March 2, 2009 Preservation

A 1941 Tauxemont Contemporary ($619K) and Efforts to Preserve the Community

Before developing the ground-breaking modern community of Hollin Hills beginning in the late 1940s, Robert Davenport built the nearby cooperative community of Tauxemont in the earlier part of the decade. The basic cinder block, wood and aluminum one-story side-gabled roofed homes were originally designed by architect and cooperative member Alexander Knowlton to make it easy to incorporate additions. Charles Goodman, who Davenport would team up with to design the homes of Hollin Hills, was brought in by a number of Tauxemont residents to help them expand the modest homes.

This 3/2 ranch in the community features a redwood exterior and plenty of glass, including a full wall in the cathedral-ceilinged living room. View large images here.

Tauxemont was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and to the Virginia Landmarks Register. While such designations provides some incentives to maintain the character of the homes, such as tax credits for approved renovations, they do not prevent the destruction of these modest homes marking the early years of the modern movement in the United States.

“What is happening in Tauxemont is the kind of thing that is happening in mid-century neighborhoods throughout the country,” says Mary V. Thompson, chairman of the Tauxemont Historic Preservation Committee. “Because they were organized and built before the days of restrictive covenants, these neighborhoods have been targeted by developers, who buy up houses as they come on the market and then proceed to either tear them down and replace them with McMansions, which tower over all the neighboring homes. The other tactic is to just ‘add on’ to the existing house and ‘renovate’ it out of its original identity. This has caused problems throughout the D.C. area, with local governments in Maryland and Virginia trying a number of tactics to stop or slow down the practice, in order to appease outraged neighbors.”

Thompson is supporting efforts by Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning and the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services to develop regulations to amend how building height is measured and to create a new setback ratio which will further restrict the height of homes in relation to their distance from the property line. The intent of the setback ratio, according to the county, “is to limit the looming affect that can be created by tall structures built in close proximity to their property line.”

Thompson believes the county’s ideas are a good compromise between allowing builders to tear down homes and build whatever they want and citizens who would prefer efforts to severely limit the tear down permits issued for existing neighborhoods and only allow houses of the same size to be built if a house needs to come down for structural or safety reasons.

You can contact Thompson here if you want more information on Tauxemont or the county’s building regulations review.