Chesterton Tribune

Read house won't be bulldozed anytime soon; review underway

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The Read house on Tremont Road in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore won’t be bulldozed anytime soon.

It may never be bulldozed at all, if an ongoing review of its historical significance were to lead to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

But that determination is months away—possibly many months—and in the meantime there will be no bulldozing, no demolition, no action taken on the house at all.

That, from Superintendent Constantine Dillon, who responded on Thursday to a statement, released by friends of Herb and Charlotte Read and published in Tuesday’s edition of the Chesterton Tribune, warning of the house’s imminent destruction.

The house in question, formerly a so-called “lease-back” and now vacant, was the site where environmentalists met nearly 60 years ago to strategize the creation of the National Lakeshore. Reads’ friends want the house listed on the National Register and turned into a museum where the story of the park’s establishment can be interpreted.

“All properties that the National Park Service owns are reviewed for historic eligibility,” Dillon said. “It’s a standard practice, done for every property. And the Read house is still under review. It’s not coming down anytime soon.”

Dillon did say this. “Whether or not the house is historic does not change the fact that the Reads have been significant to the establishment of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. And we’re respectful of what they have done. Their contribution will always stand whether the house itself is historic and we respect and honor them for that contribution.”

And Dillon raised one other issue. If the review of the house were to lead to its listing on the National Register, the National Park Service would still have to assess the feasibility of turning it into a museum. “We would have to see if the house can be made handicapped accessible,” he said. “If there’s room for a sufficient number of parking spaces. If visitor traffic would affect the neighborhood. And we would have to see how much it would cost to operate the house as a museum and how much to design and install exhibits.”

“Turning the house into a museum would entail a number of stages,” Dillon added, including a public comment and participation phase.

Back Story

Under the National Historic Preservation Act, all properties owned by the National Park Service (NPS) must be reviewed for eligibility for listing on the National Register, NPS historical architect Judy Collins told the Tribune.

That process started at the National Lakeshore some 15 years ago, when a review was made of “every single property in the park”: 420 of them to be exact, Collins said. At that time 113 of the 420 were deemed to be “potentially eligible” and of those 113 seven were already listed on the National Register, among them the Bailly Homestead, the Bailly Cemetery, and the Century of Progress Homes in Beverly Shores.

The 106 remaining sites—including the Read house—were determined not to be eligible, however, Collins said, after a review both by the National Lakeshore and the State Historic Preservation Office, based on four specific criteria: the architecture of the site, its history, whether it is related in any way to the work of a master engineer or architect, and—in the case of archaeological site—whether it could “provide information at some future time.”

Based on those criteria, the Read house at the time did not make the cut, Collins said. Since then, though, another party—not the National Park Service—has formally proposed that the Read house be nominated for historic eligibility and another review is now being conducted.

“The potential nomination is being reviewed now by our regional office and it will then go to cultural resources staff at headquarters in Washington,” Collins said. “This is all typical. It’s not just for this property.”

And if the Read house is nominated for historic eligibility, it must still go before the National Register’s review panel, Collins noted.

“People don’t understand it’s a lengthy process,” Collins said. “I’ve seen it take years.”

Save the Dunes

Meanwhile, Save the Dunes at this point has no official position on the status of the Read house, Executive Director Nicole Kamins told the Tribune today. “We do not at this time,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t. But at this time we are not formally taking a position.”

Kamins noted that at the Save the Dunes board’s most recent meeting, a full agenda of business prevented members from addressing the issue.


Posted 10/1/2010