Where We Live

Modern Pride in Historic Holmes Run Acres

Holmes Run Acres, with its Modern Movement homes marked by gently pitched roofs and walls of windows, is listed in the National Register.
Holmes Run Acres, with its Modern Movement homes marked by gently pitched roofs and walls of windows, is listed in the National Register. (By Susan Straight For The Washington Post)

By Susan Straight
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, July 28, 2007

Residents of the Holmes Run Acres neighborhood think it's a notable place. Now they have the historic designation to prove it.

Holmes Run Acres, a Fairfax County community of 355 houses noted for their modern architecture, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in March, shortly after it made the Virginia Landmarks Register, according to Gail Baker, the consultant who worked with the neighborhood to write the application.

It took 12 volunteers more than 18 months to prepare the application, said resident Chris Rupp, who led the committee. The project not only resulted in historic designation but also inspired residents.

"Giving the community a focus helped bring people together," he said. The designation "enables the contemporary architecture to continue to be preserved and appreciated."

The push for preservation was motivated in part by the kind of dramatic changes common in recent years in many neighborhoods with smallish older houses -- owners who either tear down the original houses or add to them in ways that render them unrecognizable. Some projects "just ignored totally the history of the community," said Barbara Karro, a resident since 1995. "The civic association was horrified but could do nothing.

"When people come in and don't ask," she said, "they do things out of sync with the character of the neighborhood."

The houses -- ofModern Movement design -- are one and two stories, with gently pitched roofs and large floor-to-ceiling windows. According to the National Register application, the home designs were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian houses.

The lots are mostly a quarter-acre, filled with large old trees and shrubs, and naturally landscaped for the most part. There are no sidewalks, although the streets -- with names such as Elm, Cypress, Sycamore and Poplar Tree -- are wide enough that walking does not feel perilous, and there is no through traffic.

Plus, most of the houses have long enough driveways, with carports, to keep cars off the streets. The historic district also includes a neighborhood pool, an elementary school (Woodburn) and the 4.2-acre Luria Park.

Of the 355 houses, 292 are considered to be structures "contributing" to the historic designation. The houses consist of four models, all built between 1951 and 1958, by three builders based on designs by architects Donald Lethbridge and Nicholas Satterlee.

Brothers Gerald and Eli Luria built about 265 of the houses in 1951 and 1952. These styles were known as the One-Story Luria (902 square feet) and the Two-Story Luria (1,800 square feet). The rest of the houses, all two stories and somewhat bigger than the Luria models, were built in the following years by two other companies.

Although the 1950s style has its fans, "California ranch contemporary is not everyone's cup of tea," said John Purvis Sr., a longtime resident and a real estate agent with Re/Max Xecutex in Oakton.

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