Forum Connect

Stran-Steel House from Chicago's Century of Progress

  • 1.  Stran-Steel House from Chicago's Century of Progress

    Posted 02-09-2018 11:09
    Good morning,

    I want to put this  information out to the community that has been established here in hopes that someone can offer some additional assistance or leads to a buyer.  There is an important house that was likely one of the demonstration houses at the 1933-34 Century of Progress, the Stran-Steel House, that ended up in Wilmette, IL (approx. 15 miles north of downtown) after the fair's end.  It is currently owned by a developer, who bought the lot for redevelopment not knowing the historic nature of the house.

    I lived in Wilmette for 20 years, and I served on the local preservation commission there between 2000-2006. Despite having examples of residential architecture of considerable significance,  Wilmette does not have a strong preservation ordinance.  They have two National Register districts, a few individually listed NR properties, and a couple dozen locally designated landmarks (initiated by owners).   In 2003, I moved to a home that was located about a block from the house.  I took a keen interest because it was so unusual, but there was not much known about it.  I was able to establish that the building permit was issued at the end of the fair, but despite spending hours poring through the local Wilmette newspaper archives, I could not find a story to corroborate my hunch that it was the original house from the fair.  I did visit with the owners, who did feel it was the original house, and they gave me a tour.  But they were very private people, and they were not interested in pursuing a National Register designation for the house.

    Fast forward to this November, when I was back in Chicago for PastForward (I moved to KY in 2009).  I had signed up for the Field Study session at the Indiana Dunes where 5 other of the original houses were taken after the fair.  I wanted to take a current photo of Stran-Steel to share with the group.  Imagine my horror when I stumbled upon the "Under Contract" sign, and after checking the listing, learning it had been sold as a lot for development.  I immediately contacted Kate McManus, Planner for Wilmette, Lisa DiChiera  of Landmarks Illinois, and Todd Zeiger of Indiana Landmarks (because of their oversight of the houses at the Dunes).  They have brought new resources to bear, including getting John Eifler, a local historic preservation architect, involved.  But the situation isn't looking good.

    Here's the latest story I've found on the situation:
    Newly Rediscovered Historic House in Wilmette Faces Uncertain Future
    Chicago Tonight | WTTW remove preview
    Newly Rediscovered Historic House in Wilmette Faces Uncertain Future
    It's not often that a historic structure is lost and found, especially when it's been in the same spot for more than 80 years. But that's exactly what's happened with a house that was featured at Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition in 1933.
    View this on Chicago Tonight | WTTW >

    And I am attaching photos that I took of the house in 2004 and again this past November.  Thanks for taking the time to read all this, and I'm still hopeful there might be a happy ending.  If anyone has additional suggestions or resources, Kate McManus in the Wilmette Community Development department can be reached at

    Vicki Birenberg, AICP
    CLG Program & Planning Coordinator
    Kentucky Heritage Council
    Frankfort, KY

  • 2.  RE: Stran-Steel House from Chicago's Century of Progress

    Posted 02-10-2018 11:09
    Interesting.  Don't know if it will help but I recognize the architecture - a large number of buildings in the same style were brought across Lake Michigan from Chicago after the 1933 fair and used for the Sleepy Hollow resort in South Haven, Michigan.  They are still there.  South Haven does not have a historic district and I do not remember seeing any designation for these buildings but the resort likes to use the info on their brochures.

    Patrick Hudson
    Kalamazoo MI

  • 3.  RE: Stran-Steel House from Chicago's Century of Progress

    Posted 02-12-2018 23:02
    I find interest in buildings being moved from one place to another in 1833. Please explain the moving process. I would like to corroborate that with my building that was moved in 1936.
    Thank you,

    Naomi Mitchell Carrier, M. Ed.
    Founder/ Elecutive Director
    Houston, TX

  • 4.  RE: Stran-Steel House from Chicago's Century of Progress

    Posted 02-13-2018 08:41
    My graduate project for my Master of Historic Preservation degree at the University of Kentucky was on a large iron furnace built in rural southeastern Kentucky's Estill County. The furnace had a strange connection to Chicago, as I discovered Chicago capitalist heavyweights P.R. Chandler and T.B. Blackstone invested money in the Estill County project. (The Blackstone Hotel is built on the site of T.B. Blackstone's former mansion, I believe).

    While doing research on Chandler and Blackstone, I randomly learned from a newspaper archive that Chandler, who was once president of Union Stockyards (among other things), purchased one of the buildings at the 1893 Columbian Exposition - it was one of the "country pavilions," maybe Turkey, I want to say? - and had it dismantled and shipped up to Lake ____? in Wisconsin, where I presume it served as his summer home. I have always wondered if that Wisconsin town knew that house was there, and, for that matter, if the house was still standing.

    Patrick Thompson
    Germantown MD


  • 5.  RE: Stran-Steel House from Chicago's Century of Progress

    Posted 02-13-2018 09:57

    We have an early store that was moved here in 1905. They put it upon logs and hitched horses to the front. They'd pull the building across the rolling logs until the last log had been passed, then they'd grab that log and move it to the front and keep going. It apparently took several weeks to move the store a few blocks. I'm guessing the guy did it in his free time.

    I love the image of an entire building slowly traveling down the street to its new home. 

    We have several buildings (mostly houses, though) in Fort Colllins that have been moved. I'm hoping to someday build a list of as many as I can corroborate. Those thrifty pioneers were not about to let a whole building go to waste!

    Meg Dunn
    Fort Collins CO