University Libraries Acquires Historic Hollin Hills Neighborhood Archives

Posted: April 1, 2013 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: April 2, 2013 at 7:24 am

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By Mark Schwartz, communications and marketing officer for the University Libraries


One of the modern-style homes in the Hollin Hills community. Photo courtesy of University Libraries

One of the modern-style homes in the Hollin Hills community. Photo courtesy of University Libraries

Hollin Hills was developed as one of the first post-World War II planned communities in the Washington, D.C., region and one of the few consisting entirely of modern architecture with landscaping as an intrinsic part of the design.

This historic neighborhood, located in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, Va., was once part of The Hollin Hall Plantation, which was originally owned by George Mason IV, the university’s namesake. Now, George Mason University Libraries is entrusted with materials that have been collected over the last 60 years documenting the history of this community.

The Hollin Hills Archives contains materials on the development of the community, preserved through articles, newsletters, brochures, photographs, fliers, advertisements, blueprints, plats and other printed and audiovisual materials.

Before securing the archives, the University Libraries had only a few resources on the community. One was “Hollin Hills: Community of Vision,” a history covering 1949 to 1999, which was published by the civic association. On its introductory pages, two “creators of Hollin Hills” record their impressions.

One creator was modernist architect Charles M. Goodman. “Through the years, Hollin Hills has flowered into a community of homes with its natural beauty intact and enhanced through the efforts of a colony of people who have been, and are, sensitive, educated, industrious and loving of the life within it,” he wrote. The other creator was developer Robert C. Davenport, who reflected, “The natural beauty of the land had to be retained. I was an idealist who wanted to build a community I would be proud of.”

The New Town Era

Hollin Hills was developed during the apex of the “new town” era, an epoch of planned civil engineering and development in the United States. The Washington metropolitan area was at the center of this national movement: the federally sponsored Works Progress Administration developed neighborhoods in Greenbelt, Md., during the Great Depression. The other major new town developments occurred locally in Reston, Va., in the 1960s and Columbia, Md., in the 1970s.

Hollin Hills resident Scott Wilson says, “Innovation has many faces in Hollin Hills, from protection of the heavy tree cover, sinuous street pattern and house siting that fit houses into the landscape, modern “glass box” house design with large windows allowing the outdoors inside, affordability and variability for homeowners, to a strong self-governance ethic among community residents to protect the integrity of the community’s unique design.”

Judy Riggin, another resident, shares that the residents of Hollin Hills have always valued documenting the social interactions fostered by the community’s innovative design and setting, producing a monthly newsletter that has run continuously for over 50 years. She says the community has kept all kinds of records: “Everything from videotapes of party skits in the 1950s to logs of those driving Neighborhood Watch shifts in the 1990s.” The decades of files on the House and Garden Tours show the appeal of the architecture and landscape and that the community has continued to work together for its benefit.

University Libraries Planned Community Archives

“The Hollin Hills Archives will offer insights into how an exemplary community has evolved over the past 63 years,” says Yvonne Carignan, head of Special Collections and Archives at the University Libraries.  “In addition, the materials in this collection complement the Libraries Special Collections and Archives’ strengths in planned community archives.”

University Libraries has 34 distinct archives and manuscript collections related to planned communities and livable communities. For example, the Planned Community Archives, 1960- 2009, with a digital collection funded by the Libraries Advisory Board Chair Catherine Baum, ’81, consists of a materials relating to planned communities across the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with a particular emphasis on the planned community of Reston. All the materials in this collection were preserved by the Planned Community Archives Inc., before being placed with and eventually gifted to the University Libraries.

Another collection, the Partners for Livable Communities (Partners) Collection, 1962-1994, was enhanced by the recently acquired records of Partners from 1972 to 2012.

“The Hollin Hills Archives demonstrate the vitality of this planned community and its dedication to sustainability and livability, documenting architectural and civic design modes of the time to its progression to today,” says University Librarian John Zenelis. “The new collection represents yet another example of the broader and additional planned community materials available through University Libraries with regional and national significance for scholars and researchers across the United States and internationally.”

Write to Robin Herron at

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