Students restoring Indiana's 'House of Tomorrow', built for 1933 World's Fair

High school students in Indiana are trading in homework for housework.

Perhaps you’ve seen it on a bluff, towering over Lake Michigan in Beverly Shores, Indiana — a historic house badly in need of repair.

Now, a group of high school students from Michigan City are helping to restore the home that was once a star of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

It may not look like much on the inside, and the outside is now covered with protective wrap. But the House of Tomorrow is an architectural treasure that’s slowly coming back to life.

Among the attractions at the 1933 Century of Progress was a set of futuristic homes, including the House of Tomorrow.

"(It) really pushed that envelope the farthest," said Todd Zeiger, a regional director for Indiana Landmarks. "It's almost round, it's 12-sided, it was solid glass on the upper floors. It had a place to park your car inside. It had a place to park your airplane inside."

After the World’s Fair ended, five of the futuristic homes were shipped by boat to Beverly Shores where they were rebuilt on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

While the others — including the famous "pink house" — have been restored, the House of Tomorrow has seen better days.

"It’s a bit of a wreck," said one preservationist.


On Tuesday, a group of students from LaPorte County Career and Technical Education Center in Michigan City removed the original cabinets and fixtures from the home’s kitchen, as part of a project to teach young tradesmen the art of historic renovation.

"The screws and the bolts, they are very rusted out and they do not want to come out," said student Orion Bennett, while trying to pry one of the cabinets off the wall. "It should almost be called the House of Yesterday, not the House of Tomorrow."

The cabinets are being taken to the school’s shop, where a historic preservationist will teach the students how to make them look like new.

"The trades and craft skills are undervalued," said Ann Swigart, a craft specialist hired to oversee the project. "And it’s a problem with historic preservation, but it’s a problem everywhere. Not enough people going into the trades."

The state of Indiana is looking for a deep pocketed investor willing to spend the $2.5 million to $3 million it will take to fully restore the home. In return, that investor will get to live in the House of Tomorrow rent-free for the next 55 years.

"This is a really great opportunity for someone who is engaged with historic preservation, who values architecture, especially values architecture that was a leading edge in its time," said Zeiger. "To be that person to restore it and save it for the future."

It’s also a good opportunity for the students now getting a chance to bring history back to life.

"Chicago World’s Fair!" marveled student Philip Pezan. "These houses were shipped from Chicago to here. This is their final resting place. It’s crazy."