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Century of Progress

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 26, 2006 7:01PM

Armco12_26_06.jpgWe here at Chicagoist love good ideas. We’re so joyful when a simple idea benefits almost everyone, and even more joyful when that good idea benefits historic architecture.

The Columbian Exposition of 1893 is probably our most famous world’s fair, but in 1933 Chicago hosted the Century of Progress World's Fair. The fair celebrated design and technology, emphasized by its many streamlined Art Deco buildings.

One of the finer points of the 1933 World’s Fair was the “Homes of Tomorrow” exposition that showcased fourteen homes with new technology, like air-conditioning and new and improved materials.

When the fair ended, six of those homes were transported on barges to Beverly Shores where developer Robert Bartlett planned to use the houses to start a community. The plan failed and the houses remained in disrepair.

But now The National Park Service and the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana partnered up with some dedicated individuals to save these houses and make them livable.

Here's how it works: The park service leases the homes to the Historic Landmarks Foundation, who then subleases the homes to residents. The resident pays no rent, but pays for the rehabilitation of the home. Once the home is rehabbed and passes the standards of the program, the resident gets first crack at owning the home.

One of the houses currently being worked on is the Armco-Ferro house designed by Cleveland architect, Robert Smith Jr. This “structure-less” house was innovative because it had no frame, but has porcelain enamel panels that are connected by steel clips. The house could be placed on its bottom, side or top without ruining the structure of the house. This is neat, because every time we’re placed on our bottom, we’re sure it screwed up our structure

So we’re giving the slow clap to the National Park Service, the Historic Landmarks Foundation and to resident Chris Lichtenfeld for being the one to rehab the Armco-Ferro house.

Maybe he’ll even invite us over for coffee once the house is finished.