EDITOR'S NOTE: On the Road section is dedicated to sharing discoveries beyond West Michigan. In the Winter Issue we explore the Lake Michigan Modern Tour of Homes hosted by Indiana Landmarks. Text and photos by Pam VanderPloeg, copyright 2015.
On Saturday, September 19, 2015, West Michigan Modern hit the road for a tour of Ogden Dunes and Beverly Shores at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sponsored by Indiana Landmarks, a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to "working to save architecturally unique, historically significant and communally cherished properties." The Indiana Landmarks staff were very organized and that made the tour a great experience.
After a pleasant 2 hour drive we started our tour day mingling with Ogden Dunes and Beverly Shores residents (and other tour enthusiasts) over breakfast at the Ogden Dunes Church in Ogden Dunes, a scenic neighborhood located on the lakeshore right where you can pick up the commuter train into Chicago's Millennium Station. Ogden Dunes (Arcadia Press) authors Kent Martin and Richard Meister gave a fascinating lecture on the history. They shared the story of how a wild dunes paradise was transformed into a vital neighborhood of lovely lakeshore homes beginning in the 1920's. The area first developed as a community when Francis Ogden died "penniless" in a Houston, Texas hotel leaving an estate that included about 500 acres of pristine dunes and Lake Michigan shoreline. Ogden Dunes Realty company led by developers Samuel Reck and Colin MacKenzie bought the land. Development stalled during the depression years and WWII and then flourished in the post-war years. Although the depression temporarily slowed the area's growth, today the community has grown to 1200 residents and 600 homes.
Martin and Meister also shared the successful battle waged by homeowners to preserve the dunes. Early on this area was popular with Chicago hiking enthusiasts and could be reached easily from the city by train. However, the big steel companies found the Indiana Dunes to be a perfect location for their operations and they continued to devour more pristine dune lands. The campaign was led by resident Dorothy Buell and a committee of dedicated volunteers. They enlisted the help of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas and the eventual result was the authorization of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore by Congress in 1966.
We toured Ogden Dunes by bus in the morning. Lunch was followed by a second lecture where we learned that John Lloyd Wright designed many buildings nearby - a good incentive for a return trip. Then we toured the nearby Beverly Shores neighborhood and drove by the House of the Tomorrow and other 1933 Chicago World's Fair houses moved there in 1935 mostly by barge after the fair closed down.
The Lake Michigan Modern Tour included some homes that had never been open to the public before and was so popular they added more busses to accommodate the waiting list. West Michigan Modern applauds the staff at Indiana Landmarks for organizing a day that provided an opportunity to experience lovely and historically important homes with gorgeous views of land, lake and the Chicago skyline.
PHOTO CREDIT: House of Tomorrow 1933 by George Fred Keck., Berverly Shores, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo from Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS IND,64-BEVSH,9--1
Our tour finished up with one of the highlights of the day. I had been looking forward to seeing the 1933 Chicago World's Fair homes located in Beverly Shores. The House of Tomorrow and the Florida Tropical House are part of the the Century of Progress Architectural District, an historical district within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Beverly Shores. The district is made up of the five buildings from the Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition in the 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago and were brought to Beverly Shores in 1935 by developer Robert Bartlett - most by barge. They are monumental sitting as they do on Lake Michigan and across from the lake. They survive today through a partnership between the National Parks, Indiana Landmarks and private donations. Traditionally these homes are open in October for a fall tour but we were only able to drive by on that day.
The House of Tomorrow was designed by George F. Keck with an innovative steel frame and glass curtain wall on the second and third floors, these were later replaced by working windows. The first floor was originally outfitted with both a garage and an airplane hanger because, of course, we would all soon have our own airplanes for transportation. Keck soon realized that the many windows created a solar heat gain and began designing other "solar" homes. The House of Tomorrow now rests on a scenic lot in Beverly Shores overlooking Lake Michigan across the road and is undergoing restoration.
Across the street is the knock-out monumental bright pink Florida Tropical House. The pink exterior is meant to evoke the tropics and was built by the State of Florida to showcase and entice tourism to the state. The house was designed in the Modernist style by Miami architect Robert Law Weed, whose intent was to blend the inside and outside environments, with a large two-story living room and roof terraces that were modeled after the deck of an ocean liner.
Florida Tropical House. Photo from Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS HAL Reproduction number [e.g., “HABS IND,64-BEVSH,8--22 (CT).