In Search of Utopia

Facing escalating housing costs and societal turmoil, people are searching for better ways to live

Kevin Shay

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This article was updated on February 1, 2024.

Photo: SvetaZi/Getty Images

Like many people, Bob and Ruth Foote spent much of their lives searching for a better way to live.

They took their children out of public schools and educated them instead through experiences such as a California-to-Bolivia sailing excursion. They lived in the backwoods of Oregon without access to numerous modern conveniences. They built a 55-foot schooner and schemed about taking the family to a deserted island for a Swiss Family Robinson-style adventure.

The island idea was eventually beached due to excessive costs and porting regulations, so the Foote's decided to establish a self-sufficient community of earth-sheltered homes that would use the smallest environmental footprint possible and also shield homeowners from escalating mortgage rates and energy costs. Ruth Foote worked in the real estate, insurance, and title industries, while Bob was an engineer and designed experimental aircraft. While he considered rising coastal sea levels, potential nuclear strikes, and a collapsed economy real possibilities, he was drawn to building an off-the-grid community more for the challenge than being a diehard survivalist.

“The story as I was told as a child was that Bob Foote had built a ferro-cement boat that was so nice that his wife, Ruth, suggested they live in it,” Ben Huttash, who lived in the Foote's community for part of his childhood, told Preserve Denton.

Finding 80 acres of fairly cheap land near Denton, Texas., the Footes named the community Whitehawk Valley after an albino hawk they observed during their initial glimpse of the area in 1977. Soon, 30 other families put down $2,500 each for a plot of land to build their own version of their visions. Many knew the Foote’s through a spiritual group.

Underground homes made of ferro-cement, such as this one, still exist in Whitehawk Valley, Texas. [Steve Spurlock photo]

Holding onto the attitudes hatched during the cataclysmic societal changes of the 1960s, most Whitehawk pioneers were fed up with the waste and bureaucracy of modern…

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Kevin Shay

Investigated the JFK and January 6th plots. Walked and drove across nations. Also writes a bit. More at https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J.-Shay/e/B004BCQRTG