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Mid-Century Roadtrip: Rush Creek Village

August 11, 2017

While we traveled to Columbus to see the Lustron House preserved at the Ohio History Center, we’re always looking for more mid-century locations to investigate. Enter Rush Creek Village, just outside Columbus in Worthington, Ohio.

Rush Creek Village is an enclave within Worthington of 49 homes, designed and built in the 1950’s to capitalize on the rolling landscape in the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired organic architectural style. Today the neighborhood is still intact due to the not-for-profit established in 1954 along with the protections afforded by the listing of the neighborhood on the National Register in 2003.

Round house in Rush Creek Village

Round house in Rush Creek Village.

House 02
Home with red corner brick banding.

The first house established in Rush Creek Village was for the Wakefield family. The Wakefields had traveled to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, studio, and school, and spoke with him about building a home for them. Wright’s answer was to go back home, build a house themselves and then for a neighbor. Returning to Ohio, the Wakefield’s purchased land on the south side of Worthington and selected an architect, Theodore Van Fossen to design and build their home. Van Fossen was a graduate of the New Bauhaus school in Chicago and had also worked on the construction of several of Wright’s buildings of the era. Not only did the Wakefield’s ask Van Fossen to design and build their house, but to also plan the neighborhood of 50 lots that were subdivided from the Wakefield’s parcel.

Car port of home with concrete and glass breeze-style block inserts.
Home in Rush Creek Village with car port and deep overhangs.

The homes of Rush Creek were each designed to relate to both the winding roads and ravines as well as to one another.  Where one eave line leaves off, it relates to the neighboring house, not by repetition but by height and horizontal lines.  Certain homes became anchors for the homes around it with repeating themes which play off one another.  As each of the plots were developed, the title was not released to the home’s purchaser until the plans could be approved by the board of Rush Creek.  The development of the Village has continued to embrace restrictions with Van Fossen himself weighing in on any additions or changes to homes in the Village up to a few years before his death in 2011 at the age of 91.

Rush Creek Map
Map of Rush Creek Village showing plots and houses.
Pepinsky House Rendering
Rendering of the Pepinsky House
Pepinsky House Plan
Plan of the Pepinsky House

(Historic images above via the Ohio History Connection)

Some of the materials in the homes are more exotic such as mahogany and cypress woods.  Others are more utilitarian such as the use of concrete blocks that assist with the structural requirements of holding back earth from the sloping sites.  The concrete blocks were utilized both above and below ground in Van Fossen’s designs as he felt that the concrete material blended well with the wood and large expanses of glass on the homes.  The block was locally made, and some were tinted to better blend with the landscape.  Interiors often had exposed block and wood, but windows dominated walls to allow in the beauty of the natural landscape.

The neighborhood is still a coveted place to live.  Houses often are sold from family to family without coming onto the open market.  Unusual for the time at which the Village was developed in the 1950’s, there were no covenants against race or religion to live in the development.  As one owner said in this New York Times’ article, “The only discrimination we practice here is architectural.”

Home with a triangular overhang.
Concrete block home.
Monument- Back
Rush Creek Monument - Back. It reads, "An Idea of Martha Wakefield. Designed By Theodore Van Fossen. Developed By The Members. Built By Richard Wakefield."

For more information, see this video presentation all about Rush Creek Village including interviews with Martha Wakefield and Theodore Van Fossen.

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