Mid-Century Modern House Tour: Part Two
by Dick Meister
(Prepared for the Mid-Century House Tour of Ogden Dunes on September 19, 2015 and published in “The Hour Glass” Newsletter, March 2017)
In an earlier of the newsletter, we featured the five homes that were visited on the Indiana Landmarks Tour on September 19, 2015. This article focuses on the four other buildings that were visited on the same tour, the Community Church of Ogden Dunes, which hosted the participants on the tour, and three homes that were viewed only from the exterior. The Community Church has served for more nearly sixty years the larger community, providing a gathering place for community events, classrooms for pre-school children, and a place for community worship. In addition, the church itself is a fine example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. Two of the three homes viewed from the outside, 50 Shore Drive and 58 Shore Drive, are historically significant. The visit allowed us to tell the story of the early years of Ogden Dunes and to introduce the participants to the lakeshore. The third home, 8 Summit, is a major example of Mid-Century Modern, comparable to 7 Summit, which the participants visited.
Ogden Dunes Community Church (Presbyterian)
In November 1951 a group of Ogden Dunes residents who were members of the First Presbyterian Church of Gary requested permission to pursue the idea of becoming an offspring of the famous Gary church. After much discussion, the group decided to form the Ogden Dunes Community Church (Presbyterian), with emphasis on community and a recognition of the need of being part of a larger religious community, thus a formal tie to the Presbyterian church. After of year of discussion members of 15 families attended the January 1953 meeting and selected a committee to plan for the formation of a new congregation. This led to the formation of the first Sunday School program and for the first church services. These were held in the newly painted firehouse on April 12, 1953.
Since 1953 the Community Church of Ogden Dunes has been a major community resource. It has and continues to touch the lives of residents of this community, whether they are members or not. Construction began on the sanctuary in 1958 and later on the fellowship hall. Land was provided to the church near the entrance of Ogden Dunes on Hillcrest Road. Designed to take advantage of the natural surroundings, the church is built of wood with an emphasis on simplicity and the sacred. The large, clear glass windows in the fellowship hall bring nature into the worship and social spaces.
The south addition of offices and classrooms was completed in 1973. Fredric W. Collins, an Ogden Dunes resident and head of a large Gary architectural firm, was selected as the architect for the addition. The Memorial Garden was dedicated in 1982.
Fredric Collins became part of the early Ogden Dunes community when he married Kathryn Monahan, whose family had built a home on Shore Drive in the late 1930s. Although most of the buildings that his firm designed were for large institutional or business related activities, Fred designed over twenty homes in Ogden Dunes, as well as over twenty additions or renovations. Most of his homes were in the Mid-Century Modern style, especially his own home at 152 Shore Drive and those of his immediate neighbors at 148, 149, and 154 Shore Drive. Three other major examples are the homes at 1 Skyline, 25 Skyline and 72 Ski Hill Place.
50 Shore Drive: The Kratz House
The heading for an article in the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger on February 4, 1930 reads, ‘$50,000 Home to be Erected” and is followed by:
Contract for the construction of a new $50,000 residence overlooking Lake Michigan in Ogden Dunes, Porter County, was let Monday by E. M. Kratz, Gary paper manufacturer, to A. L. Cash, a Miller contractor.
The new residence will be a seventeen-room structure of English colonial type and will be constructed of brick veneer, embodying a number of unique ideas in home building. When completed it is expected the dwelling will be one of the finest on the Lake shore in Porter County. Construction is to be started within a week, Mr. Cash said.
With the completion of the home, Ed (1892-1981) and Marion Kratz (1896-1988) with their daughters, Grace and Mary, moved into the finest home in Ogden Dunes. Ed, a businessman and manufacturer, became a leader of the community, serving on the Town Board from 1935 to 1957 and as president most of this time. The Town Board held most of its meetings in the Kratz’ boat house until the completion of the Fire House in the late 1940s. The Town Board honored him for his years of service and leadership by naming the town’s main park and soccer field, Kratz Field. Following the deaths of Ed and his wife, the home was sold. The current owners have preserved the exterior and modernized the interior. It is very well maintained. The boat house has suffered through many lake storms and has been rebuilt and updated many times.
