Victory City: Dreamer Has a Vision for the Future
By Tim Fish, Dayton Daily News/The Journal Herald, November 29, 1987
rville is alone in thought. His eyes, eager, mischievous, walk the apartment, an attic of a place. The light is dim, the air old, and beneath the dusty jumbles of papers and boxes, the furniture is worn, languid.
In the dining room, Orville sits at his card table office. The nose on his plump, blushing face belongs to W.C. Fields, but he is a teetotaller and has the well-scrubbed look of a South minister polyester suit with a blue stripe tie, white socks and beefy black shoes. Orville, though, doesn't believe in God. Well, he's not really sure.
"I was born Feb. 19, 1923, in Jewish Hospital, though I don't remember it," the Cincinnati man says with a high-pitched inner giggle.
Meet Orville Simpson II. Character. [ ] Paradox. Dreamer.
Orville, you see, wants to build the city of the future.
It's called Victory City, and he got the idea for it when he was 13. Sick, abandoned in the infirmary of his boarding school, Orville had a vision of a towering city. It would be a beautiful place where millions of people could live and life would b easy, logical, frugal.
"Our present-day cities are already obsolete," Orville says, flipping on a pair of horn rim glasses held together with rubber bands. "With Victory City we'll be able to provide a higher standard of living using less natural resources. It's something the world needs."
It also is something that has become a life's obsession for 64-year-old Orville. He has mapped out Victory City in minute detail over the past 50 years, from its seven 102-story glass skyscrapers to its 6,500 Water Pik® booths.
Orville spends all his time drawing and planning Victory City. At one time he owned two apartment houses, but he sold them because they interfered. [ ]
His Hyde Park apartment wallows in drawings, murals, models and plans. A model the size of a teen-ager has seized the coffee table; a drawing crushes a lamp shade.
His bible, his utopia according to Orville, is a 40-page book, pecked out on an old Smith Corona, which details unique some might say dictatorial government, monetary and educational systems for Victory City.
Orville's not sure where this city of the future would be built. It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, he figures. [ ]
It's all quite a scheme.
"The first impression is this guy is really kind of nuts," says Dennis Mann, an architecture professor at the University of Cincinnati who has worked with Orville.
"But once you get to know him, well, you've got to envy anybody who has given that much of his life over to an idea," Mann says. "He lives in his designs, he walks through the buildings in his mind."
Riddled with Logic
Orville is considering the beef stroganoff for lunch.
With cherry pie and milk, it would be under $2. HOw can he resist? Eyeing the cafeteria, he finds a place for his tray and settles in.
Orville eats most of his meals in cafeterias. It's convenient and cheap, he says. Everyone in Victory City will eat in cafeterias. Saves on space, he says, and helps prevent fires.
"There's no kitchen at all in the apartments no dining room," he says with a smile, as his eyes search for reaction. Orville takes everything in.
"Victory City is riddled with logic riddled and impregnated with it," Orville says, waving to a friend at a nearby table. "Total logic."
There will be no money in Victory City, for example. Residents will carry a bank book similar to an automatic teller card. The cost of everything from monthly rent to a pack of gum would be removed electronically from a person's bank accounts.
Like Victory City, Orville's life is riddled with logic and frugality.
"I used to be extremely tight when I was young," says Orville, who although born into a wealthy Cincinnati family, ferreted away nickels and dimes as a child.
"I had a little piggy bank and I hid it down in the basement in a hole when no one was around," says Orville. "Saved $25 that was during the Depression."
"I can loosen up a little now," he says as he meticulously mops up the last of the stroganoff with a piece of bread. "But I still don't believe in wasting money."
These days, he hordes paper clips and rubber bands and other treasures, stashing them in small International brand coffee tins, which he keeps stacked by the dozens in a pyramid on a card table.
"They're just the right size and you can see through the lid," Orville says. Paper is something he never throw away a financial breakdown of Victory City may be typed on the back of a flier for a furniture sale.
He wears only white shirts and socks because "they go with anything," and if one sock wears out, the good one still matches the rest.
Orville arranges his dirty dishes and leaves. It's a long walk back to his black Cadillac de Ville parked in the lonely outskirts of the lot. He doesn't like dents and doesn't mind the walk.
Needs all the exercise he can get, he says, though a sore ankle slows him down these days. Orville admits he always has been on the sickly side. As a child, he was "a scrawny little thing with allergies."
Cats and cigarette smoke are just two of the things that make Orville ill. Both, by the way, are a no-no in Victory City. All pets would be banished to the "Pet Park."
"What Orville has done is create a world that is perfect for him," says Mann, who occasionally teaches a Utopian class at UC. "But it is quite imperfect for me or someone else perhaps."
You've heard of something being an Orwellian Dream, well Victory City is an Orvillian Dream.
Reactions to a Wild Idea
Walking through the quiet neighborhood near his apartment, Orville remembers his father.
"I couldn't stand him," he says. "He just infuriated me. He was just always highly critical of me."
His mother Mildred, too, was cool and detached, he says.
Orville was named after his grandfather; his father, Lowe E. Simpson, was a businessman who invented a machine that sifted flour, gun powder, just about anything.
