Monday, July 22, 2013

Historic Ski-Jump Cottage

The Ski House of the Day, is the Tidholm-Koch Cottage.  Built as a ski house (and with a ski identity that includes an address on Ski Hill Road), this suburban home hasn't actually been witness to any skiing in a long, long time....almost 80 years, in fact!  This was one of the original "ski houses" built as part of a planned ski-theme community constructed in the 1920's...not in New England, not in the Rockies...but rather, it's in the unexpected ski state of Indiana!

The site of this ski house, in Ogden Dunes, is a mere 40 miles outside of Chicago, and is only a few thousand feet (as the crow flies) to the shore of Lake Michigan.  While Indiana is quite flat for a ski destination, the dunes along Lake Michigan rise to an elevation of about 200 feet in this area;  so considering that, and lake effect snow, maybe it's not such a big jump to imagine skiing as a reality in this unexpected location.  But how this house came to be (and its distinctive early owners) is an interesting bit of history.

Back in the 1920's, visionary entrepreneurs and skier club members envisioned an upscale, very exclusive community here...with a ski jump as its crowning dune-top centerpiece.  So, a planned community of about 100 home-sites was mapped out (with ski-flavored Scandinavian street names like Viking Lane, Norge Road, Lupine Lane) surrounding a central spot on the summit of the dunes that was chosen as the site for the ski hill / ski jump.  In 1927, concrete piers were built to support the massive steel structure that would become the jump. Touted as the largest steel ski jump in the world (according to the  Historical Society of Ogden Dunes  which has photos of the jump and more) the jump was an incredible 200 ft. tall and 600 ft. long!  The excitement must have been palpable as their first international ski jumping competition was held in 1928.

Built just two years later by MIT-trained architect, Harry Howe Bentley, the Tidholm-Koch Cottage (namesake and second home of its original owners) was one of the first houses in the new ski community, and became the model home for the other ski homes which followed.  The style of this home was influenced by the architect's affinity for English manors and French village houses:

It has interesting features such as multiple sets of French doors, Palladian windows, various bay windows, multiple fireplaces, archways, stonework, etc).  The walls are built of cement blocks which form both the interior and exterior walls, giving it a rustic, stone-like appearance.

 The house was originally reached by a flight of 63 stairs up from the road (but has since been reconfigured to be more user friendly) with the entrance remaining on the lower level:

The large living room with fireplace, wood floors and natural wood ceiling looks like a spacious and inviting place for socializing (apres-ski, or otherwise):

This impressive original ski-house of Ogden Dunes, the Tidholm-Koch cottage, was only a stone's throw from the ski jump.  With an estimated crowd of up to 20,000 spectators attending the ski jump competitions, this ski house surely was in the center of some high-flying action!  And, since the owners were restaurateurs (owners of the Imperial House, a well-known Chicago restaurant) during the roaring 20's and prohibition, I'd have to guess this house hosted its share of exclusive, swanky apres-ski parties!  The home has been updated, as can be seen in the modern kitchen; but house's dumb-waiter to the kitchen is surely a legacy of its original restaurateur-owners.

The house has two bedrooms (plus den), in its expansive 3300+ sq. ft (according to Home Swing), and has various other charming and interesting spaces throughout:

This bathroom looks as updated as that of any modern ski house:

I surmise that this ski house was the place to be and to be seen (...or maybe not seen, as the case may have been...) around 1930.  Unfortunately, the Great Depression, compounded by a lack of snow, led to the demise of the ski jump.  It closed after only five years in operation.  The structure itself was sold, dismantled, and moved.  There's apparently a marker commemorating the former jump site, but the landing/ski hill are now part of a community ball field.

The second chapter in the history of this ski house was its artist era.  (Artists seemed to be attracted to this area; in fact, it was the local artist community that sparked the development of the Indiana Dunes State Park in the 1920's, with the future goal of it becoming a national park.  Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore became a reality in 1966).  In 1946 this house was purchased by Joseph and Marie Tomanek.  Tomanek, a Czech-born Bohemian-American artist, painted mostly nudes in natural settings (such as the lakefront, the gardens, and the woods...all scenes that incidentally can be found very near this house), also painted several works of these dunes, including at lease one that featured snow-covered sand dunes. My guess is that the setting around this house was probably the backdrop for many of Tomanek's works.  The gardens and patios were artistically expanded:

This 83-year old ski house has been updated and renovated, but the charm and integrity of the original Tidholm-Koch Cottage has, fortunately, been maintained.

Even though ski-jumping is long-gone, and even though this house has had a varied past, because of its unique origin (at least in my mind) the Tidholm-Koch Cottage remains a "ski house" to this day.

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