Photo credit: Mariann Seriff , 04/2003

Property Name: Rock Creek Woods Historic District
Date Listed: 12/15/2004
Inventory No.: M: 31-37
Location: Silver Spring, Montgomery County

Description: Rock Creek Woods, a suburban development consisting of 74 Contemporary houses, is nestled in a wooded valley between two creeks. These houses, designed by Charles Goodman, were built between 1958 and 1961 by Herschel and Marvin Blumberg, merchant builders who headed up the Bancroft Construction Company. Located roughly one mile north of Kensington, the subdivision consists of three streets that form a large, self-contained and wooded cul-de-sac tucked away at the end of a Connecticut Avenue service road. The development's two curving dead-end streets (Spruell Drive and Rickover Road) hug the contours of the land and are linked by Ingersol Drive, which loops between them. In addition, two Goodman houses are located at the end of the service road, adjacent to the Rock Creek Woods entrance on Spruell Drive. The streets in Rock Creek Palisades were named after World War II admirals, including Byrd, Dewey, Rickover, and Spruell, a practice possibly related to North Kensington, where street names commemorate such earlier admirals as Perry and Farragut. The subdivision contains three basic house models, each of two stories, with liberal use of glass walls. A fourth model, with three stories, was used fro two houses on lower Rickover Road. All houses were built with a living and dining room, family or recreation room, three bedrooms, two baths, and with provision for a fourth or fifth bedroom and a third bath on the lower level. Lots in this hilly terrain vary from about 1/5 to 1/3 acre, and on the south and west sides of the development houses have outlying back lots abutting the creeks. Every house is individually sited according to the topography of the land an in relation to its neighbors. All houses have been carefully angled to the street, with some floor plans flipped, to preserve privacy and to maximize a southern exposure. The siting was supervised by Charles Goodman, who made every effort to preserve the trees indigenous to the area and blend the houses into the existing topography so they become a part of the natural surroundings. In addition to the Goodman houses, a Protestant church built in 1961 sits at the intersection of Spruell and Ingersol Drives--a Church of the Brethren. The church was not designed by Charles Goodman and is not considered a contributing resource to the district. However, it has simple unadorned lines and blends in with the Contemporary houses. The church has been in active use since 1961. Now, in addition to the basic congregation, it is being sublet to other religious groups and to a Montessori school. The Rock Creek Woods neighborhood and the church have maintained a close relationship since its inception. Over the years, the neighbors have staffed the church's nursery school, which serves both the neighborhood and other children. In a reciprocal arrangement, Rock Creek Woods residents have often used the church as a meeting place, and they volunteer on clean-up crews to maintain the wooded and recreation areas around the church.

Significance: The Rock Creek Woods Historic District is significant as an excellent example of a merchant builder subdivision planned and designed by Charles M. Goodman Associates. Charles M. Goodman is increasingly recognized as a figure of national prominence in residential architecture of the post-World War II period; a man who, in addition to other accomplishments, brought affordable Contemporary housing in naturalistic settings to middle-income people. Rock Creek Woods is a Contemporary housing development designed by Goodman and built by the Bancroft Construction Company. It is the largest merchant builder subdivision designed by Goodman in Montgomery County, with 74 houses reflecting variations of the same design ideal, built to high quality standards and sited individually on lots of under 10,000 square feet. Goodman carried out not only the architectural designs but the site planning as well. His vision entailed houses embedded within the natural environment and, in the Rock Creek Woods subdivision, he retained the existing topography, specimen trees, and woodlands surrounding the area. The original layout, including roads, lot configurations, and sidewalks, remains unaltered.


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