The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sees visitors in the millions each year. While many are there to spend time on the beaches, watch the sunsets over the water, hike the trails and enjoy the natural surroundings, there’s a significant historic district that sits within the Dunes area that is not as well known but definitely worth seeking out.
In Beverly Shores, you’ll find the Century of Progress Historic District. On my first visit, I knew nothing about it and just stumbled upon it while taking a walk near Dunbar Beach on Lake Front Drive. I was surprised to come upon a stone pillar with an attached sign that read “Century of Progress Historic District.” I was intrigued and walked on.
Note: People live in these homes so they should only be viewed from the road,
I didn’t have to walk far past the sign to see the first home, the Weiboldt-Rostone House, which faces the lake and was built using a new material made of limestone, shale and alkali with steel beams and columns. The building materials make it a heavy home that weighs in at about 130 tons. When you think about what it took to get the homes there, it makes that number more than just a number.
A total of five homes were relocated to the Indiana Shore of Lake Michigan. Four of the homes were moved by barge across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores where they had been on display following the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, called the Century of Progress.
Developer Robert Bartlett brought a dozen buildings from the fair to Northwest Indiana, including five from the Homes and Industrial Arts housing exhibit that make up the Century of Progress Historic District. It was part of his plans to create a resort community in the area. The homes, even 90 years later, still retain a modern and futuristic feel perched over the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan.
Beyond the Weiboldt-Rostone House is the bright pink Florida Tropical House. It was the only one of the homes to be state-sponsored, commissioned by the State of Florida to lure tourists to “The Sunshine State.” It was also the most expensive and luxurious of the homes. It looks right in its place beside the water, but gives you a temporary feeling of being somewhere tropical rather than in the Midwest.
Across the road are the three other homes. The Armco-Ferro House was designed of porcelain, enamel and steel to be affordable and mass produced. It was manufactured for $4,500 and erected in just five days. The modern exterior had a traditional interior with a comfortable, informal layout.
The Cypress Log Cabin was the only one that didn’t have a modern look, but highlighted the rustic design and material of what was known as “The Wood Eternal,” which was billed as being a reasonable, reliable and durable timber that resisted decay.
The House of Tomorrow, which is now unoccupied and in need of renovation had features that were rare luxuries at the time - a dishwasher and air conditioning. Designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck, the rounded design had large glass panels that played a pioneering role in the development of passive solar heating.