Sdtrk: ‘It is narrow here’ by Eric Zann
For this action-packed installment of ‘This was the Future’, I’d been scouring various World’s Fairs-related sites for a decent candidate. The problem I run across with going through assorted World’s Fairs is that there are sometimes far too many fab-looking structures, and it’s simply impossible to choose just one. It’s bad enough attempting to select a single exposition to write on, let alone a single building in that selection, so you end up with entries such as the one I did for the Osaka World Expo 1970, for instance. I LOVE ALL MY CHILDREN EQUALLY!! HOW CAN I BE EXPECTED TO CHOOSE?? Sorry.
It looks like once again we’re going back further than the Sixties, and landing squarely in 1933, during the Chicago World’s Fair. One of its many exhibits had ‘Homes of Tomorrow’ as its theme, wherein various houses were assembled by various companies to sing the praises of whatever material they manufactured. There was a brick house (mighty mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out), a lumber house and a log house (for the love of god, no smoking please), a masonite house (non-Freemasons welcome), and an Armco-Ferro house (Lustron before Lustron existed). Which one caught my eye? The rather austere steel-and-glass number known as the House of Tomorrow, designed by George Fred Keck, of course.
The standout even then was the House of Tomorrow, a three-story, 12-sided steel-and-glass structure designed by the early modernist George Fred Keck of Chicago. From the outside, the house resembled a glass-walled Bauhaus water tank. Inside, a spiral staircase wound around a central core containing utilities while a series of wedge-shaped rooms were furnished with tubular modern furniture.
A commemorative book issued at the time of the exposition says of the House of Tomorrow: ”Every modern convenience is made available at the touch of a finger. Absolute comfort is assured.”
Among the amenities were central air conditioning and a kitchen ”gas-powered to the nth degree” with a ”gas-fueled iceless refrigerator” as well as a ”mechanical dishwasher.”
The crowning touch, however, was ”an airplane hangar, which houses a small sized ship for family use,” attached to the back of the house.
quoted from this article
I honestly don’t know what impresses me more — the fact that the house has got a freakin’ airplane hangar, or that they used the term ‘the nth degree’. That’s a phrase that really needs to be reintegrated into popular speech, I think. ‘I’m enjoying this funnel cake to the nth degree,’ chirped Deirdre. ‘It’s really special.’ But I digress.
An airplane hangar! Back in the Future of the Past, the average American family was supposed to have their own personal light aircraft (undoubtedly in the Far-flung Future of 1970), hence the need for a hangar. Which would be really fab, but seeing as that we can barely trust people to be lucid enough when behind the wheel of a ground-based vehicle, perhaps that prediction was a wee bit over-optimistic..
The current fate of the House of Tomorrow is turning around. After the World’s Fair packed it in in 1934, it, along with the other homes of that particular exhibit, were placed on barges, and floated over Lake Michigan to their present location in Beverly Shores, Indiana. The plan at the time was to use the unusual homes to generate publicity for development of additional lakefront property along that area, but the plan fell through. For years, the houses were maintained by the Indiana park service, but as they weren’t really bona fide houses, so much as they were essentially model homes, they began to deteriorate, as they weren’t really meant to last. Thankfully, they’re now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the homes are currently being leased to private occupants who have agreed to restore them, in exchange for minimal or no rent. A happy ending!
The House of Tomorrow is no longer open to the public, but you can take a driving tour to see it, and take photographs from the front lawn until the owner chases you away with a broom