Almost Utopia

In Search of the Good Life in Mid-Century America

A feature article in the Brattleboro Reformer in 1948 observed that “The Pikes Falls section of Jamaica has, in the past few years, become the settling place for several families who, by ordinary standards, subscribe to radical ideas about how to get the most out of life. Although they have not organized a real community and their interests differ in some respects, they do have certain aims and theories in common which have created a community of interests and have bound them together to an extent.”

In the summer of 1950 New York City photographer Rebecca Lepkoff and her husband Gene bought a summer home in Pikes Falls. The photographs Lepkoff took that season document a neighborhood where long-time local families lived side-by-side with well-known activists Scott and Helen Nearing as well as a group of younger couples committed to such ideals as pacifism, self-sufficiency, and communitarianism. In this exhibit Rebecca Lepkoff's photographs are paired with audio and text from interviews with people who joined the Pikes Falls community in the 1940s and 50s. Taken together they offer a window into this community’s efforts to create an alternative vision for American society—an enterprise with renewed relevance for the challenges that we face today.