The Read Dunes House—one of the few remaining sites where citizen
conservationists met to strategize the creation of Indiana Dunes National
Lakeshore—is now officially listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, one of 16 such properties within National Lakeshore’s boundaries.
But to what use the National Park Service (NPS) might put the Read Dunes
House is, for the moment, unclear.
Only this is certain. The house—located some 1,000 feet inside the southern
boundary of the National Lakeshore on Tremont Road—will not be demolished
and has never been on any demo list.
And, just for the sake of argument, had the Read Dunes House been on
a demo list, its placement on the National Register would have saved it. “We
will not demolish a structure in the park that is on the National Register
of Historic Places,” NPS public information officer Bruce Rowe told the
Chesterton Tribune on Wednesday.
Rowe did note that it’s theoretically possible to demolish a structure on
the National Register but it’s only rarely done and only under exigent
circumstances. “There would need to be some very compelling reason, such as
a structure that was in danger of collapse and could not be safely repaired,
and the State Historic Preservation Office would have to agree,” he said.
“This is not the case with the Read Dunes House or any of the 16 structures
in the park that are on the National Register.”
Saving the house is not the same as using it, however. Pia Lopez,
daughter-in-law of Herb and Charlotte Read and the preparer of the National
Register nomination, believes that the Read Dunes House would be a perfect
venue to help mark, in 2016, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of
the National Lakeshore and the 100th anniversary of the creation of NPS.
“The Read Dunes House is a perfect location to tell both the human and
natural history that is the essence of the Dunes country,” Lopez said. “The
Read Dunes House is one of those places where conservationists met and
worked and made history, the creation of the Indiana Dunes National
Lakeshore. This is a place to tell the story of the people who made a park.”
Herb and Charlotte Read, for their part, would like to see the house used
for environmental education, a staging point for hikes on the Ly-Co-Ki-We
Trail, or as a museum or interpretive center to narrate the story of the
citizen movement to preserve the Dunes.
The Read Dunes House was only just listed on the National Register,
though—on Dec. 8—and right now NPS is unable to say what it might do with
the structure. “There are no immediate plans for the property but we are
open literally to suggestions from the public and stakeholders about
possible uses for the property,” Rowe said. “We are always looking for ideas
on adaptive uses, partnerships, or leasing opportunities for any of the
National Lakeshore’s 16 structures on the National Register of Historic
Places. There are many possible uses that would be appropriate for these
structures and we welcome everyone’s ideas.”
The Read Dunes House was designed by Herb Read and commissioned by his
parents, Philo and Irene Read. In 1967, eight months after the National
Lakeshore was established by act of Congress, Irene Read offered the house
to NPS, which bought it in 1969. Philo and Irene Read resided in the house
under a Reservation of Occupancy and Use—known commonly as a lease-back—and
then Herb and Charlotte Read resided there until the Reservation of
Occupancy expired on Sept. 2010.