Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park was designated as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966 and was upgrade to be the United States’ 61st National Park on February 15, 2019. It runs along and protects about 25 miles of the southeastern coast of Lake Michigan. It is surrounds Indiana Dunes State Park.

After leaving the Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival I drove about an hour south to the Indiana Dunes National Park. The areas of the National Park are shown in green on the map above. There is a primitive campground in the National Park but I opted to stay two nights in the Indiana Dunes State Park (shown in blue) with a bathroom, shower room and electricity. There were also a variety of hotel options within minutes’ drive of the park.

I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of things to see and do here. Sands dunes and beaches, yes, but there were also various hikes available through wooded, wetland and prairie areas. My favorite was one (below) passed by an early trading post on the river and ended at a historic Swedish settler’s farm.

In 1935 a developer bought five futuristic homes from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and floated them across Lake Michigan to a site overlooking the lake, now part of the national park. They are only open to the public once a year but can be viewed from the street. There are informational signs explaining each of the homes and the new construction techniques or materials that were incorporated in each. Some materials proved more successful than others and the 20/20 hindsight lessons learned about the materials was interesting to me.

Above is the Weinboldt-Rostone House which was designed by architect Walter Scholer. It showcased a new material manufactured in Lafayette, Indiana called Rostone. The material of limestone, shale and alkali was advertised to “never need repairs”. Rostone was available in various colors and shapes. The structure, weighing between 120 – 130 tons is built of steel columns and beams and sheathed with precast Rostone panels. The pollution from nearby steel mills and refineries and weather extremes off Lake Michigan caused the panels to prematurely deteriorate. The structure was covered with Perma-stone, a concrete stucco, to preserve it but restored Rostone panels can be seen around the front door.

The Florida Tropical House was sponsored by the State of Florida and designed by Miami architect Robert Law Reed. It was the most expensive (at $15,000 in 1933) and luxurious in the exhibit, meant to be a lure to the “sunshine state”. With plenty of windows and large, open, overhanging flat roofs the “rooms themselves become part of the outdoors”. Its bright pink cover serves as a navigation aid to boaters on Lake Michigan.

The Armco-Ferro House was designed by Robert Smith, Jr. of Cleveland, Ohio. This home met the criteria of the exhibit that the home “could be mass produced and was affordable for an American family of modest means”. It was manufactured for $4,500 and was erected in 5 days. It used frameless steel construction and with the exterior of vitreous enamel. The construction method using corrugated steel panels held together with steel clips was similar to that used in Lustron houses in the late 1940’s. Inside the house was finished with plasterboard and had four bedrooms and two baths upstairs and a living room, kitchen, den and dining room downstairs.

“America’s First Glass House” (currently being reconstructed) was designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck. It featured floor to ceiling windows, an open floor plan, air conditioning, passive solar heating, a dishwasher and an airplane hanger.

The Cypress House

The Cypress House featured cypress, “the eternal wood.” It was designed by Chicago architect Murray D. Hetherington and sponsored by the Southern Cypress Manufacturer’s Association. Cypress is resistant to water and decay. At the World’s Fair the area around the home featured fences, pergolas and bridges with decorated cypress knees. There was also a nearby structure which provided a workshop for craftsmen to demonstrate making items out of cypress.

I also did some bird watching. The week after I was there the Park held its annual Birding Festival. The structure above is a bird watching tower.

I also walked part of the Great Marsh Trail. A lot of it was closed due to high water from the excessive spring rains the Midwest experienced. I did get to see what I assume was a beaver playing in the marsh.

I did not get to take advantage of it on this trip but a train runs from South Bend, Indiana into Chicago (called the South Shore Line) directly through the park approximately every hour. There are three stops right in the Park (the picture above shows the Beverly Shores station). From the park it would be about a 1.5 hour trip right into Chicago’s Millennium Park . Designated trains carry bicycles. Riders can get off at any station and ride a bike path paralleling the train tracks. Schedules vary by season and by weekday or weekends.