Northwood News ♦ October 2009
Northwood Park’s ‘New York World’s Fair Home’
By David S. Rotenstein
For a few months in 1939, the North Four Corners neighborhood hosted throngs
of tourists as they visited the only exact replica of one of the demonstration
homes in the 1939 New York World’s Fair “Town of Tomorrow.”
House No. 15, dubbed the “Triple-Insulated Home” by manufacturer
and sponsor Johns-Manville Corporation, was a one-and-a-half story Cape Cod
cottage described by the Fair as a “Long Island Colonial Home.”
The New York World’s Fair remained open for two seasons in 1939 and 1940
and, despite global press coverage of its demonstration homes, only one replica
licensed by the Fair was ever built. Located at 10163 Sutherland Road
(formerly 104 Maplewood Ave.), Washington’s World’s Fair Home may
be one of the most significant twentieth century residences in Montgomery County.
This Library of Congress photo, dated 1939, shows
the New York World’s Fair Demonstration Home Number 15.
The World’s Fair home was the brainchild of James and Nelle Wilson. The
Wilsons came to the Washington area in 1934 or 1935; James was a civil engineer who
went into business with Washington real estate developer Waldo M. Ward and Nelle
was the daughter of Chicago newspaperwoman Margaret Foley. The path the
Wilsons took to our area is unclear, but their impact survives in the subdivision
they created in 1936. Northwood Park, the heart of the North Four Corners
neighborhood, was platted in early 1936 after Ward bought approximately 28 acres of
forested farmland west of Colesville Pike. The Wilsons then formed a company,
Garden Homes, Inc., to sell Northwood Park’s homes and lots. By July of 1936,
20 homes were under construction.
The promotional brochure for Demonstration Home No. 15, the
“Long Island Colonial Home,” for the New York World’s Fair
“Town of Tomorrow.”
Northwood Park was an ordinary subdivision with modest brick Cape Cod cottages
and larger stone Tudor Revival houses marketed to young professionals with new
families. Using common real estate trade tools, Garden Homes lured
prospective buyers through creatively illustrated and worded display ads hawking
Northwood Park’s rustic charm and affordability. The firm used themed
models like the Bride’s Home and the Anniversary Home equipped with the
latest modern gas appliances; some came with a brand new car in the garage and a
supply of groceries. Garden Homes’ ads were packed with multiple
meanings to bring middle class doctors, engineers, and government employees into
their subdivision. Their most successful marketing vehicle was the
World’s Fair Home, which drew thousands of sightseers and many prospective
buyers to Northwood Park in the spring of 1939 during a carefully crafted 120-day
How the still-occupied home on Sutherland Road looks today.
The 1939 World’s Fair Town of Tomorrow was built along a cul-de-sac designed
to evoke the popular Garden City single-family-home suburbs being built throughout
the United States. Demonstration Home No. 15 was designed to appeal to
homebuyers driven by “tradition and sentiment,” looking for all of the
“comfort and convenience” afforded by the modern building materials
used to build the house and its state-of-the-art appliances. The
approximately 1,228-square-foot home included a fully finished basement; a first
floor with kitchen, maid’s room, and workshop in addition to the living room
and dining room; and an upper floor with three bedrooms.
Demonstration Home No. 15 was singled out by the media as one of the most
desirable homes in the Town of Tomorrow. The home was featured on the cover
of the June 1939 issue of American Builder and Building Age and it was
illustrated in McCall’s magazine as well as in
The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The June 1939 issue of “American Builder and Building Age”
with Demonstration Home No. 15 on its cover.
The contract between Garden Homes and the World’s Fair required Garden Homes
to call the home “a New York World’s Fair House” and for
“the plans and specifications used by the Fair Corporation in the
construction of House No. 15 of the Town of Tomorrow” to be followed
exactly. Garden Homes was also required to retain the original architects,
the New York firm of Godwin, Thompson, and Patterson, to provide the original plans.
The 16 July 1939
Washington Post ad for
Northwood Park’s World’s Fair Home Tour.
Garden Homes staged a ceremonial groundbreaking on 7 April 1939. Over the
next three months, The Washington Post
published articles documenting the
progress on the house. When the house was completed in July 1939,
Garden Homes hosted another event that included a parade from
downtown Silver Spring and up Colesville Road, ending at the
World’s Fair Home. The 14 July 1939 dedication included a speech by
Maryland Secretary of State Francis Petrott, followed by a private cocktail party
for local, state, and federal officials as well as the project’s various
The home remained open to the public throughout July and into August of
1939. According to The Washington Post, about 4,500 people visited
the first day of public viewing. By the end of the publicity campaign, more
than 27,000 people had visited the home and Northwood Park. On 13 August
1939, Garden Homes held its last public event at the home when James Wilson gave
the house’s key to new owners, Dr. Mario and Pauline Scandiffio.
Mario Scandiffio was a Washington pediatrician and his wife was a
Bureau of Engraving employee who also sang blues music and hosted a radio show on
station WOL. The Scandiffios lived in the home until 1952 when he sold his
practice and moved the family to Florida. The Scandiffios sold the house to
John and Irene Kirby; the home is still in the Kirby family.
The research into the World’s Fair Home is part of a larger project I am
doing on the history of Northwood Park. As part of this research, I am
looking for photographs of the neighborhood taken between 1936 and c. 1960.
I am also interested in personal accounts from folks who lived here during that
time. Please email me at [email redacted] if you have any
information or photographs. ■