Century of Progress Home

     The Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago ran from 1933 through 1934.  Some remember it for the popular act of Sally Rand at the Fair who did a dance in which she hid her nakedness with skillfully moved hand held fans.   

    Likewise, builders at the exhibition did a fan dance of their own.  The model houses were designed according to a clear top-down approach.  The architects depicted what they considered the best house for modern man to live in.  What was seen as needful was a clean machine-like house.  In addition, those were exactly the ones that were built according to their plans.   

    The old boulevard section of Hollywood Drive running from Elm north to beyond Maywood has many unusual homes of historic significance.  The South West corner of the Home is of substantial historic interest to historians and engineers alike.  It is a replication of a 1933-1934 Chicago Exhibition home executed in lightweight concrete reinforced with steel.

   Earlier, visionary inventor Thomas Edison experimented with lightweight high-strength concrete as an ideal material for residential construction.  Edison claimed that such homes could be built in three days.



Century of Progress Home on Hollywood Drive

    A balloon frame type wooden addition appears to have been added beyond the second window on the upper floor of the right side of the structure in addition to an extensive single story rear addition to the Left side of the garage addition.  Some preservationists believe it is best to leave unusual historic structures like this one unaltered.  In spite of numerous changes that may have weakened load-bearing walls, fortunately, there have been no catastrophic failures.  Making changes to any structure, especially an unusual one like this is best left to structural engineers.


      The second story addition is seen beyond the two upper story windows.  The pond on the roof may be a reflecting pond, water garden, or just a design quirk unanticipated in the plans submitted to the city building department for approval of the wood and stucco addition to the concrete structure.  The plans were approved on April 14, 1975 and most exterior work carried out.  The interior may never have been finished because of roof leak problems.  The exact derivation of impoundment is unclear - perhaps someone misread his or her level and or protractor.


    May 15, 2002, is a day that represents a milestone in correction of structural and roofing problems in the home.  In this photo, taken by a new owner, Joe Buick, his father-in-law and head structural engineer Gene Sisinyak seen standing in the street to the right is seen overseeing the erection of custom-made high-strength roof trusses.  Here, an engineer's know how preserves the historic structure and bonds it to the wooden frame addition.  


    As the crane operator places another truss Gene Sisinyak answers questions.   The new owners were aware of some serious problems and are prepared to correct them.  Previous owners declined advice to employ the services of a structural engineer and many thousands of dollars were wasted on inappropriate repairs.


Load Bearing Door Lintel Correction

   A weak load bearing door lintel supporting a concrete beam was found to be failing.  Gene Sisinyak has added a structural steel weldment made at a local fabrication ship and new concrete block to assure proper support for the door-opening load.  There are other repairs made in cases where load-bearing walls have been compromised.  A problem in years past may have been a City building permit process that lacked a staff analysis of the effects of removing load-bearing supports.


Some Engineers are Heroes

   Engineer Gene Sisinyak has converted an art deco structure with a poorly planned and never completed addition from a rental hardly fit for human occupancy into a comfortable home for the Buick family.  This entire renovation processes being documented as a heroic example of correcting numerous changes considered to have had a lack of engineering oversight.

Anyone wishing to buy an existing home should have it professionally inspected.  In Monroe, the building department can provide the repair history on the home assuming that no “bootleg” work was done without the required permits.  We believe you will find our building department very knowledgeable and able to direct you to sources of structural engineering expertise. 


December 3, 2003 - Click for larger image

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