Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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The Unusable Zoning Override Threat: Analyzing the State Urban Development Corporation’s Westchester Plans

February 15, 2024

This research report aims to explicate the tactics underpinning the State Urban Development Corporation's ill-fated efforts, between February 18, 1970 and 1973, to construct affordable housing in generally affluent, suburban Westchester County.  Designed to cut through federal and local municipal red tape that disincentivized private industry from entering the affordable housing field, Governor Nelson Rockefeller hoped that the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) could play a pivotal role in solving the state's housing crisis.  The UDC bore the unique power to override local zoning codes. It thus became immediately controversial, inducing the corporation's first president, the (in)famous Bostonian urban planner Edward Logue, to emphasize the UDC's ability to work with local municipal officials to construct much-needed housing, often through a locally-managed subsidiary corporation.  When the UDC entered Westchester County on February 18, 1970, hoping to expand its operations to the state's suburbs, these tactics proved ineffective in the face of the county's traditionally decentralized politics, municipal and county officials' long history of support for restrictive zoning and single-family residential construction, and the weakening political position of the county's once-powerful Republican Party.  Additionally, widespread protests against state-led public works projects in the late 1960s sapped local support for Governor Rockefeller's administration just before the UDC entered the county.  Combined, these factors conspired to enable affluent, white Westchester residents and officials to stall out the UDC until they could form a coalition of state legislators to pass a bill eliminating the UDC's zoning override powers, effectively ending state-level efforts to construct affordable housing.

Cary Reich Papers; Nelson A. Rockefeller Gubernatorial Records; Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers; Rockefeller Family; Urban and Suburban; Warren T. Lindquist Papers

New Paradigms of Urban Planning in Developing Countries and the Ford Foundation: The Case of the Special Programs in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at MIT (1967-1976)

October 28, 2020

This report provides an overview of Ford Foundation (FF) support for the structuring of urban planning theories and methods, responding to the issues facing developing countries during the 1960s and 1970s. My research gathered much data on the FF's support for innovative urban planning and community management in developing countries from the 1950s to the 1990s. However, this report focuses specifically on the support of the Ford Foundation for the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), from its establishment in 1967 to the early 1980s. By the early 1980s, SPURS was a durable program which trained dozens of high-profile professionals coming mostly from developing countries. The view of the program provided by the reports and correspondence located at the Rockefeller Archive Center shows the Ford Foundation's contribution and influence in setting up an internationalized professional field for urban planning. The grant records are instrumental for comprehending how this program was both developing an international network of professionals and advocating for housing policies that related to the special needs of self-help squatters' owner-builders. Lastly, my report introduces a discussion regarding the influence of SPURS in the shift of urban planning doctrine for cities of the "Global South" and especially for slums management that was recognized at the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, held in Vancouver in 1976, more commonly known as Habitat I.

Ford Foundation; Social Sciences; Urban and Suburban

"Bringing the Machine to the House": The IBEC System and Experimental Housing in Baghdad, Iraq, 1953-58

August 27, 2019

This report studies the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) Housing Corporation (IHC) and its attempts to build prefabricated housing in Baghdad, Iraq during the 1950s. Architect Wallace K. Harrison experimented with cast-in-place concrete to create "a house built like a sidewalk." This process came to be known as the "IBEC System," leading to IHC mass-produced housing projects in Virginia, Florida, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Iraq, and Iran. In 1955, the Development Board of Iraq hired Greek architect Constantinos Doxiadis to develop a comprehensive five-year plan for the nation's housing shortages. With Doxiadis urging experimentation in construction technique and with IHC's desire to secure access to the Middle East, IHC applied for contracts to build mass-produced housing in Iraq under this program. In 1950s Iraq, Pan-Arabism was taking hold. IHC imported expensive equipment into Baghdad and built demonstration housing, with the ambition to build hundreds of houses; however, on July 14, 1958, the reigning monarchy was overthrown and IHC, along with other western firms, left Iraq, abandoning their projects and equipment. This short report summarizes this story.

Planning and Ideology: American-Yugoslav Project

December 11, 2017

In 1968 the Ford Foundation (FF) approved a grant of $180,000 to Wayne State University (WSU) over a two-year period to support the American-Yugoslav Project (AYP). The grant proposal was made by Jack C. Fischer, Vladimir Mušič and Lojze Rojec to Stanley T. Gordon of the FF in order to assist the American-Yugoslav Project for Regional and Urban Planning Studies and thus to complete experimental plans for the city and region of Ljubljana. At the same time the FF grant would also continue to support interdisciplinary training in urban-regional planning methods for Yugoslav specialists.

Cold War; Ford Foundation; Urban and Suburban

Remapping the Midcentury Metropolis: The Ford Foundation and the Joint Center for Urban Studies of MIT and Harvard University

January 1, 2014

The Ford Foundation played a key role in identifying and responding to the nation's urban crisis during the long 1960s. As ever the Ford attacked the problem along multiple fronts, simultaneously plying policymakers while investing resources in programs for the poor and displaced as well as in vanguard intellectual movements at leading research universities. Believing that there was a direct connection between ideas and action, and that American research universities were the best site for the generation of usable knowledge on the city and its inhabitants, the foundation bet the future of the metropolis on the Joint Center for Urban Studies of MIT and Harvard University.

