Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division Charles M. Goodman archive

Charles M. Goodman.

Early Life and Career

Though born in New York City in 1906, Charles Morton Goodman grew up outside of Chicago. He received his training in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, influenced by such greats as Frank Lloyd Wright.

Before the age of 30, Goodman moved to the Washington, D.C., area, with which he would be associated the rest of his career. Starting in 1934, Goodman worked as an architect for the Public Buildings Administration and then for the U.S. Treasury Department. He sought to design government buildings— both domestic and abroad—in the Modernist style. (See “Government Buildings” below for examples.) During World War II, Goodman served as the principal architect for the Army Air Forces Air Transport Command.

Shift to Housing

Post-war, in 1946, he shifted his focus to residential projects with the founding of Charles M. Goodman Associates in D.C. His work became extremely popular, featured in publications such as Life magazine and Good Housekeeping. In just a decade, 32,000 Goodman houses were built. (In 1955, Goodman won the National Award of Merit from the Architectural Institute of America for his very own house in Alexandria, Virginia.) In his 1950s association with the National Home Corporation, he created plans for 100,000 prefabricated dwellings. Goodman’s experiments with building technologies and unique materials had a profound impact on home design across the country in the 1950s and 60s.

Goodman urged architects to “make the product better all the way through: better in its structure, better in its plan, better in its appearance, better in its economics, more delightful to live in—and thus easier to sell.”

Before Goodman, government buildings were generally designed in “neoclassical” styles, while suburban homes were stuck in a neocolonial rut. Goodman challenged the general public of the mid-20th century to embrace the ideals of Modernist architecture, with geometric shapes, flat roofs, incorporation of steel and concrete, and prominent glass panels blurring the line between inside and out.

Robert C. Lautman Photography Collection at the National Building Museum

The Goodman House (shown above) earned the National Award of Merit from the Architectural Institute of America in 1955.

Charles M. Goodman

Modernist Visionary

Robert C. Lautman Photography Collection at the National Building Museum

Above: Clockwise from top left: Houston House, Houston TX; Lake Barcroft, Fairfax County; Butterfly House, Hollin Hills.

Honors and Awards

Multiple Goodman designs are now on the National Register of Historic Places. See list below:

Goodman Architecture listed on the
National Register of Historic Places

  • VA

  • VA

  • VA

  • MD

  • MD

  • MD

  • NY

  • The Goodman House
    Alexandria, Virginia
  • Hollin Hills
    Alexandria, Virginia
  • Unitarian Church
    Arlington, Virginia
  • Hammond Wood
    Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Rock Creek Woods
    Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Takoma Avenue
    Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Alcoa Care-Free Home
    Rochester, NY

Click here for links to pdfs
from our Resources page

Additional honors include awards from Parents Magazine, the Washington Board of Trade, the Northern Virginia Builders Association, and the Southwest Research Institute.

Goodman’s Legacy

Though he created elegant custom homes for the well-to-do, Goodman is perhaps most remembered for his impact on middle-class living from coast to coast. In addition to residences and government work, over the course of his career Goodman also created distinctive designs for shopping centers, motels, gas stations, churches, university buildings, medical centers, and more. One could imagine an entire Goodman town!

Charles M. Goodman died in 1992, but his profound influence on American architecture lives on.

Architecture reflects the social phenomenon. What we yearn for and need is the flowering of the individual. We deeply need more off-beat personalities, more people with unique interests, more people strong enough to stand unafraid and be themselves. We need them not just in our houses but in communities where their influence can be felt. We need unity of diverse interests. People of every age must be part of the vital community.
– Charles M. Goodman