VALPARAISO — Historical preservationists are making sure the historic House of Tomorrow in Beverly Shores will survive. Restoration work could begin next year.
The House of Tomorrow, sitting atop a hill on Lakeshore Drive overlooking Lake Michigan, is the one of the five surviving homes brought across the lake by barge by real estate developer Robert Bartlett at the end of the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago.
As part of the fair’s Home and Industrial Arts Exhibit, architects were told to conceive and build modern homes they envisioned for the next century.
Dubbed “America’s first glass house,” the House of Tomorrow, designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck, has the most forward-thinking design and construction of the five homes that remain, said Todd Zeiger, of Indiana Landmarks, one of the groups collaborating to restore it.
Zeiger updated an audience on the restoration’s progress Thursday evening at the Porter County Museum.
The group is working on the next set of drawings for National Park Service approval, and they expect to look for bids for construction beginning in summer 2018.
Keck’s 12-sided House of Tomorrow featured an open-concept living room, dining room and kitchen on the second floor, which was very different for the times. The two-story, steel-framed structure was blanketed in floor-to-ceiling windows and included modern bathrooms and mechanicals, including air conditioning, and a lower-level garage and an airplane hangar.
The Century of Progress houses, including Keck’s, remained in private ownership until 1966, when the land they were on became part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Since then, four of the five homes have been restored through a partnership of the National Park Service, Indiana Landmarks and private individuals who have a 50-year lease agreement with the parks.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has designated the House of Tomorrow a National Treasure and is partnering with Indiana Landmarks to preserve it at an estimated cost of $2.5 million.
“This is helpful to raise awareness across the United States about this project,” Zeiger said.
Zeiger displayed photos of the original House of Tomorrow. The structure had been altered over the years by private owners.
“You can see right through this house; it is just transparent,” Zeiger said. “This is the image that we are trying to get back to. It’s important that we keep that look.”
Other features of the restoration — every step of which must be approved by the National Park Service — include adding bathrooms and an elevator to make it accessible to anyone.
“We want to restore as much as we can that’s original, but are making a few changes on the inside,” Zeiger said.
“Our vision is to put house back as it looked in 1933,” Zeiger said. “It is a streamlined, very crisp look for this house.”