The American Way: IBEC Housing Projects in Latin America

January 1, 2010

Following his service as the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nelson A. Rockefeller left the government to continue efforts to improve the health, education, and infrastructure of Latin America through private means by creating the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC). IBEC was a private company, dedicated to the idea that capitalism -- rather than government efforts -- could profitably solve the socioeconomic needs of underdeveloped areas. A 1960s IBEC pamphlet described IBEC's mission: "In order to persuade other private companies in the developed world to contribute to this development role and thus achieve the 'multiplier' effect, IBEC designated profit-making as one of its chief objectives."

Planning Through the Private Sphere and the Transformation of Reform in Early Twentieth Century America

January 1, 2010

The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) determined in the early 1920s that development of a program in housing reform was an appropriate field of activity, yet over the next two decades, it would repeatedly lament its failure to develop such a program. The RF's home city of New York occupied the national vanguard in housing reform, containing a dense network of organizations with a tradition of reform dating at least to the 1850s. While not always directly participating in groups such as the Association to Improve the Condition of the Poor, the Committee on the Congestion of Population, the Bureau of Municipal Research, the National Housing Association, committees on zoning, and others, RF officials remained part of the social world defined by organizations such as these. So it is probably natural that they wished to participate in this collective project, as an emblem of belonging to the reform community.

Rockefeller Family Involvement in New York Housing during the 1930s: European Models and the American Legacy

January 1, 2009

While the history of New York federal public housing projects during the New Deal years has been intensely explored by scholars in different fields, little consideration has been given to the local discourse on low-cost housing promoted by private institutions, associations, families and foundations during the same years. In fact, as the role of philanthropy in the city development has been in some measure addressed by scholars in a number of essays ("Philanthropy and the City: A Historical Overview", Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Rockefeller Archive Center, September 2000, sponsored by Russell Sage Foundation and David Rockefeller), little of the American literature on public housing history pays particular attention to the significant role that philanthropy had in the development of housing for low-income families in New York urban fabric. Scholars working on the history of New York public housing (Plunz, 1990) and on the influence of foreign models in the development of a US housing debate during the Thirties (Pommer 1993), as well as the most recent studies in the field (Bloom 2008), usually focus on American bureaucracy and governmental agencies and rarely attempt to highlight the significant role that European architects and ideas had in the development of new social housing programs for New York.

The Transnationalization of the Urban "Question" in Post War Latin America

January 1, 2009

During the 1950s, the increasing urban problems associated with rising poverty, insufficient urban infrastructure, the alarming housing shortages, and the ignominious presence of squatter settlements in Latin American cities became an object of substantial concern to a number of different actors at the local, national, and transnational level. In response to the rapid population growth and unprecedented rural-to-urban migration that swelled in the region, social theorists, public policymakers, urban planners, politicians, and philanthropic organizations throughout the Americas asked how the postwar Latin American city might house a burgeoning population.

John D. Rockefeller and the Golf House in Lakewood, New Jersey

January 1, 2008

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to be with you tonight to talk about John D. Rockefeller, and to finally have the opportunity to visit Lakewood. As someone whose job is to help other researchers learn about our collections and to figure out how the archives might be helpful for their research, I rarely get an opportunity for any concentrated study of the materials themselves, so I am doubly pleased to have been able to use this occasion not only to get out of the archives and see where Rockefeller history happened, but also to have a chance to examine in some detail certain aspects of John D. Rockefeller's life in Lakewood. Tonight I hope to give you a better sense of who John D. Rockefeller was, where his life in Lakewood fits in the larger picture of his life and career, and to review some of the particular details that the archives reveal about the history of the Rockefeller estate in Lakewood, which he always called Golf House.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Forest Hill Housing Development in Cleveland, Ohio

January 1, 2008

I am pleased to be back in Cleveland and to have the opportunity to talk about the two subjects that have been at the center of my career as a professional historian -- Cleveland and the Rockefellers. I was very fortunate to have been able to move from working on the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History in 1987 to the Rockefeller Archive Center, where my knowledge of Cleveland history has come in handy. I always appreciate receiving requests from and about Cleveland, especially from people working on aspects of Cleveland history that intersect with the Rockefellers.

Partners in Housing Reform: The Apartment Developments of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Charles O. Heydt, and Andrew J. Thomas

January 1, 2008

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. is known for many accomplishments -- for developing Rockefeller Center, for example; for restoring Colonial Williamsburg, and for his support of conservation and the national parks across America. He is not well known as a housing reformer. Yet in the 1920s, Rockefeller and his real estate advisor, Charles O. Heydt, formed an unusual partnership with the architect Andrew J. Thomas, built around Thomas's pioneering ideas about the "garden apartment." Heydt brought together Rockefeller money and Thomas's ideas about tenement reform to build experimental model housing projects in Bayonne, New Jersey, in the Bronx, in Harlem, and in North Tarrytown (now Sleepy Hollow), the small town near the Rockefeller estate in Westchester County.

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