Archive for the ‘Northwest Indiana’ Category

 The Wieboldt-Rostone House is located at 270 Lake Front Drive in Beverly Shores, just east of the National Lakeshore parking lot at Dunbar Avenue.

The Wieboldt-Rostone House carries the names of its sponsors. Wieboldt Stores (also known as Wieboldt’s) was a Chicago department store chain in business from the 1880s through the 1980s. Rostone, Inc., of Lafayette, Indiana showcased its new synthetic stone composite made of limestone waste and shale called Rostone.

This house was built to showcase an affordable and (supposedly) durable new building material. Rostone was available in a variety of colors and shapes, and could be fabricated to exact dimensions. It was billed as durable and never needing repairs. Had the reality actually lived up to its marketing, Rostone would have been a successful material. However, Rostone was not nearly as durable as hoped.

 After the 1933-34 Century of Progress World’s Fair the Rostone House was barged across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores and positioned on the lakefront so that its expansive windows faced the lake. Lake Michigan’s harsh weather conditions did not help an already faulty product. Within 20 years, the Rostone exterior had severely deteriorated, actually disintegrated. Tenants at the time covered the exterior with a concrete stucco called Perma-stone. Only remnants of the original Rostone remain – at the front door exterior, at the interior foyer and around the fireplace in the living room.

Like the other the World’s Fair homes in Beverly Shores, the Rostone House fell into disrepair after being purchased by the government. The former owner-occupants had little incentive to spend money on repairs under their limited lease arrangement.

The Historic Landmarks Foundation partnered with the national park service in an effort to save the Century of Progress homes in Beverly Shores by subleasing the houses to people with historic preservation experience and the financial wherewithal to bring the houses back to their original state.

Rostone is a huge house. At 5,500-square-feet and 18 rooms, it is the largest of the Beverly Shores World’s Fair homes. The building housed the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offices from 1970 to 1985. The house then stood vacant for 17 years before a lessee that was willing and financially able to take on the architectural preservation was found.

Ross Gambril began working on the Rostone house in 2002. Most of the exterior was removed over the past decade and Gambril has worked to replicate the look of Rostone exterior with a new precast concrete material. Progress has been slow. The house has been a work in progress for the past 10 years and from the looks of things, will continue in this state for quite a few more years.

As far as Beverly Shores architecture is concerned, this structure is a diamond in the rough. Hopefully, I will be able to update this story in the next year or two and report that this big old beauty has been restored.

 Beverly Shores, a small lakefront community on the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan, is host to five architectural gems from the Chicago World Fair of 1933-34. The “Century of Progress Exposition” commemorated the city’s 100-year anniversary and was a tribute to the technological, scientific and industrial/manufacturing achievements of the time.

The buildings and structures were built to last one year. The Chicago Worlds fair was originally slated to run one season but the overwhelming success in 1933 compelled organizers to reopen the fair in 1934. Many of the structures were sold off after the fair ended in 1934 and 16 of those landed in Beverly Shores.

These homes allowed for a quick build out to the newly minted community. Robert Bartlett purchased the development in 1933 and added the pre-made homes after having developed the infrastructure with roads, a hotel, beachfront casino, a golf course and a school.

Only six structures from the Chicago Worlds fair remain; The Armco-Ferro House, the House of Tomorrow, Wieboldt-Rostone House, Florida Tropical House, Cypress Log Cabin and the Old North Church replica.

The Old North Church replica is privately owned while the other five, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are owned by the National Park Services and leased to individuals who are renovating the structures back to their original state.

All of the Century of Progress homes were privately owned and maintained until the early 1970’s when the National Park Service began buying up land and houses within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The five Century of Progress homes located nearest Lake Michigan’s shores were purchased and the owners either sold for full value at the time or sold for a lesser value but were allowed to live in the houses for a specified number of years after selling the property.

That is when troubles began and the properties fell into disrepair. Since the owners no longer owned the homes and would not get a return on any investments made to the property, those who retained the right to live in the property were unwilling to do costly repairs. The properties that were sold right away lay vacant and unrepaired, as the federal government did not allocate the funds needed for expensive repairs.

Decades passed and the structures went from a state of disrepair to a state of endangerment. By 1993 the Century of Progress houses found their way to the “Ten Most Endangered Sites in Indiana” list. Three years later the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana partnered with the National Park Service to develop a residential leasing program. With this program, individuals were given a 30-year sublease on the property in exchange for the rehabilitation of the houses. This was not an inexpensive venture.

The Florida Tropical House – and its estimated $450,000 rehab cost – was the first of the houses to find a new “owner” and a new lease on life. That lease agreement was signed in 2000 and the house was completed in 2012.

 Currently, the House of Tomorrow is the only property to yet find a lessee to take on responsibility of the estimated $2 million of repairs needed to bring the house back to life.

Over the next couple weeks I will be highlighting these gems perched on the shores of Lake Michigan on Lake Front Drive. Check back in a few days to read about my personal favorite, the Wieboldt-Rostone House.