Back in 1933, it was considered a “futuristic marvel.” Today, it’s in need of extensive repair. The future arrived for George Keck’s House of Tomorrow. But the future wasn’t quite what the visionary architect behind the visionary home, um… envisioned. The home now stands neglected in Indiana. It is available for lease. But it will cost the tenant between 2.5 and 3 million dollars just to bring it up to livable standards, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The House of Tomorrow made its appearance at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair. America was in the midst of the Great Depression. Many people were struggling just to survive with enough food and shelter.
The theme of the World’s Fair was “Century of Progress.” Hope-giving innovations were on display, such as Dr. Couney’s incubators to enable premature newborn babies’ survival. (See Dr. Couney’s Sideshow Babies.) Progress for the automobile was predicted with prototypes revving their engines. And a new home design, made mostly of glass and with 12 sides, offered amenities that seemed outrageous then: a machine in the kitchen that washed dishes; an air-flow system that kept the interior of the home cool even in summer; storage space for a family’s car—with a door that opened automatically just by pushing a button; and even a refrigerator that cooled only by electronics—no stored ice inside needed.
The House of Tomorrow also offered some features that didn’t quite launch—at least not yet. Those include a personal airplane hangar opposite the car garage. Surely in the future everyone would fly as well as drive! The full-surround glass curtain walls had a temporary run of popularity among some elite homeowners in the early 1950s. Architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson both cranked out glass houses for clients. But for the most part, families prefer a little more privacy than that which see-through walls allow—especially in well-populated neighborhoods.
After the fair, the house was moved to Indiana. In 2016, it was declared a “National Treasure.” Indiana Landmarks director Todd Zeiger hopes to find the right tenant to take on restoring the house—or even re-envisioning it as a newer version of the House of Tomorrow, with modern technology further expanding Keck’s original ideas. In exchange for investing in the improvements, the tenant will be promised a 50-year lease. So he or she can see the House of Tomorrow all the way into the future.