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Drop City

April 15, 2010

Drop City was an artists’ community that formed in southern Colorado in 1965. Abandoned by the early 1970s, it became known as the first rural “hippie commune”, as described by John Q McDonald. It was  one of the most famous countercultural experiments in communal living of the decade and was famous for its early use of the geodesic dome and Zome architecture, Drop City won one of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion awards.

Three of the original founders of Drop City met as art students in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1961. They referred to their practice of painting rocks and dropping them from a loft window onto the busy street below as “Drop Art.” Naming their community after their gravity-driven art was the easy part; building it a little harder. But having recently attended a lecture by Buckminster Fuller and now joined by a would-be dome builder from Albuquerque, they began with scrap materials and visionary optimism. The use of recycled materials not only provided shelter, but they also emblemized the group’s refusal to participate in consumerist society.

We can read at the wiki:

Soon the community grew in reputation and size, accelerated by media attention, including news reports on national television networks. The peak of Drop City’s fame was the Joy Festival in June 1967, which attracted hundreds of hippies, some of whom stayed on. With the complex of eight domes and geometric buildings constructed, Curly and Jo, the only official owners of the property, signed it over to a non-profit corporation consisting of the entire core group (then about a dozen). The deed stipulated that the land was “forever free and open to all people”.

According to Mr. Bernofsky, Drop City’s geodesic domes, which came to symbolize alternative living in the late 60’s, were, in retrospect, a mistake, as they helped to attract the nationwide attention which lead to the demise of the community. And he stresses “…we were not models, hippies, or a commune. Those trademarks are strictly the invention of establishment media”.

And we can read at the CLUI site:

After becoming what one of the more notorious denizens called “a decompression-chamber for city freaks,” and with the people that originally founded the community long since departed, Drop City was slowly vacated. Today, much of the property has been developed, though the last of the iconic domes was taken down only in the late 1990s, by a truck repair facility which now occupies a portion of the site.

Above the 1st dome that became the residence of Jill Speed and poet John Curl, after being painted by Linda Fleming and Dean Fleming– artists from Park Place gallery, NYC, who co-founded the “Libre” artists community near Gardner Colorado. Click here to look inside John Curl’s recent novel,”Memories of Drop City” (2007).

Caption: 2nd dome at Drop City, initially the kitchen dome

We can see above the Icosadome, designed by Richard Kallweit and Clark Richert (1965), which initially served as the kitchen pantry and later as the chicken coop.

Drop City’s founders called themselves “droppers” in reference to their original and self-stylized form of conceptual art.  The term “Drop Art” was coined well before the era-branding slogan, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

At Drop City, debris and building remnants from the original settlement remain at the site today, though it is not inhabited. By 1977 it was abandoned, and the members of the non-profit who were still in touch decided to sell off the site to the cattle rancher next door. The last of the iconic domes was taken down only in the late 1990s, by a truck repair facility which now occupies a portion of the site.

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