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.

 

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Wieboldt-Rostone House detail

A decorative detail on the Wieboldt-Rostone House.

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