Hollin Hills’ First Mid-century Modern House

If you’re like me and have a relentless curiosity about how things came to be, you may find the history of Hollin Hills in Alexandria, Virginia equally fascinating. As a Realtor and resident of this unique, mid-century modern neighborhood, I find it incredibly enchanting to learn about the visionaries behind the modernist architecture and landscaping, and the people that have lived in these iconic homes.

The houses that pique my interest the most are the first of approximately 450 mid-century modern homes constructed in the neighborhood. Read on below to learn firsthand about the unique qualities of the house at 7300 Rippon Road, one of the first of two landmark houses built in the remarkable community of Hollin Hills.

The beginning of an amazing partnership

In 1946, developer Robert Davenport bought 240 acres of land at auction for $500/acre. Davenport partnered with architect Charles M. Goodman who he said had, “some very fresh ideas about what to do with a basic house.” While Davenport identified financing, Goodman set out a plan for the use of the land.

“He immediately sketched some plans for houses and said, ‘this is what you ought to do.’ Of course, you can’t use a conventional house on that land. We started on Rippon Road with that hillside. My God, you had to have imagination to build on that area! And so we built the first two houses…a two-level house and then a one-level house…”

“We were self-zoned and the residents seem to like what we did.”

– Robert Davenport. A History Into the Fourth Decade – Hollin Hills

The blueprint

Hollin Hills homes were determined by the contours of the lots. Goodman believed in using land humanely, “leaving as much of it in its natural beautiful state as possible.” Ten Years of Hollin Hills (1959)

The blueprint for 7300 Rippon Road included a built-up roof with a crushed bluestone surface, brick and board siding, and lots of fixed glass to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living.

By the time the home was built, the blueprint of the house was flipped horizontally.

The landscape design

While Goodman followed the existing topography to minimize costs, preserve trees, and honor natural contours, Lou Bernard Voigt was the mastermind behind the landscape design.

As you can see below, existing trees were respected, and a long list of perennials were strategically placed across the property.

The original plans also included a vegetable garden, compost, and play area.

The incinerator

When the home was built, trash collection wasn’t immediately available. Instead, the home came equipped with a waste incinerator which had become popular at the turn of the twentieth century. While the structure still exists today (shown above in its current condition), its obviously out of service.

The 25 year journey of Hollin Hills

In 1971, The Washington Post shared a farewell to Davenport as he wrapped up construction of the last of the homes in Hollin Hills. And it would not be complete without a nod to where it all started at 7300 Rippon Road. Click the image to read the article.

The homeowners—then and now

The Babb family purchased 7300 Rippon Road in 1950 for $22,000. While they weren’t the very first to move into the neighborhood, the Babb family lived in their beloved house for more than 20 years. The house has had at least four owners over the past 70 years. It is currently owned by Jeremy Kenney and Megan Smith.

I talked with Jeremy to learn more about what it is like to live in such a historically significant home.

“It’s definitely a unique perspective given the 70-year history of Hollin Hills,” Jeremy says.

“Our house seems a little different from the others: it’s multi-level, half-acre, and built directly on a hillside. I feel like we’re living in the beta-test house of Hollin Hills.”

A beta-test that went very, very well. With 24 beautiful windows overlooking the outdoors, Jeremy says, “you feel like you’re in a treehouse.”

“We’re surrounded by deer, fox, chipmunk, skinks, and more. Our dog, Clea, loves to ‘protect’ us from these creatures 24 hours a day.”

You can view pictures of 7300 Rippon critters on Jeremey’s Instagram feed, @jeremyleekenney.

Presently at 7300 Rippon Road

Since the original build, the house has had an addition to include, most notably, a private owner’s suite.

Azaleas still pop in the spring, and playful orange lighting brightens the trick-or-treating path in the fall.

At the edge of the driveway, a little free modern library welcomes neighbors and offers the sharing of books.

When asked what’s next in the evolution of this house, Jeremy says he and his wife are in the beginning stages of exploring the installation of solar panels. “Our house is positioned with a southern exposure, so we receive plenty of direct sunlight year-round.”

Thank you Jeremy to you and your family for taking such good care of this home, and sharing its story with the neighbors of Hollin Hills.

– Sean Vann

Sean Vann, Realtor
Sean Vann, Realtor

Resident of Hollin Hills.
D.C., MD & VA buyer & seller agent.
Partner of the Rockwell Team at Compass Real Estate, a Washingtonian 2021 Top Producer.

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