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Village Creek Historic District
Dock Road, Outer Road and Split Rock Road, Norwalk, CT 06854
In the midst of the housing shortage of Post- World War II America, some real estate developers discovered that they could raise the value of their properties by imposing deed restrictions with restrictive covenants which excluded certain racial and ethnic groups, usually blacks and Jews, from home ownership. This practice was encouraged by the real estate industry and actually became Federal Government policy through FHA underwriting guidelines. However, there were some, often returning veterans, who believed that everyone should have the right to live wherever they chose to live. Roger Willcox, along with his parents, sisters and sisters’ husbands felt strongly that racial and religious discrimination was simply wrong. When they decided to buy land to build a community, they also decided that the community should be a cooperative based on the Rochdale Principles of equality and non-discrimination. In their 1949 prospectus, the original members of the community stated, “But above all else we wanted a different type of community with a completely democratic character – no discrimination because of race, color, creed or politics.” By including this sentence in their description of their ideal community; they turned the prevailing sentiment of segregation and exclusivity on its head. This principled stance made them heroes to some and enemies to others, but it also made them pioneers in the movement for equal rights.
Village Creek is a 37-acre residential subdivision in Norwalk, Connecticut, consisting of 72 lots averaging one-third of an acre. It includes 67 homes and four community owned sites: tennis courts, playground, beach and marina. The Association encouraged Contemporary-style homes and this stylistic approach is enforced by the Village Creek Architectural Control Committee. The subdivision design takes advantage of the site’s natural contours and water views. The building sites are all situated along three curvilinear streets ending in cul-de-sacs.
Among the architects who designed houses in Village Creek was Percy Ifill (1913–1973) of Ifill Johnson Hanchard, the largest and best-known African-American architectural firm in the Northeast in the 1960s and 1970s. Other architects included Edgar Tafel; Stanley Katz (1915–1978) and Olindo Grossi (1909–2002), both long time teachers at the Pratt Institute and deans of the Pratt Graduate School of Architecture; Victor Lewis (1925–1999) a graduate of the Illinois Technical Institute and a student of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; Estele Margolis (b. 1924); Norman Cherner (1920–1981); and Klaus Grabe (ca. 1912–unknown).
Village Creek founder, Roger Willcox has lived in Village Creek since 1950. He was working as an urban planner at the Regional Plan Association in New York when he conceived and planned Village Creek. This was his first development and his experiences with Village Creek led him to go on to become the leading advocate of cooperative housing in the United States. He served as president of the Foundation for Cooperative Housing Services, Inc. from 1952 to 1971. During this time, the not-for-profit subsidiary of the Cooperative Housing Foundation developed more than 55, 000 dwelling units in 30 states. All of them prohibited discrimination of any kind.
Emily and Phil Oppenheimer and Roger Willcox are the only three founding members still residing in Village Creek.
Village Creek, National Register of Historic Places