Sitting inside the contemporary style, lakefront house in North Bay, it seems as if the lines separating indoors from outdoors have been erased. The home’s expansive view of the lakeshore and open interior living spaces create a feeling of being outside, even when resting comfortably in a family room chair.
The concept of uniting interior spaces with the surrounding landscape is one that the house’s architect, Hans M. Geyer, achieved not only by incorporating sliding glass doors and window expanses into his design, but through his use of flat-roof overhangs that extend the home’s interior wood plank ceilings out into the exterior space, according to Barbara Walter of Preservation Racine.
And on Sunday, Sept. 27, anyone with a ticket to Preservation Racine’s 2015 Tour of Historic Places can experience the feeling for themselves, when the Geyer-designed house will be one of 10 properties along Lake Michigan’s shoreline open to the public for viewing from noon to 5:30 p.m.
Vitas Thomas house
Geyer, who practiced in Racine from 1950 through 1978, designed the home in 1966 for Vitas Thomas — president of Tomco Inc., which manufactured hydraulic parts — and his family, according to research done by Walter. The Thomases lived in the home until the late 1980s.
Its contemporary style is well suited to a step-down type of lot which, in this case, accommodates a lower story recreation room and half-bath, Walter said. The main floor consists of a kitchen/family room, a combination living/dining room, four bedrooms, two baths and a utility room. There is also a beautiful, secluded courtyard garden located along the streetside approach to the house.
While some minor alterations have been made through the years, the home’s original, uncluttered architectural lines are basically intact, Walter said. They are one of the design elements that led the home’s current owners, Laurie and Rich Kobor, to purchase it several years ago when relocating to Wisconsin from the Syracuse area of New York.
Originally looking for a condo in the Milwaukee area, the Kobors were drawn to the house by its openness and the many options it offers, including the lake view and more private courtyard area, Laurie said. And now, after living in its wide open spaces, she said she’s not sure they could go back to a more closed living environment.
“We have always liked being outdoors, and here we can hear the waves and the birds singing,” she said. “Even the bedroom has big, sliding glass doors.”
The Vitas T. and Evelyn Thomas house is one of six residential sites featured on this year’s Tour of Historic Places, the theme of which is “Life Along the Lake.” Tour-goers can also visit four public sites, ranging from the Racine Water Utilities facility just south of North Beach, to the lighthouse keeper’s dwelling at the Wind Point Lighthouse.
Tickets for the tour cost $15 in advance and $17 on tour day and include a booklet listing tour locations, historic information about each site and a map. For ticket sale locations and other details, go to www.preservationracine.org.
Other sites featured on the 2015 Tour of Historic Places are as follows:
Wind Point Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence:
- A unique opportunity to view the living quarters that have housed lighthouse keepers and assistants, with their families, since 1880. Visitors can also tour the grounds and explore a display about Racine’s boat building history, provided by Jim Mercier, at the Wind Point Lighthouse in the Village Hall. A display about Preservation Racine’s 2015 Century Buildings awards will also be on site.
Village of North Bay Village Hall:
- Unusual brickwork and large, lakeview windows are featured in the creative design of this building by architect James Dresser, who was once an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright.
Harold and Edna Pugh House:
- Built in 1930, this elegant lakefront home and its backyard have been renovated in recent years with modern updates, while still honoring its rich, historic qualities.
Charles and Ora Ryba House:
- Most of the original craftsmanship of this 100-year-old house — which was based on a popular design that spread from California — is still intact. It has been home to only three families through the years.
Frederick and Nellie Harter House:
- New life is being brought to this 1880 home through the craftsmanship skills of its current owners. It is a work in progress with a wonderful view of North Beach and Lake Michigan.
Harvey W. Knoepke House:
- This home represents the varied history of its neighborhood, including ethnic communities, working families, rental property and long-term ownership. A beautiful, full-width porch welcomes visitors and offers a grand view.
William S. and Helen C. Paul House:
- Originally a two-family home, the entire area of this house was utilized by its current owners to raise their family. Such modifications to houses help to tell each home’s history.
Racine Water Utilities:
- Three additions merge to create a single, harmonious building in this stately structure which serves as home to the city’s Water Utilities. Visitors will learn about water purification and have the opportunity to view historical collections on display.
Racine Yacht Club:
- Located on Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Root River, the Racine Yacht Club has been serving members and the community for 100 years. Visitors to the club can reflect on the recreational opportunities Lake Michigan provides.