In 1965, the four original founders, Gene Bernofsky ("Curly"), JoAnn Bernofsky ("Jo"), Richard Kallweit ("Lard"), and Clark Richert ("Clard"), art students and filmmakers from the University of Kansas and University of Colorado, bought a 7-acre (28,000 m2) tract of land about four miles (6 km) north of Trinidad, in southeastern Colorado. Their intention was to create a live-in work of Drop Art, continuing an art concept they had developed earlier at the University of Kansas. Drop Art (sometimes called "droppings") 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 folks had a 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..."
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". 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. Among the innovative endeavors to evolve out of Drop City are:
- in 1969, the early solar energy company – Zomeworks, in Albuquerque, NM;
- the artists' group "Criss-Cross", operative in New York and Colorado in the 1970s;
- the development of the "61-Zone System" by ZomeTool of Boulder, Colorado;
- and in the early 1980s, an important discovery of a cubic fusion of interpenetrating fractal tetrahedra by Richard Kallweit.
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.
In 1993, an Indie Rock band from Sydney, Australia formed using the name Drop City. In 2007, a different, Denver based, Indie Rock band formed with the same name.
In 1971, author, and Drop City resident, Peter Rabbit's novel "Drop City" was published.
The indie rock band Ultimate Painting, formed in 2013, is named after one of the paintings made by the Drop City community.
- Rabbit, Peter. (1971). Drop City. The Olympia Press, Inc. p. cover Review
- Miller writes that the land was bought for $450 on May 3, 1965. Matthews agrees on the date but puts the price at $750. He writes that Bernofsky and Richert paid cash derived from sale of some marijuana.
- The most important part was a check for $500. Matthews writes (p. 165) "The Dymaxion award has never been heard of since."
- Curl, Chapter 17
- Gene "Curly" Bernofsky later wrote that nationwide attention contributed to the commune's demise "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2007-03-13.. Matthews writes (p. 188) that Bernofsky hid in his dome throughout the Joy Festival, and quit, disgusted, the very next day.
- Curl, p. 88
- Curl writes (p. 233) that Curly and Jo were, in fact, opposed to the sale but were overruled.
- Senrud, Christian (April 27, 2010). "Comune Drop City Launch Party Recap". Skateboarder Magazine. Sekora, Andrew, photographs. San Clemente, CA, USA: GrindMedia, LLC. ISSN 1535-2889. OCLC 45290411. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "DROP CITY OVERVIEW". Los Angeles, CA, USA: COMUNE. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- Curl, John (2007). Memories of Drop City, The First Hippie Commune of the 1960s and the Summer of Love, a memoir. iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-42343-4.
- Matthews, Mark (2010). Droppers: America's First Hippie Commune, Drop City. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-4058-2.
- Miller, Timothy (1991). The Hippies and American Values. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0-87049-694-8.
- Rabbit, Peter (1971). Drop City. The Olympia Press, Inc. ASIN B0006VUQEI.
- John Q McDonald – 21 July 2006
- Miller, Timothy. Bringing It All Together: DROP CITY
- Zome-inspired Sculpture by Paul Hildebrandt
- Simon Sadler, "Drop City Revisited," Journal of Architectural Education, vol. 58, no. 1, 2006, pp. 5–14
- Drop City information on the Center for Land Use Interpretation site
- Clark Richert and Drop City Website
- Memories of DROP CITY: The First Hippie Commune of the 1960s and the Summer of Love, A Memoir by John Curl