Fascinating finds on the campus of Unity Village
Appreciating Rickert’s Architecture
AROUND THE VILLAGE
Describe Unity Village in one word. Most people choose
peaceful, centering, still, calm, or serene. I believe another
word encompasses the pure, physical awesomeness of the
The grounds here are an architectural marvel. Gorgeous
little dwellings in the English Cotswold style, reminiscent
of the old country’s meadow landscapes, dot the outer
portions of the Village, while the grandiose Mediterranean-inspired buildings at the center of campus command
attention. Iconic just might be an understatement.
As many familiar with the Unity movement know, the
genius who designed these architectural masterpieces was
Waldo Rickert Fillmore, known as Rickert, the second son
of Unity founders Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore.
As Unity archivist Mark Scherer puts it, “This entire
campus is Rickert’s signature.”
Rickert’s artistic ability was apparent at an early age,
and his talent took him to Chicago, where he earned a
four-year degree from the esteemed Chicago Art Institute
(CAI). (Rickert was enrolled along with another famous
Missouri visionary/artist, according to the school’s 1907-
1908 annual: Thomas Hart Benton.)
After graduating from the CAI, Rickert was involved
in several ventures in the Kansas City, Missouri, area,
as well as in Colorado, but it was his travels in Europe
around 1910 that inspired his designs for the Village.
He first visited England and then Italy, where he studied
in Rome. Scherer speculates that Rickert may have also
spent time in Seville, Spain, although the Unity Archives
has no records confirming that.
“His architectural style was born in Europe,” Scherer
explains, “but when World War I broke out he had to
Rickert’s love of architecture blossomed, his interest
in it apparent in excerpts from Arthur Zebley’s From the
Beginning—Unity, volume two. One passage describes two
of Rickert’s favorite books in his personal library as being
Florentine History and Samuel Chamberlain’s Domestic
Architecture in Rural France. The excerpt goes on to
describe how much of the architecture around the Village
(including the bowl-shaped fountain in the Rose Garden)
is reminiscent of pictures in both books.
The first two Village buildings Rickert designed, the
Tower and the original Silent Unity Building (which
now houses the Unity Archives and Unity Worldwide
Ministries), were finished in 1929. Building continued
until his master plan was completed in 1989, 24 years
after his transition.
It’s difficult for me to think about how a brief period
in one person’s life would be the basis for everything I
see around me when I come to work. Nearly everything
I’ve written about in this column is a result of Rickert’s
planning for the Village, including the Unity Clubhouse,
the Tower, the Blue Room, Myrtle Fillmore Grove, and
even the golf course.
Rickert’s longtime assistant Otto Arni was quoted in
an article written by Dorthy S. McLaren in 1965 after
Rickert made his transition earlier that year. “All of these
buildings were Rick’s ideas,” Arni said. “He designed
them, supervised their building, and planned … all that
is here now.”
Next time you visit the Village, take a moment to look
around. Notice the architecture and you’ll appreciate just
how far-reaching one person’s vision can be.
DAVID PENNER IS THE SENIOR COPY EDITOR
AND PROOFREADER FOR UNITY WORLD
HEADQUARTERS. PRIOR TO COMING TO UNITY,
HE SPENT FIVE AND A HALF YEARS AS THE
EDITOR OF THE LEXINGTON CLIPPER-HERALD
IN LEXINGTON, NEBRASKA.