June 4, 2009 Alcoa Care-Free Home, Charles Goodman, Virginia

Goodman’s Highland Hills, Alcoa Care-Free Home in Richmond

As I noted in a previous post, Charles Goodman served for five years beginning in 1953 as a consulting architect for Lafayette, Ind.-based National Homes, which was the country’s largest prefab home manufacturer. A 1954 Time article described Jim Price, the founder of National Homes, as the “King of the Builders,” saying that he “has succeeded where many another failed: he proved that a prefabricated house can be mass-produced and sold at a profit without looking like a Quonset hut.”

I heard about Highland Hills in Bon Air, Va., for the first time last year during the Hollin Hills home and garden tour. A contingent of Highland Hill-ers (that’s what they call themselves) made the trek north to check out Goodman’s signature community. Well, I finally made it down to Highland Hills.

A few weeks ago, after visiting my wife’s grandmother in Richmond, we took the short drive across the James River to Bon Air to see the 87-home community. Next time I go down I hope to meet with some of the Hill-ers, who I’m told just found a treasure drove of early documents related to the neighborhood of modest mid-century prefabs.

Goodman’s Alcoa Care-Free House in Bon Air, Va.

While in Bon Air, I also went to find Goodman’s Alcoa Care-Free Home, which is located
here. Goodman designed the home in 1957 based on feedback from the 1956 Women’s Congress on Housing. With Alcoa backing the project, Goodman used aluminum in various areas of the house, including the roof, exterior wall panels and framing for sliding glass doors. The house pictured above and in the slideshow (the pictures are not great; the house is on a busy road with no shoulders) was built by Kayhoe Construction. According to the original brochure, various builders constructed models in 16 states as a way to show off Alcoa’s aluminum products.

The late Sarah Booth Conroy of the Washington Post described Goodman’s creation like this in a Nov. 14, 1957, article: “A house as full of color as a Picasso painting, yet as carefree as a piece of plastic. A house as new as research can make it, yet as rooted in love of beauty as the renaissance.”

Here’s the Care-Free in our neck of the woods in Hollin Hills if you ever want to go see it in person.