Obituary: James Moore Goode, 1939–2019

by Richard Longstreth | Feb 05, 2020

James Goode was a local historian in the very best sense of that term. Between 1974 and 2015 he published six books (the first three reissued in substantially expanded form) on various aspects of the built environment of his adopted city of Washington, D.C. He also enjoyed a distinguished career as a curator for public and private collections and was, himself, an avid collector of art. Finally, he made a significant contribution to SAH when he donated a major electronic file he had compiled: “Goode’s Bibliography: Doctoral Dissertations Relating to American Architectural History 1897–1995.” That document, in turn, formed the basis for an ongoing SAH project, “Dissertations Completed in Architectural History.”

A native of Statesville, North Carolina, Goode received his B.A. from the University of South Carolina (1964) and his master’s in history from the University of Virginia (1966). After working for two years in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, he was hired by Richard Howland (a founding member of SAH and twice its vice president) to manage architectural records at the Smithsonian in 1970. The following year he was appointed curator of the Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle), a post he held for 16 years. Goode left the Smithsonian to pursue a Ph.D. in American Studies at George Washington University, where I had the pleasure to direct his program of studies, graduating in 1995. Thereafter, he became curator of the archives of the B. F. Saul Company, a multi-faceted operation that had been the development of Washington since the antebellum period. Finally, he curated the extensive Washingtoniana collection of Albert Small and was instrumental in the gift of that material to George Washington University.

From his early years at the Smithsonian, Goode was allowed time to research and write on subjects of his own interest. The first book that resulted was The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C. (1974), a copious examination of such civic adornments in a city long renowned for such work and a pioneering venture of its kind. Five years later he completed Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington’s Destroyed Buildings, which was no less meticulous and, unlike many other volumes of lost heritage, was detailed enough to serve as a key reference work on the city’s architecture. Best Addresses: One Hundred Years of Washington’s Distinguished Apartment Houses followed in 1988, when study of that building type was still at a nascent stage. Goode’s book provided not only a detailed examination of a major component of the city’s landscape, it proved essential reading to anyone concerned with the history of apartment houses in the United States.

Each of these hefty volumes was further developed in the ensuing years. Best Addresses was expanded with recent apartment buildings in 2003. That same year Capital Losses was considerably enlarged, not just with buildings destroyed in the intervening 24 years, but with new discoveries of work lost well before the first edition. Goode’s first book was recast as Washington Sculpture: A Cultural History of Outdoor Sculpture in the Nation’s Capital, in 2008, nearly twice the size of its predecessor and now including work in nearby Maryland and Virginia communities.

Goode went on to compile Capital Views (2012), a stunning annotated assemblage of photographs, many of them rare, of Washington and environs. The Evolution of Washington, D.C. (2015) was a fitting sequel, drawn from images in the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection on the occasion of its transfer to GW. Finally, Goode wrote Capital Houses of Washington, D.C., and Environs (2015), meticulously exploring an array of architecturally distinctive residences in the metropolitan area. To this list can be added articles on a wide variety of subjects from the early development of National Airport to the design of presidential reviewing stands for the inaugural parade.

While Goode’s contribution to scholarship was noteworthy he always wrote for a informed general audience, and his work has greatly enhanced the public’s understanding and appreciation of the built environment. This outreach secured him the Visionary Historian Award from the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and the District of Columbia Lifetime Achievement Award in Historic Preservation. He was adept as securing sufficient subventions to make his books as elegant in design and sumptuous in presentation as they were informative in content. His contribution to Washington was substantial and enduring. Every city should be so fortunate.

Richard Longstreth




Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.
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