Orville spent much of his youth at a strict boarding school in North Carolina.
"I was a poor student. I couldn't remember anything it was just the way my brain worked," Orville recalls. Orville was a loner at the school and because of his allergies, he spent a great deal of time in the infirmary. It was there he made his first sketch of Victory City.
He never let anyone see the drawing. He never talked about his idea.
Pulling his pants high on his belly as he walks, Orville says, "Why would they listen to a wild idea of a 13-year-old?"
He got the idea from the slum clearance going on in Cincinnati's west end during the early '20s. He thought it was wasteful to continually build, tear down and rebuild.
"My theory," Orville says, outlining the plans he has developed over the years, "is to have one huge city under professional management.... A corporation would plan it and build it and operate it."
Residents would own shares in the company and elect a board of directors, which would run the corporation and the city. There would be no mayor or city commission.
Orville has approached everyone from IBM to Otis Elevator about the project, but so far none have expressed interest. He has traveled to Washington, D.C., Chicago and North Carolina to drum up interest and research his project.
"I'm just going to keep planning and working for it and try to make it come about," he says with a determined nod.
Orville has resolved to spread the word he carries a mini-presentation on Victory City wherever he goes.
"You know when you first meet someone they ask 'What do you do?' Well, I tell them I'm planning the city of the future," says Orville.
Ready to give his spiel, he pulls out a packet of his drawings from his suit coat.
"I get all kinds of reactions," Orville says with a laugh that shakes his whole body. "A lot of people have said 'Well, I wish you luck with that but I wouldn't want to live there myself.'"
Most people don't take to the idea of Victory City right off, Orville admits.
"And they've been conditioned to think what they have is the best. They've worked all their lives for, say, a house or something," says Orville. "That the past at one time they had their own little cave."
A Legacy to Humanity
Back in his apartment again, Orville roots out a model of Victor City. Piecing it together like a Monopoly board, he smiles and says, "I really need a bigger place I can't display everything. This will all go in the museum one day."
He explains that a single Victory City actually, he hopes to build as many as possible would be four miles long and three miles wide.
"The minute you walk out of the city," Orville says, pointing here and there on the model, "there's parks and then that's surrounded by the expressway and beyond that are farmlands."
"It would be like going to a luxury resort hotel everything in there would be furnished," he says.
"At different times I've had sweeping changes," says Orville. "The way this plan evolved it's hard to believe how it all started."
Hard to believe, too, how Victory City has affected his life. It has been an eccentric life, even Orville would admit. He never married. "It was just one rejection after another," he says.
He fell in love once, with a German girl he met as a soldier in World War II. He dropped out of high school and was drafted in 1943, and he met Irmgard that year.
"We couldn't talk openly, because she was the enemy really, so we had to go behind the barn or the chicken coop," Orville remembers, leaning back in his chair, starting off into memories. After the war, he continued to write her, until one day, says Orville, "her husband wrote me." It was not meant to be.
Over the years, his relationship with his family deteriorated. Though still living at home and working for his father at age 28, Orville was not on speaking terms with this father. Instead they wrote each other notes.
Three of those notes he remembers quite clearly. The first note requested that he please move out of the house. Another informed him later that he no longer had a job, and a third announced that he was all but disinherited.
For the next 16 years Orville worked 23 different jobs.
"I was fired from most of them fired or laid off," admits Orville. Quite often they told me my work was too slow. They were all menial jobs. That was the best I could get without a high school diploma."
But with his ever-frugal lifestyle and the inheritance, he was able to parlay his saving into quite an estate.
"Victory City," he says, "will be my legacy to humanity."
Vision of a Better World
Dennis Mann has a soft spot for Orville.
"Some of his ideas are surprisingly well thought out," says Mann. "I wish I could get some of my students to think as thoroughly as he thinks. In some ways, though, his plans are very naive."
America, says Mann, has a rich tradition of visionaries like Orville.
"This is a form of utopia that Orville is designing," Mann says. The Shakers, the Mormons dreamed of a better world, and the same is true today with communes like The Farm in Tennessee.
"When a person creates or designs a utopia, they're criticizing the present world," says Mann, "and creating a vision of a better world."
With the help of Mann, Orville is sponsoring a student contest at UC to design a utopian "City of the Future."
Orville also has set up The Victory City Foundation, which will promote the project, even after his death.
Says his attorney Freeman Durham, "I think Orville has a lot of good ideas and maybe we'll see some of them realized sometime certainly not in the near future but sometime."
Orville had hoped to see Victory City build in his lifetime, but he doesn't think about that now. He just wants to do what he can.
"I feel almost an obligation a duty to do it," Orville says. "'Cause who else would do it if I didn't. It's very clear to me that the world needs it."
But as Mann sees it, it doesn't matter whether Victory City is ever built.
"Here is somebody," he says, "who is doing something. He is channeling his creative energies into doing something. And to me that's the most important thing. If more people did more of that, the world would be a better place."
Copyright © 1998-2007 by Orville Simpson II
All rights reserved. No part of this website, including page content, graphics or overall layout/design, may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.