This home is one of the first homes built in Ogden Dunes by A. L. Cash, a Gary contractor. A. L. and his wife, Dess, had purchased a cottage in Ogden Dunes in 1928. And in the late 1930s they became full-time residents. From 1928 until they retired to Florida in the early 1960s they were also leaders of the community. Cash built well over fifty homes in Ogden Dunes. Most of these were cement block homes and came to be known as ‘Cash Boxes’. They were moderately priced, with each one different, and always well situated on their wooded, sandy and irregular lots.
Significant points about the home:
- The home is the third large, year around home built at what was the center of Ogden Dunes in 1930, the junction of Cedar Trail and Shore Drive. The Samuel Reck, the president of Ogden Dunes, Inc., built the first full-time residence in 1924 at 4 Cedar Trail and had the first sales office near his home. The second home, the Glover house, at 3 Cedar Trail, was in the Spanish style.
- The Kratz home is in a traditional colonial style that could be found in many upper middle class neighborhoods in American cities during the 1920s.
58 Shore Drive: the Reck Home
On April 2, 1939 the Chicago Tribune did a house feature, “Dune Land House Built for Use in All Seasons’. Nelson and Helen Reck were the owners of the new home with the architectural firm, George Fred Keck and William Keck Architects, designing the home. Louise Bargelt, the Tribune reporter, focused on building a modern home that insured that it could be readily lived in for all seasons. Among the special design features that the article identified:
- This 39’ by 38’ home is built into the dune with two entrances, one from the driveway and the other on the side of the upper level, near a porch and a large terrace.
- The outer and inner walls of all the rooms, except for two bedrooms and bath on the second level are made with concrete masonry. The architects gave special attention to insulation, ventilation and heating. Hollow cores in the masonry units were filled with granulated material. In the summer cooler air from the lower level, which is surrounded on three sides by a sand dune, is circulated to the upper level through a venting system.
- The lower level houses the garage, along with a third bedroom, shower and bath, the furnace, and a laundry and work room. The upper level has the living areas plus two bedrooms and a bath. The large living room, 16’ by 21’ with a full fire place is made to seem even larger with bay windows looking out at the lake and a large arch separating it from the dining area.
- The exposed concrete walls are painted white with the ceiling of knotty pine. The dining and kitchen areas also look out over the lake with a very modern kitchen that contrasts with the Early American furnishings in the living and dining rooms. The master bedroom also has a bay window with the bathroom being tiled.
This home is one of two Keck and Keck homes built in Ogden Dunes in 1939. The second is at 31 Sunset Trail for Margaret Southwick. The firm of George Fred Keck (1895-1980) and his brother, William, (1908-1995) designed over 800 homes in the Midwest from the early 1930s to 1979. A key trademark of their homes include flat nor nearly flat roofs, passive solar heating system to offset the loss of heat due to the large windows, indirect lighting, radiant heat, post and beam construction, modular design, and the use of natural materials. The Kecks also created homes that were affordable and came in on budget. The Kecks had also participated in the design of model homes for the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1934 in Chicago. The most famous of these was the “House of Tomorrow” that was moved to Beverly Shore after the closure of the fair.
Nelson and Helen Reck:
After Nelson Reck (1893-1980) graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1919, he joined his parents, Samuel (1866-1952) and Anna Nelson Reck (1871-1941) in their new home in Gary, Indiana. In 1919 Gary was a boom town with nearly 50,000 people. Thirteen years earlier Gary was created almost overnight by U.S. Steel. Samuel Reck had moved to Gary around 1915 with his wife and three younger sons to open an insurance business. In 1920 the family rented a home at 377 Adams Street with Samuel and son Franklin (1896-1965) being active in the family insurance business and Nelson worked for the American Bridge Company. The two younger sons, Samuel (1902-1975) and Dickson (1904-1955), attended high school.
