Sixty odd years later, homes built to last only one year to draw crowds to a
fair, are still standing, obviously worn and in need of repair, still unique and
still drawing crowds to their doorsteps.
The homes were originally designed for the 1933-34 Century of Progress, Chicago
World's Fair on Chicago's Lakefront offering the public a futuristic view of
what architects predicted would someday be the norm.
They were supposed to be torn down when the fair was over as were many of the
famous fair sites located where Meigs Field and McCormick Place now stand.
However, some 16 homes were saved and transported to Beverly Shores.
Five of them have been accepted by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana
and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to be preserved.
Preservation costs will be paid for by private leasees, who are required to open
the homes once a year for the public to view.
Four of the five were open last Saturday for inspection by the public. Those
fortunate to have taken the tour will have seen the interiors before the massive
renovations transform the futuristic dwellings back to their original state.
"They might not be open to visit inside next year, depending upon the state
of reconstruction," warned IDNL interpreter Judy Collins who is in charge
of the tours of the homes, adding that in some cases, only the outside
might be safe to tour in 2001.
Four of the homes were brought by barge in 1935 across the Lake to their
locations on Lake Front Drive, the other 12 homes were disassembled and
transported by truck and reassembled at various locations throughout Beverly
Shores, said Eileen Stewart, a Lakeshore docent who guided some of
the 360 visitors for the one-day event.
Through the years the pink Florida Tropical House has been a daytime
navigational point for mariners and is one of the homes already leased with
reconstruction in progress.
According to its current lease-owner, Bill Beatty, of Munster, who was on site
to help answer questions, renovation is estimated to cost about $450,000. To
date, most of the reconstruction has been to the outside of
The luxury home was brought by barge, and was one of the few that has the
original bathroom fixtures intact. Real estate developer Robert Bartlett,
responsible for saving the homes, removed the fixtures in most of the homes to
make them lighter for travel on the barge.
The Florida House, orignially financed by the State bearing its name, was built
on a slab and placed on a basement foundation here. The house features a
two-story living room with an aluminum staircase leading to an overhanging
balcony and access to the outside deck.
Beatty has protected an enormous mural painted sometime in the 1930's and
installed after the house was located here. A dumb-waiter designed to
accommodate those on the upstairs deck was removed by a former tenant and
probably will not be restored. Beatty said he will soon be working on the
steel windows. Also, the eight foot overhang beams are gone, which he believes
will be supported by sneaking-in steel channels.
"You have to be doing this for enjoyment, because there is no financial
reward," Beatty said as the curious spectators peered in every nook and
cranny of the house inspired by the tropical climate of Florida.
Across the street, up on a hill obscured from view, is the Cypress Log Cabin
designed to demonstrate the unique qualities and many uses of cypress. The roof
is partially covered with plantlife grown from the neglect of the unoccupied
chalet-like home. The cost is estimated at
$360,000 to renovate.
A yellow, stone fireplace dominates the dark interior
main room in which the rafters have been made to be decorative. All the walls
and floors are cypress. A screened porch provides a view both of the lake and
the woods behind the cabin. The kitchen features an electric stove in which a
permanent cooking well, or pot, is inside the stove. The top of the pot is level
with the other burners. A green sideboard sink is alone next do the outside
door. The front door is a half-door, the kitchen door is a French door.
Another unique feature of the chalet-like cabin is a massive bird house which is
occupied by some feathered friends who fluttered and cheeped as visitors walked
Next to the main cabin is a second cabin that runs the length of the first,
added for sleeping accommodations, Stewart said. However, the one bedroom in the
main cabin sports several levels of sleeping areas, much like one
might find in Asian countries.
East of the Cypress Log Cabin is the House of Tomorrow, originally containing a
garage and airplane hangar.
According to Stewart, optomists of 1933 visualized that someday everyone would
have an airplane. However, the hangar became part of Mom's kitchen. This house,
considered the leading edge in 1933 for a family of four, was the most occupied
of all the homes, Stewart said.
Once one has had a tour through it, it is probable one could never forget having
had the experience.
Currently the outside entry walls are clad in copper, displaying the copper
installed in 1934 in all its glory. Unfortunately, it will be painted black to
reconstruct the original look. Stewart explained that according to the
Historical Landmark rules, the outside is be restored to the original, while the
interiors are allowed to be changed.
The original home was air conditioned, had a dishwasher and featured windows on
the second and third floors, which are the essentia of the house. The original
permanent windows were replaced with windows that were operable to allow for
circulation and wood-framed exterior walls.
"Utilities cost $6,000 a year," Stewart said.
The most recent occupant, a former employee of the former Red Lantern, decorated
the home in what might be described as a free spirited air. She collected shells
and glued them to the entry hall way and used fabrics of various textures,
colors and prints in the different rooms providing an
atmosphere not soon to be found elsewhere. The stairs are located in the center
of the building and wind to the floors above. The very top is an observation
Special steel bar tresses are placed across some windows and the staircase to
keep the house from swaying.
In 1933 at the Fair, one room was called the rec room, but in 1934 at the Fair,
after prohibition was lifted, the same room became the bar.
Next door, also on the hill is the steel house, the Armco-Ferro House. It is the
only house that lived up to its claim of cost efficiency, Stewart said. It was
designed to be mass-produced and affordable for the average American family.
Although mass production for residential homes did not occur, most people are
familiar with pole barns which are similar in concept. The Armco-Ferro House is
currently under lease until 2005 when it will become a part of the historical
The Wieboldt-Rostone House, was framed in steel and clad in an experimental
material called Rostone which did not survive the elements and was covered in
the 1950's with a synthetic material, concrete stucco called Perma-stone.
According to Stewart, that material also has not held up well.
However, the original Rostone still frames the door to the front entrance and
around the living room fireplace. The house at one time housed INDL offices.
Stewart said lightweight concrete stone will be used to replicate
the pale buff look of the home as it appeared at the Fair.
The cement staircase from the beach to the home creates a majestic look and more
formal than the other homes. Renovation construction is expected to begin within
the next six months.
The tour will be available next year and once a year each year in the future.
However, interested visitors will have to watch closely for news releases for
tickets. The number will be limited. In the meantime, the outside of the homes
can be viewed from the beach and from Lake Front