Architectural Vision

Arthur B. Heaton, Architect

Hillwood Square was built as part of the ambitious but short-lived defense housing initiatives of mid-1941 to mid-1942. Noted local architect Arthur B. Heaton was selected to create the building and site plans and assist in overseeing the construction of Hillwood Square. The design followed the ideals of the new defense initiatives with special consideration taken when designing and building the homes so that they would remain a permanent part of the local community at the end of the war. Buildings featured a restrained colonial revival style, compatible with the surrounding architecture of the area at the time. The row house design and low-density layout was designed specifically for families, and contrasts with other war housing projects designed as garden apartments. The overall goal when designing Hillwood Square was to provide family housing with plenty of recreation space to give residents a good quality of life.

Architect Arthur B. Heaton began his career in 1894 as an apprentice, opened his own practice in 1900, and continued practicing until his death in 1951. Heaton became a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1902. He served as Supervising Architect of the Washington Cathedral from 1908 until approximately 1922. Heaton designed many residential and commercial projects throughout the Washington D.C. area. Among his projects are numerous buildings on the Washington D.C. and National Historic Registers, including the Augusta and Louisa Apartment Buildings, Babcock Macomb House, and the Washington Loan and Trust Company Building (now demolished).

Heaton did the majority of his work in residential architecture. A major client was Shannon & Luchs, for which Heaton designed entire subdivisions, including over 500 homes in the Burleith neighborhood of Washington D.C., another subdivision called Wrenwood, in northwest D.C., and homes in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Much of the work for Shannon & Luchs was speculative building, and featured homes in groups of 2 to 30 clustered in neighborhoods or on cul-de-sacs. Heaton was also an early automobile enthusiast, and designed the now demolished Capital Garage and the Cleveland Park and Shop (part of the Cleveland Park historic district).

Heaton was a leader of “Renovise Washington” during the Great Depression, and worked actively to clean up slums and improve housing in Washington D.C. He was also a founder of the Washington Building Congress. Heaton worked to implement changes in the architectural process to emphasize scale of production, teamwork and planning; and he was interested in solving the problems of housing by building respectable and comfortable homes for persons of moderate incomes. His designs emphasized harmony with surrounding architecture and the use of recreation space; additionally, he spent considerable time on site planning.

In the late 1930′s and early 1940′s, Heaton designed four metro area housing projects for the federal government. Navy Place Housing Project (for the Alley Dwelling Authority in Washington, D.C.) and Union Built Homes (Greenbelt, MD) were designed to provide slum clearance and “New Deal” homes respectively. Two other projects were specifically for the USHA for defense housing needs. 10 One was Hillwood Square. The other project, no. VA-44231 (named Early Homes) in Arlington County, was built in 1943 as temporary family housing and is now demolished.11 That building site now features the high rise residential buildings Crystal House I and II in Crystal City.

Heaton’s designs for Hillwood Square balanced the attractiveness of design and suitability for families with the need for cost-efficiency. Wood frame construction was selected because it was both economical and sturdy, and the asbestos shingles were selected for their low maintenance. Plans utilized a repetition of building designs for faster construction, and the absence of basements to make construction more affordable and reduce future maintenance costs. The row house designs, as opposed to garden apartment designs, eliminated hallways and wasted square footage; the row house design also eliminated the need for lower-level bathrooms in all but the one-bedroom duplexes, saving on construction costs. Interiors were standardized, overlapping the upper levels of the two and three bedroom units in the center of each two-story building to allow for economy of space and construction. The overlapping design adopted by the USHA and independent architects and builders was spurred by the success of that design and construction method in other communities built in the late 1930′s and early 1940′s, such as Arlington Village, in Arlington, Virginia.

Heaton paid careful attention to community site planning and situated the row house and duplex units in a “superblock” design around generous walkways and green spaces with parking at the rear of the units or in small lots at the perimeter. Siting roads and parking areas on the perimeter reduces the amount of paved area minimizing operating and maintenance costs; it also creates walkways suitable and safe for children to play. Draft site plans show the playing field in various locations, including centrally located. Heaton and USHA eventually settled on a design that minimized utility infrastructure costs by grouping the housing units to the north and the playing field and gardens to the south.

In accordance with USHA requirements, open land was to have a definite and defined use, and community, management and maintenance facilities must be provided for. 12 The overall density of Hillwood Square (8 dwelling units per acre) allowed sufficient ease of site planning and allowed Heaton plenty of ways to incorporate green space in addition to the large playing field and gardens at the south end. Playground areas were designated for children; and picnic areas for both children and adults. In addition, the Community House design included a nursery school as well as gathering areas for residents and was designed for use by the greater neighborhood, not just Hillwood Square residents.

A History of Hillwood Square

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