While riding the South Shore to Chicago one morning Nelson happened to meet Colin Mackenzie (1892-1931), who lived in Gary and was a fellow student at the University of Cincinnati. Colin had a plan to establish a ‘highly restricted’ lake front community six miles east of downtown Gary. Mackenzie, a civil engineer and subdivision developer, wanted to purchase 500 acres of dune land from the Francis Ogden Estate for his planned community. However, he lacked the business experience and the funds to make this happen. Nelson suggested that his father might provide that leadership. In 1923 Ogden Dunes, Incorporated, led by Samuel and supported by Mackenzie and Joseph Boo, a surveyor, purchased the land and established Ogden Dunes Realty with Samuel as president. Mackenize, after laying out the streets for the first subdivisions, left the company and went on to other projects. Nelson joined his father in the realty company and in 1932 took over the presidency of the company.
Samuel and Anna built the first year around residence in Ogden Dunes in 1924 at 4 Cedar Trail, near the T where Cedar meets Shore Drive. It was near this junction that Nelson and his wife, Helen, built their dream home at 58 Shore Drive in 1939. Nelson and Helen, a Gary school teacher, whom he married in 1927, had earlier lived in a smaller, cottage-like home, on the south side of Shore Drive, just west of his parents.
Nelson for nearly forty years was the guiding force in transforming Ogden Dunes from aa real estate development into an active, livable community. In the 1950s oversaw the transferring responsibility for the common lands, the parks, the lake front, and the 20 access points to the lake to the Home Association and related institutions. In the early 1970s Nelson and Helen, who did not have children, turned over the remaining holdings of the Ogden Dunes, Inc., to the University of Chicago in exchange for a life annuity.
They sold their home at 58 Shore Drive and moved to California. Since that time the home has had a number of owners. Later owners have significantly changed the look of the home with the rejection of the concrete look, the addition on the west side, and the adding a garage to the lower level.
8 Summit Road: The Gerometta Home
Arthur Louis Gerometta, a Gary builder and Vice President of Gerometta Construction, and his wife Nancy, followed his brother to Ogden Dunes in 1957. They purchased a large lot, approximately 135 feet by 130 feet on the north side of what became Summit Road. Ogden Dunes Realty developed Summit Road as a cul de sac with lots created by leveling the highest dune in Ogden Dunes, Mount Everest. The Gerometta lot was near the western end of Summit as it teed into Diana Road and was across the street from the new home of Richard Bauman family.
Joseph B. Martin, a local architect, with offices in the Aetna neighborhood of Gary, designed this Mid-Century Modern home. It is similar to the Bauman home that was being built across the street. The Gerometta home appears from Summit as a slightly vee-shaped, ranch home overlooking the ravine and then Lake Michigan. The west wing includes a large, three-season room and a kitchen and dining area; the east wing has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The large central vestibule (entrance area) leads into a large living room that extends north, providing views from three sides. The lower level includes a garage under the three-season room, a large recreation room looking out over the ravine, the laundry and furnace area, and a possible 4th bedroom with bath.
Art, a 1943 graduate of Emerson High School on the east side of Gary, received a football scholarship to the University of Illinois, his older brother’s university. In 1944 he received an appointment to West Point and starred on its three national championship seasons, 1944-1946. He served as an officer in the Korean War, receiving Silver and Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. On returning to the United States he served as a faculty member and assistant coach at West Point. Following his marriage to Nancy Hubbard, an American Airlines flight attendant, in 1953, he resigned his commission and returned to Gary in 1954 to become vice president in Gerometta Construction. Art and Nancy raised three sons in Ogden Dunes, Marshall, born in 1954, Bruce in 1956, and Gregg in 1960 (died in 1996). Art died on April 1, 2000 at the age of 74. Shortly after his death, Nancy sold the family home to the current owner, an artist and teacher.
Conclusion: The Importance of the Tour
The Indiana Landmarks Tour of September 19 drew over 100 participants from all over Indiana and other Midwestern States. Most of these had never visited Ogden Dunes and Beverly Shores. Their reaction to the eight-hour tour was very positive, as was their time spent in Ogden Dunes.
The tour also provided an opportunity to bring our community together as seen in the warm welcome extended by Rev. Lloyd Sewdin and the hours invested by the twenty plus volunteers that made the tour happen. The tour also provided the Historical Society the opportunity to share the history of our community with the participants and with the readers of this newsletter.