An open invitation to one and all to see and hear the most amazing home that ever conversed with a Carolinian…
The Madison Park neighborhood in south Charlotte is full of post-WWII model homes. I identified several of them in a survey of modernist architecture recently completed for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. George Goodyear, developer of Selwyn Park and its many additions (which today comprise most of Madison Park) was a charter member of the National Association of Home Builders, and he sought to bring innovative ideas to the home building industry in Charlotte. Many national promotional campaigns found their way to the city and into his subdivisions through this affiliation.
George Goodyear came to Charlotte in 1945 from Pittsburgh, where he had established himself as an active home builder as a young man. Only 32 years old, Goodyear already was active in both local and national levels of NAHB and had been Pennsylvania’s youngest licensed real estate salesman only a few years after graduating high school. In Charlotte, he quickly moved to take part in the growing city’s residential housing market, erecting its first prefabricated houses along Barringer Drive and in Sunset Hills (now part of Dilworth near Ideal Way). In 1948 he began selling lots in Selwyn Park, a greenfield development along Park Road–the original portion retains this name. Over the next decade, Selwyn Park would grow to number around 2,000 houses, and Goodyear had cemented himself as a nationally-regarded builder. He was also unusual in that his George Goodyear Co. also offered mortgages, and his knowledge and expertise on home financing led to his election as president of NAHB in 1957.
Locally, Goodyear also served as president of the Charlotte Home Builders Association in 1953. During his term, CHBA hosted its first Parade of Homes in Selwyn Park. Fourteen homes were constructed on Wentworth Place in a variety of styles, from minimalist traditional ranches to modernist homes designed by noted local architects McDowell & Cooler. The event was wildly successful and continued for many years. During the Parade of Homes, visitors would tour the houses, and hostesses were available to answer questions. This was the typical method of presentation of model homes, one which continues today.
A new way to showcase model homes was introduced to Charlotte in January 1955 with the Talking House at 832 Montford Drive. Wired with a public address system to allow concealed people to respond to questions from home viewers, the Talking House had been utilized in new developments across the country for the past several years. The Charlotte house was designed by architect Andrew Pendleton and designer William T. Leonard of Statesville and built by Bennett Building Company. The Talking House was available for public viewing starting January 2, 1955, and around 25,000 visitors interacted with the home over the next eight days.
The Talking House became a regular exhibition over the next several years. George Goodyear built the next iteration in 1956 at 840 Seneca Place in Selwyn Park, which was visited by over 33,000 during eight days in May. Goodyear enlisted frequent collaborators architect R. Emory Holroyd, Jr. to design the house and Charles B. Martin of Charlotte Construction Company to erect it. Local media personalities voiced the Talking House–Fred Dickson and Dick Curley of WSOC, Fred Knight of WIST, and Gordon Golding and Harry McConnell of the Charlotte Observer.
Builders across the utilized this unique model home to sell their developments–Talking Houses were displayed in Austin, Texas (this is a really good article about Austin’s Talking House); Sarasota, Florida; and Waco, Texas, among other cities during the 1950s and 1960s. The concept was resurrected in 1979 in Orlando, Florida, utilizing both live actors and tape-recorded voice-overs. Today, a Talking House system may still be utilized by home builders or realtors to sell homes.
As for the Talking House in Charlotte, there was no mention of one in newspapers in 1957, though immediately following the previous year another Talking House was announced to be in the planning stages. Perhaps Goodyear did not have the time to devote to the special exhibit as he was serving as president of the NAHB. The Talking House returned in 1958 at 700 Tyvola Road in Selwyn Park, which was the last Goodyear model. One was built in 1959, though it received less fanfare. John Crosland, Jr. built the 1961 Talking House at 3223 Frederick Place in his Spring Valley development off Park Road. Hobart Smith Construction Company displayed the 1962 version in Hidden Valley, a neighborhood in north Charlotte originally developed by Goodyear. By this time, Goodyear had largely exited home building to focus on his flourishing mortgage business.
These two Talking Homes remain today, and at least as of February 2019 (thanks, Google Street View!) remain relatively unchanged.