Dr. John Meyer wrote in his memoir of the "ever-shifting spectacle" Lake Michigan offered his family in their Beverly Shores home.
The International-style structure, built atop a dune, was "surrounded on all sides by sassafras, oaks, basswood and pine," wrote Meyer, who died in 2004. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows on its north side, "the view of the lake was splendid, and on a clear day you could see Chicago's skyline. The sunsets were fabulous."
The view from the comfort and solitude of the Meyer House, along with several other homes on Beverly Shores' Lake Front Drive, soon will be available to vacationers, if the plans of a partnership among the National Park Service, Indiana Landmarks and Dunes National Park Association come to fruition.
The groups hope to renovate the Dr. John and Gerda Meyer House, the neighboring Schulhof Lustron House, and a trio of two-unit homes known as the Solomon Enclave, and then rent them to vacationers. Profits from the endeavor will benefit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
DNPA leaders believe they'll need about $1.5 million to make that happen, and the association is beginning a fundraising campaign now, with information available at www.dunesnationalpark.org.
The DNPA will approach potential large and small donors alike, and the organization is willing to consider a donation to be a "pre-sale" of vacation time at one of the homes, DNPA Secretary Adam Peterson said. They hope to start renting at the beginning of summer 2020. The cost of a week's stay during peak season will vary — the Meyer House likely will be in the range of $4,000 to $4,500 per week, and a unit in the Solomon Enclave $1,800 to $2,500 per week.
"That's all in line with the market," DNPA President Speros Batistatos said. "I'm not worried about demand for these."
The Meyer House was completed in 1962 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of six Beverly Shores homes designed by Harold Olin, who studied under modernist pioneer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Plans call for the home to be able to accommodate 10 people when renovated. The views Meyer enjoyed are available on the second floor, where the main common space, with its wall of windows, stretches across the north side of the building.
The main floor also includes the two bedrooms, a bathroom and small kitchen. The lower level, with the main entrance from the south side parking area, has a variety of rooms that once included Meyer's darkroom.
The staircase connecting the two floors includes an iron balustrade saved from the old Chicago Stock Exchange, designed by the renowned architect Louis Sullivan.
Schulhof Lustron House
Next door to the Meyer House is a Lustron home — one of the pre-fabricated steel homes sold by the Lustron Co. as a way to address the post-World War II housing shortage. The Schulhof home is named for its first owners, who built it on the beach but moved it to the south side of Lake Front Drive in 1956.
A report done for the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey in the early 1990s described the home as "a rectangular box on a concrete slab foundation, with a gabled roof covered in green enameled-steel shingles. Porcelain enamel modular steel panels over a structural steel frame serve for both interior and exterior finishes."
The three-bedroom home's components arrived by truck, along with an instruction manual for its assembly.
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"You literally built your house from the components you pulled off the truck," DNPA Vice President Michael Shymanski said.
Almost three miles up Lake Front Drive, at the beachside road's eastern terminus, the Solomon Enclave includes three two-story International style homes built in 1948. Each floor is its own living unit, with two bedrooms on the first floor and three on the second.
The enclave is on the National Register of Historic Places and was named for its designer, Chicago architect Louis Solomon. The homes were meant as weekend getaways for Chicago residents and sit at a northwesterly angle, allowing a staggering of their front facades.
"A small shift in each footprint provides privacy in each building and porch, and maximizes views of Lake Michigan," according to the enclave's National Register description.
Or, as Shymanski puts it, "It's three buildings all designed for you to look out to the lake and not see your neighbors."
Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, said one goal of the project is to create a "toehold" toward expanding visitation at the national park.
"We believe it's a meaningful way to open up the national park past a three-hour and four-hour drive-in-and-drive-out asset," he said.
Shymanski, who also serves as president of the Historic Pullman Foundation, which supports the Pullman National Monument in Chicago, added that the dunes project would serve the cause of historic preservation as well as encourage tourism.
"It's a great marriage of the two," Shymanski said.
In addition to the fundraising campaign, the next step is to finalize an agreement among the three organizations involved. The vacant homes are owned by the National Park Service, which would lease them to Indiana Landmarks. The Dunes National Park Association, a "friends" group that supports the national lakeshore, would manage the rental process when the homes are ready — hopefully for the 2020 summer season, according to DNPA leaders.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Paul Labovitz said the lease between the National Park Service and Indiana Landmarks would be similar to one governing the Century of Progress homes, the five model homes moved to Beverly Shores after the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
"But there's nothing like this in the Region," Labovitz said of opening the historic, national park-based homes to visitors.
He said work on the homes can begin "almost immediately" after the federal government reopens and the lease agreement can be finalized. The work will be governed by the secretary of the interior's rules and guidelines for historic preservation, he said.
The amount of work varies by property. The Meyer House is in the best shape, with the others in need of some structural work, as well as in depth work, for example, on the electrical system at the Solomon Enclave. The DNPA's Peterson described it as "the normal wear-and-tear you get from a home that hasn't been lived in for decades."
Once done, they hope visitors will arrive to what Meyer described in his memoir: "... coming home was like driving into a different world. When we turned into the road leading to the lake, we entered a green tunnel formed by the trees' dome, which opened into the wetland and then to the dunes with the view of the beach and the lake. It felt like entering a resort on a vacation."