The House of Tomorrow: A house made of glass

The House of Tomorrow

by Leah Konicki

Looking at the Future Through Glass

House of Tomorrow

The House of Tomorrow as it appeared at the Century of Progress.

The House of Tomorrow, a three-story twelve-sided house with walls made of glass, is perhaps the most innovative house of the Century of Progress houses.  Known also as the Glass House, it was designed by George Fred Keck, a Chicago architect. The twelve-sided – or dodecagon – house is an example of what was called at the time “European Modernist” architecture. Keck was reportedly inspired by a mid-nineteenth century octagon house in his hometown. Like those houses, the central core of the House of Tomorrow provided structural stability and was the location of the house’s circulation system. Innovations in the house at the Fair included the first ever dishwasher by General Electric, central air conditioning, and a garage door that opened with a touch of a button. Interior finishes included black and gray Carrara plate glass and black walnut flooring. Rooms were furnished with pieces designed specifically for the house. At the original exhibit, a Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, one of just five ever built, could be seen in the garage, while a built-in hangar – the architect apparently envisioned that we would all have our own planes by now – featured a replica of a Charles Lindbergh plane.

Today, the house has yet to find a lessee who is willing to rehabilitate the house, despite the offer of 50-year lease with no monthly rental. After weather-proofing and stabilizing the house, Indiana Landmarks began looking for a committed occupant who is willing to live in and restore the property. The anticipated price tag of the house’s restoration is $2.5 million.

House of Tomorrow

The House of Tomorrow as it stands today, mothballed and waiting for the right person to tackle its restoration.

(Photos of the interior of the house during the exhibition are included in a February 2019 Daily Mail article.)


Read about the Wieboldt-Rostone House: A house not made of stone

The Wieboldt-Rostone House: A house not made of stone

The Wieboldt-Rostone House

by Leah Konicki

A Showcase for a New Material

The fourth house at the site is the Wieboldt-Rostone House. This two-story house is framed in steel and clad with artificial stone.

Wieboldt-Rostone House under construction

The Wieboldt-Rostone House was still under construction when I visited, but exterior construction is now complete.

This house was designed by Indiana architect Walter Scholer. Engineers from Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana had created an artificial stone product known as Rostone, and the World’s Fair exhibition provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the new product. The material was a composite of limestone, shale, and alkali. It could be precast into panels sized for each individual project, and was used on both the inside and outside of the building. The name Wieboldt’s in the name comes from the Chicago department store that co-sponsored this house at the World’s Fair.

The marketing materials for Rostone touted the durability, strength, and fire-resistance of the product. However, the exterior panels began to fail within ten years. In 1950, an alternate imitation stone finish known as Permastone was applied to the house. By the 1990s, this finish, too, had begun to fail. Current work on the house includes a new exterior finish of pre-cast concrete panels. This new finish is the same color and proportions as the original Rostone, and more closely resembles the original appearance of the house. Some remnants of the original material remain around the front door of the house.


Read about the Florida Tropical House: A house made of stucco

Read about the House of Tomorrow: A house made of glass

Wieboldt-Rostone House detail

A decorative detail on the Wieboldt-Rostone House.

Florida Tropical House: A house made of stucco

The Florida Tropical House

by Leah Konicki

Showcasing a State

The Florida Tropical House overlooking Lake Michigan. Originally built on a slab, a basement was added when it was relocated.

The state of Florida sponsored this house to showcase Florida and to promote tourism to the state. It was the only state-sponsored house in the original exhibition. Originally known as the Florida House, the house is covered in light-weight concrete stucco, painted tropical pink. Other materials used in the building include travertine, limestone, and clay tile, all of which are native to Florida. Now known as the Florida Tropical House, it was designed by architect Robert Law Weed of Miami and is an example of Art Deco. The design of the house, inspired by Florida’s tropical climate before air conditioning was common, includes an outdoor terrace that helped blend together the indoors and outdoors. The house’s flat roof was designed to resemble the deck of an ocean liner, and included a loggia and recreation room. Because of the harsh Midwestern climate, changes had to be made to the house. These changes included the addition of a basement and converting the outdoor recreation area on the roof to a traditional roof. Renovation of the house began in the mid-1990s; work included stabilizing and replacing most of the steel structure, and restoring the original hardware, window frames, and an aluminum staircase, which involved painstakingly removing layers of paint.

The Century of Progress houses are open to the public one day a year (in non-Covid years) at an annual tour co-sponsored by Indiana Landmarks and the National Park Service. The tour draws a crowd of avid preservationists along with the architecturally curious. While the owners generously allow tours of their homes, no pictures of the interiors are allowed.

Read about the Cypress Log House: A house built of logs

Read about the Wieboldt-Rostone House: A house not made of stone

Cypress Log House: A house built of logs

The Cypress Log House

The front bay of the Cypress Log Cabin, featuring, in addition to the cypress siding, cypress shutters, cypress shingles, and a cypress birdhouse. The limestone fireplace chimney is also visible.

by Leah Konicki

Longevity in a Traditional Way

The Cypress Log House was sponsored by the Southern Cypress Manufacturers’ Association of Jacksonville, Florida.

Unlike the other houses included in the exhibit, this house was not built of innovative materials, but was rather intended to show the many uses and longevity of red Cypress. Designed by Murray D. Hetherington of Chicago, the one-story house features an enclosed porch, exposed rafters, and a carved bargeboard. The exterior siding is actually cypress log siding that gives the appearance of solid log construction. The house in all ways resembles a rustic mountain cabin. The cabin’s great room includes a limestone fireplace, which adds to the rustic character of the structure.

The house has been fully restored as part of the partnership between the National Park Service and Indiana Landmarks.

Read about the The Armco-Ferro House: A house made of steel

Read about the Florida Tropical House: A house made of stucco



The side of the Cypress Log Cabin showing decorative bargeboards of cypress, along with the added solarium. This house is also on the bluff, and Lake Michigan is in the distance.


The Armco-Ferro House: A house made of steel

The Armco-Ferro House

by Leah Konicki

A House Made of Steel (with Ohio Connections)

Armco-Ferro House

The Armco Ferro House sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The house retains its original steel casement windows and roof deck.

The Armco-Ferro House was jointly sponsored by the American Rolling Company, better known as Armco, from Middletown, Ohio, and the Ferro Enamel Corporation of Cleveland. The companies collaborated to present a demonstration house promoting steel as a residential building material. The all-steel two-story house was constructed of porcelain-enamel steel panels on the exterior, which were bolted together without a framework. Despite the innovative use of steel as a material, the house appears very traditional, resembling the American Four Square house type built throughout the U.S. in the early decades of the twentieth century. The house has a flat roof; a porch was added in the second year of the fair, while the garage was converted to living space. Restoration on the house was begun in 1997, with the work completed in 2011.

The Armco-Ferro House was one of three steel houses to be featured in the Century of Progress Houses of Tomorrow exhibit. During the exhibit, the house featured wallpapers by Mayflower on the interior, which generated as much, if not more, interest than the all steel construction.

Around the time of the fair, the Hobart Manufacturing Company in Troy, Ohio, was also experimenting with pre-fabricated steel houses, branded as Hobart Welded Steel Houses. Perhaps the best-known all steel house is the Lustron, manufactured by the Lustron Corporation of Columbus, Ohio. In the years following World War II, the company had some limited success with porcelain-enamel steel panel houses that utilized a similar construction technique to the Armco-Ferro House.

Armco-Ferro House

Postcard from the 1933-1934 Century of Progress World’s Fair. (Image courtesy of Midpointe Library System)

The introduction to this series is located here.

Read about the Cypress Log House: A house built of logs