Homes of Tomorrow at Indiana Dunes

Homes of Tomorrow at Indiana Dunes

by Leah J. Konicki

Century of Progress Houses Moved to Indiana

Tucked away in a quiet spot along the shore of Lake Michigan in the Indiana Dunes National Park is a cluster of unique houses. Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the houses are remnants of a vision of the future, ca. 1933. These five houses were originally built as part of an exhibit for the 1933 “Century of Progress” World’s Fair, held in Chicago in celebration of the city’s 100th anniversary. The exhibit, entitledHomes of Tomorrow,” included 13 residences that were reportedly visited by nearly 50 million people. As suggested by the exhibit’s theme of “Homes of Tomorrow,” the emphasis was on new materials, innovative construction techniques, and “modern” home conveniences.

From Fair to Resort Community

A northern Indiana real estate developer, Robert Bartlett, chose five of the original 13 residences to form the nucleus of a resort community to be called Beverly Shores he was developing on the Lake Michigan shore. Bartlett purchased the five houses at a fraction of their original cost and moved them by barge from Chicago. Although the houses themselves sold, Bartlett’s resort community did not take-off, leaving the cluster of buildings intact.

In 1966, the area that included this group of houses became part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (now the Indiana Dunes National Park). The homeowners became lessees and the homes fell into disrepair.

Progress Preserved

From Resort Community to National Register Historic District

The houses remained occupied, but suffered in the harsh northern Indiana lakefront environment. Originally built for a single season, the houses fell into disrepair. In the 1990s, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the houses on their ten most endangered list, and efforts began to document and stabilize the structures. The cluster of houses was listed in the National Register in 1986.

From Endangered to Preserved

In the early 21st century, Indiana Landmarks (the Indiana statewide non-profit preservation group) collaborated with the National Park Service to help insure the long-term preservation of the Century of Progress homes. Under this arrangement, Indiana Landmarks leases the buildings from the National Park Service, and then subleases them—with protective covenants—to people who invest their own money into restoring them. Restoration is complete on three of the houses, a fourth is still in progress, and a fifth remains in need of a hero. Each of the five relocated houses is distinct in style and in its view of “tomorrow”.

Information on each of the houses will be published over the next five weeks.

Read about Armco-Ferro House here.