture again."

I agree 100%.

DaninTkPk said...

I don't know if Takoma Park counts (nor am I completely sure if it counts as Bauhaus), but there is a similar house on the corner of Sligo Creek Pkwy and Jackson (best seen from Jackson on Google Maps Street View)

rachel Posell said...

hi. i am the owner of the white castle - thrilled to see it mentioned in one of my favorite blogs! keep up the great work!

Bill Wax said...

Well I am the co-owner of the house with the lime green door. Thanks for the nice write up and kind words. We would love to be part of a SS H&G Tour. This is a fabulous blog so thanks.

Olya Dougherty said...

I was walking home the day I read your post and noticed the house at 10016 Renfrew Drive. It's the same architectural style but hidden between very typical houses for this area. I didn't make the picture because the owner was in the front yard doing some yard work - didn't want to creep anybody out.

Sligo said...

Re: 10016 Renfrew Drive

Good catch, I'm going to have to check that one out.

Nellie said...

New owners of 9013 Flower here! We are so excited; I am attempting to blog our progress as we restore the property to it's (mostly) original beauty.

Anonymous said...

The location of the old Montgomery Avenue in the 1930's news article is Wayne Avenue. The exhibition house must have been located near Wayne and the intersection of Fenton.

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