The 1933 World’s Fair was held in Chicago to mark the city’s 100th anniversary and celebrate scientific advancements. Known as the Century of Progress, the fair was not as transformative as the 1893 Columbian Exposition, but it did draw 62 million people and spawned the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
The Homes of Tomorrow Exhibition focused on the dwellings of the future. The World’s Fair design committee sought homes that were affordable and easy to mass produce. Twelve homes were included, but with features such as heliports and airplane garages, few actually met the guidelines.
A couple years after the fair ended, Robert Bartlett moved one house by truck and four by barge across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores, Indiana, about 50 miles away. Bartlett hoped the houses would bring attention to his new, lakefront community. Bartlett’s development failed, but the houses stayed. By the 1950s, their often experimental materials were already deteriorating.
Today, the homes are within the boundaries of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. In 1993, the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana placed the five, failing houses on their 10 most endangered list. Three years later the preservation nonprofit teamed up the national lakeshore to sublease the homes to preservation-minded stewards who would restore the buildings. One of the lease stipulations is that the houses must be opened to the public once a year, the third Saturday in October.
I’m a northwest Indiana native and was visiting this year when the houses were open. The homes are in differing states of repair. The Armco-Ferro and Florida Tropical houses have been painstakingly restored. The Cypress Log Cabin has also been restored, and an adjoining addition has been built. The Wieboldt-Rostone is undergoing restoration, but the House of Tomorrow awaits a lessee.