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At a time when not all builders did so, Edmund Bennett hired architects to design his homes. The firm of Keyes, Lethbridge, and Condon, AIA (KLC) had a diverse portfolio and was engaged to help with Carderock Springs architecture.
KLC had a hand in everything from Georgia Avenue homes to DC renewal projects like Columbia Plaza; the US Embassy in Lima and the Embassy Residence in Asuncin, Paraguay; the River Road and Cedar Lane Unitarian Churches and Ayrlawn Elementary School (now part of the Bethesda YMCA.)
Bennett and KLC developed a strong professional relationship, having worked on four projects before collaborating on Carderock Springs. These were talented architects taking a lead in contemporary residential design in the metropolitan area. Even so, builder Ed Bennett was exacting in his requirements for houses and land planning.
He had studied over 20 of the country’s leading builders and planned communities and undertook extensive market research to attract buyers. His research continued with two nearby communities where he tested different materials and designs that would guide him in his final plans for Carderock.
In spite of his well-researched ideas, he took a flexible position as he went. He conducted informal surveys as people toured the houses and follow-up questionnaires after buyers moved in. In these crucial phases of testing and research, Bennett was putting to use the very same skills he had used in his former career as a management analyst in the Bureau of Budget of the State Department.
The leading elements of the Bennett/KLC designs were their clean and crisp lines for both the interior and exterior. The crispness is found in the distinctive modular horizontal lines of the windows, white trim and belly bands and wide fascia, all emphasizing the low profile character of the homes. The clean look was complimented by a formalized entrance, sometimes a missing feature in early contemporary homes. The upper floor rooms featured vaulted ceilings, interior skylights, wood paneling, and exposed brick chimney facades.
Patios and balconies extended the open plan outside, visually and functionally connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces. The cantilevered balconies added a visual depth to the facade, and with the adjoining window openings creating a sense of orderly design. The large sliding doors brought natural light indoors.Bennett’s designs were clean in more ways than one. All of the home designs conserved energy with features such as roof overhangs, formed by the extension of the roof trusses. Overhangs blocked the summer sun, protecting the siding and furniture. (See section on Land Planning)
On the interior Bennett’s design ideas included a downstairs bedroom intended to be a get-away room or study. Mindful of families, he created recreation rooms but separated them from the rest of the home. Dining areas were screened from the front entry view. The open plan of the living areas was geared for a casual lifestyle and made use of shared visual space.Brick and wood were carried in from the exterior walls, extending the natural look inside. Upper floor ceilings were elevated with an aero dynamical curve, allowing the height and curve to distinguish the rooms. Bennett preferred open staircases since they added visual space. Simple balustrades and small posts that support stairway railings were used to enhance the stairways, making them less confining.
Living rooms were designed for easy furniture arrangement. Early models were furnished by designer Dorris Harris, with most furniture coming from the upscale Modern Design store. Bennett and his architects wanted the living room to be a center for living, not a dead-end room.
The spatial character of the rooms was specially fitted to its purpose. For instance, flat ceilings were used for most bedrooms because they create a sense of security and enclosure while cathedral ceilings in the living areas created a feeling of space and elegance. Carderock’s low-pitch roofs limited attic space but allowed the necessary space for the cathedral ceilings, glazed transoms, and clerestory windows.
When planning the site, Bennett included on each lot space for a garage, even though they were sometimes options. If included, it was often built separated from the house, but connected visually by a walkway and overhead beams.
Bennett’s courses in industrial production at Stanford would serve him well in Carderock. When he could buy the prefabricated components for less than building them on the site, he did so. Much of the fabrication he used was from the Admiral Homes plant in Pittsburgh and could be on site the next day. He even devised a system for a crane to help assemble the components. Some of the components Bennett used were window walls, stairs, and roof trusses.
The clubhouse was an integral part of the community, aesthetically and socially. It won the Award of Merit from the Washington Board of Trade in 1965 for excellence in architecture and was featured in House and Home, Home Building and Professional Builder magazines. In the January 1966 issue of Esoterica, the clubhouse was praised in that “the adjustment of the building to the site and spatial relationships are excellent, and there is a most satisfying sense of scale about the entire composition.”
It has been more than 45 years since the start of Carderock Springs. The unified look has been maintained thanks to the forward thinking of its founder. Covenants were attached to the deeds, creating an Architectural Review Committee (ARC) to review plans for exterior modifications. The ARC process was to insure modifications were harmonious with the original look in order to protect the vision as well as property values.
The text and graphics were compiled by Mary Lou Shannon, former resident and Realtor in Carderock Springs. Copying without permission is not permitted.