Rush Creek Village
Rush Creek Village is a unique subdivision of Worthington. It is what is loosely described as an organically designed subdivision. Today it consists of 48 (with an expected 2 additional homes yet to be built) in what can be called very non-traditional homes that for all intents and purposes, look like they were all designed by the master architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Each home appears to be unique, not only in size and construction, but also in its siting, but they do share a few very important characteristics. You won't find any garages or the traditional American lawn. You will find homes that all seem to have flat roofs, with wide overhangs, an unusually large amount of glass that takes in the beauty of Rush Creek's natural landscape, and compared to today's mega complex home estates, the Rush Creek Village homes are incredibly small in terms of square footage. Oh yes, if you take the time to visit with the village locals, you'll find an odd assortment of neighbors that appreciate the uniqueness of their neighborhood in such a way that they can't imagine living anywhere else.
Each of the homes sit on an irregular lot that encompasses close to 1 acre and is usually set back from from the curving road. With most of the glass facing away from neighbors and the street, earthy views of the deep ravine afford a large measure of privacy and seclusion for the homeowners. Other than the newer cars tucked underneath the attached carports, the village looks much as it did a half century ago, for 2 very good reasons.
One of the distinctions of Rush Creek Village are the unique deed restrictions. First, is the owner does not actually own the land, but only the right to build on the land. These strongly enforced deed restrictions also limit any changes to existing structures as to the size and outside appearance of the buildings, including the landscape in such a way that might hamper another neighbor's view. The other factor retaining the unique quality of the neighborhood lies with the construction techniques used to build the homes.
Frank Lloyd Wright's "Usonian" Style
Using avant-garde construction techniques, the homes Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built did not in the long run, stand up to the rigors placed upon structures that actually had to survive harsh climates. His unique design style that he called Usonian described a style of architecture and construction that he felt would be appropriate for the general population specific to the United States. He thought that small homes, with lots of built-ins would maximize the space, saving dollars, yet providing for unique living quarters. Where Wright failed is in his construction methods.
While Rush Creek mimics Wright's Usonian style, it was the construction techniques that made it different and long lasting. Other Wright-style enclaves based on the Usonia mantra suffered from extensive maintenance problems that ultimately led to their demise. Rush Creek homes were built using traditional construction methods, tried and tested for the harsh winters of Central Ohio. That makes Rush Creek Village one of the few remaining and active Usonia villages in the country.
The Establishment of Rush Creek Village
In the late 1940s, Martha Wakefield met Frank Lloyd Wright at his his winter home known as Taliesin West, located in the Sonoran desert. During that encounter, Wright gave her the following advice: go build yourself a home and build a home for your neighbors. A few years later that was what she did in the small New England village of Worthington, Ohio.
Martha and her husband Richard bought the land on the south side of the Worthington, and began construction of their home in 1956. They selected Theodore van Fossen as the architect and builder. Mr. Van Fossen was not unfamiliar with Frank Lloyd Wright and his Usonian style that had so impressed Mrs. Wakefield. The reason was that as a young man studying architecture and design at the recently created New Bauhaus school in Chicago in the late 1930s, Van Fossen got a summer job doing construction work on several of Wright-designed homes being built in the area. During this time he developed a strong appreciation for how each of the homes were created to best take advantage of the surrounding environment.
After completing his education, Mr. Van Fossen moved back to his hometown in central Ohio where he began designing and building homes. In the early 1950s, the Wakefields convinced Mr. Van Fossen to plan their community around the property which had been surveyed and platted into 50 nearly one-acre irregular lots around the curving roads and the land's steep ravines found in the area around Rush Creek.
Unlike many of Wright's Usonia-style homes, Theodore van Fossen actually realized there was more to erecting a house than just putting together pieces of wood and steel, much more in fact. His projects had the same flair as Frank Lloyd Wright as well as other intangibles we don't often see in our suburban developments. Fossen paid close attention to the details of creating a structure that worked best with the land it was being built upon. Many of the original Usonian houses were plagued by maintenance problems because of experimental construction methods including the use of thin structural walls. Here, Mr. Van Fossen used more standard framing and construction methods appropriate for Ohio's climate.
Theodore Van Fossen succeeded in creating a village that takes maximum advantage of the landscape, without the need for bull-dozing and leveling the landscape. Mr. Van Fossen became the long-standing architect who advised Mrs. Wakefield as to what was appropriate for the village. In 1954, the Rush Creek Village Company was legally established as a not for profit corporation. It is comprised of the Residents of Rush Creek Village, and meets annually. The Rush Creek Village Board of Trustees is elected from the residents, and meets monthly. "Friends of Rush Creek Village" is a study group of the Worthington Historical Society.