The Beverly Shores Stories Project is the third installment of the Porter County Museum’s Stories Project series. This project intends “reinvest the places life is lived with meaning” by exploring the rich history and character of this continuously transitioning community through oral histories from Beverly Shores residents, old and new alike.
What makes a community, and how do communities transform? What causes these changes, and how to individuals experience the transformation of their communities? In 1929, Frederick Bartlett, one of Chicago’s largest real estate developers, purchased 1,400 acres on the shores of Lake Michigan to create a lakeside resort community. Borrowing styles popular in Florida resort communities, he attracted tourists to his planned community via the newly constructed South Shore Line. During the heyday of Bartlett’s community, the town had an inn, stables, golf course and clubhouse, a church, casino, art colony, tavern, theatre, post office, fire department, school, and several recreational areas.
The community experienced its first transformation with the onset of the Great Depression. In an attempt to continue the expansion of the community despite financial pressures, Robert Bartlett, Frederick’s brother, capitalized on the success of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Bartlett moved futuristic model homes, such as the House of Tomorrow, along with replicas of the nation’s most famous historical structures, like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, to the beaches and wetlands of Beverly Shores. What emerges from the Bartletts’ planning is one of the most architecturally diverse communities in Porter County.
When Bartlett left Beverly Shores behind, selling his lands and setting off for new ventures, the town was forced to incorporate to provide services to residents in the community. The 1950’s in Beverly Shores marked a period of stability, with a mixture of full and part-time residents. However, another transformation was on the horizon. In 1966, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was created. The town faced new pressures as two-thirds of the town became parkland, halting further development of the community.
How did these changes affect the lives of those who called Beverly Shores home? Through experiencing the unique environment and architecture of Beverly Shores, and hearing from those who witnessed these transformations, the Beverly Shores Stories Project tells a story both completely unique yet still universal—how communities shape and are shaped by individuals.
We hope you will join us for the opening of the first of a two-part summer exhibit series on June 24 from 1-4p, as we showcase the fascinating history of Beverly Shores at the Porter County Museum. A companion exhibit, highlighting Beverly Shores history and culture, will also open at the Beverly Shores Depot Museum and Art Gallery this summer, with an opening reception held on July 14.