Even before architect Leonard Parker had completed some of his best-known works — the Minneapolis Convention Center, the University of Minnesota's law school and the U's Humphrey School of Public Affairs — he was highly sought after for his modernist style.
So much so that in the 1960s, two doctors commissioned Parker to dream up their family home in St. Paul's Highland Park area.
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"They wanted it to be modern, elegant but very warm," said Paula Maccabee, who grew up in the house that her parents, Drs. Malka and Ernest Goodman, had built. "It was pretty advanced thinking at the time [with the siting] and so many windows facing south and then the overhang with the cedar shakes so that the direct hot sun doesn't get inside."
The nearly 5,000-square-foot house was completed in 1966, allowing Maccabee, her two siblings and their parents to enjoy the house designed to host public and private gatherings.
Malka and Ernest were known for their generosity, and they extended their home to others in times of need. Maccabee recalls how her parents sheltered unwed mothers who were ostracized by their communities. The Goodmans were also philanthropists and patrons of the arts, and Maccabee remembers how it wasn't unusual for revelers to gather at their home and take turns on the grand piano.
"After a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert, sometimes there would be an impromptu after-party and a few musicians would come over and play music for a bit," she said. "The dining room was formal. They would host dinner parties. One course after another, the whole thing."
Malka and Ernest liked to cook gourmet meals, often together. That became the driving force behind Parker carving out an even larger kitchen than initially sketched.
"Leonard Parker designed it a generous size, but my mom and dad insisted it wasn't big enough. They cooked him an amazing gourmet meal and he went back and redid the plans," she said.
Family time was also important. "It was designed with some wonderful family spaces that have some intimacy," Maccabee said. "We spent most of our time in the family room, the room with the fireplace and bright carpet. We played cards and did puzzles. It was really unique because it's elegant but yet it feels warm."
Ahead of its timelessness
Maccabee's parents have since passed, and the family recently listed the four-bedroom, five-bathroom house on Davern Street.
Maccabee said the house has been well-kept and given upgrades over the years. At the same time, its midcentury modern characteristics remain, from the natural slate tile in the entryway and the clerestory and skylight windows to the built-in cabinetry and cedar ceilings.
"It's untouched in terms of the basic design. It still feels airy and light," she said. "My mom and dad kept the initial blueprints, and they're still in the house today. A person could look at the original blueprints and look at the house and see the same walls, the same flooring, the same windows."
And while the house has stayed true to an era, it also evokes a timelessness.
"This house feels as modern today as it did then because the artist was such a visionary with the use of natural woods and open spaces, and it's also such a solid construction," Maccabee said.
A study in design
Bobak Ha'Eri, historian and board member of Docomomo MN, an organization specializing in modernist buildings, said the house captures the award-winning architect's signature style.
"Here you see his typical employment of ample daylit space and a true modernist's honest use of materials," Ha'Eri said. "He was also known for his use of brick, but it really only appears here in a handsome family room fireplace."
Parker, who ran his own firm and taught architecture at the University of Minnesota, designed the Goodman house to look unassuming from the street with details gradually expanding into the backyard.
Listing agent Mike Lynch said that while the house provides a rare opportunity to live in a midcentury "time capsule" by a celebrated architect, the backyard and the size of the lot are also large draws.
"It's pretty rare in St. Paul where you're going to find a half-acre lot. The other thing about the backyard or the entire lot is it's really perfectly flat so it's really usable," he said. "There have even been two weddings held in this backyard."
Maccabee's wedding was one of them. It's one of the many great memories of the house she'll take with her.
"I'm just hoping whoever buys it will want to live beautifully and love it and the community — everything that my parents valued."
Mike Lynch (Mike.firstname.lastname@example.org; 612-619-8227) of Lakes Sotheby's International Realty has the $995,000 listing.