Drop City

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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.’

In 1965, the four original founders, art students and filmmakers from the University of Kansas and University of Colorado, bought a 7-acre tract of land in south eastern Colorado. Their intention was to create a live-in work of what they called ‘Drop Art’ (sometimes called ‘droppings’), which was informed by the ‘happenings’ of Allan Kaprow and the impromptu performances, a few years earlier, of John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Buckminster Fuller, at Black Mountain College.

As Drop City gained notoriety in the 1960s underground, people from around the world came to stay and work on the construction projects. Inspired by the architectural ideas of Buckminster Fuller and Steve Baer, residents constructed domes and zonohedra to house themselves, using geometric panels made from the metal of automobile roofs and other inexpensive materials.

In 1967 the group, now consisting of 10 core people, won Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion award for their constructions. The Firesign Theatre (an American comedy troupe) had a faux commercial: ”kids, tear the top off your daddy’s car, and send it, together with 10 cents in cash or coin, to Drop City, Colorado…’

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, the 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.’

But tensions and personality conflicts were already a problem within the group, and soon became unbearable. By the end of 1968, some of the original occupants of the community had moved to Boulder, Colorado to start an artists’ cooperative, ‘Criss-Cross,’ whose purpose, like Drop City’s, was to function in a ‘synergetic’ interaction between peers (no bosses) to create experimental artistic innovation.

By 1970, many intentional communities had developed in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, some of which were inspired by Drop City. Libre, north of Gardner, Colorado was founded by several ex-‘Droppers,’ and was among the more well known. Some communities continue to exist in some form today (notably in the Taos, NM area).

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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