League Lines: History Lives Here

Porter County Chapter_Read Dunes House

Indiana >> The home of long-time environmentalists and Izaak Walton League leaders Herb and Charlotte Read was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December. Designed by Herb Read and commissioned by his parents (Philo and Irene Read), the home is located 1,000 feet inside the southern boundary of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a national park along the shores of Lake Michigan that now includes more than 15,000 acres of land and water.

The national park also contains sand dunes, oak savannas, swamps, prairies, rivers, and forests. More than 1,100 flowering plant species and ferns make their homes here, and the park is renowned for its bird life (more than 350 species). It is an especially important feeding and resting area for migrating land and water birds.

The Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League was founded at the Reads’ home and was dedicated to preserving important ecosystems in the dunes. Eight months after the park was created in 1966, Irene Read wrote to the National Park Service offering up the Read home to be- come part of the park property. “Having helped fight for this park for many years as a member of the Save the Dunes Council and the Izaak Walton League,” she wrote, “I am delighted to be included in the park area.” The National Park Service bought the house in 1969, and the Reads continued to live in the house until the “Reservation of Occupancy and Use” expired in September 2010. In 2009, the Reads and their supporters began the political battle necessary to secure a listing for the house on the National Register of Historic Places.

Congressman Pete Visclosky (D-IN) wrote in support of the National Register nomination that “the Read Dunes House ...stands as a historic testament to the hard work and dedication of all those involved with the conservation of the lakeshore. Many strategic meetings were held at this home by the Save the Dunes Council and the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, not to mention the individual discussions held to continue the fight on behalf of the unique ecosystem found along the south shore of Lake Michigan. Further, the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America was founded in the Read Dunes House, and as founding members, the Reads energized the other members of this organization with their ceaseless enthusiasm to protect this most precious resource.”

National Register Interim Keeper Carol Shull wrote that after review of the nomination, she determined that, “The Read Dunes House is historically significant for its association with the efforts of citizen conservation groups to preserve the Indiana Dunes and create the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. While the beginning of these efforts dates back to the early 20th century, it was in the 1950s-1960s that they proved successful, overcoming the opposition of industry and much of the state’s political leadership, leading to the preservation of the dunes and the creation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966. It was during this time period that events occurring at the Read Dunes House played a central role.”

Herb and Charlotte Read and supporters of the nomination hope that with the Read Dunes House now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service will put the historic property to use for environmental education, a staging point for hikes, and as a museum or interpretive center to tell the story of the citizen movement to preserve the dunes. Their immediate goal is to convince the National Park Service to take the house off the Park Service’s list for demolition (which could happen despite the home’s historic designation).

“The Read Dunes House is a perfect location to tell both the human and natural history that is the essence of Dunes Country,” says Pia Lopez, the Reads’ daughter-in-law. “The Read Dunes House is one of those places where conservationists met and worked and made history: the creation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. This is a place to tell the story of the people who made a park.”