When Ben Heineman, chairman and chief executive officer of the Chicago and North Western Railway, wanted a Door County retreat, he hired his friend Weese of Chicago to draw the plans. Weese, whose modern designs include the Washington, D.C., Metrorail system, designed a house on the limestone bluffs overlooking Green Bay. Much of Heineman’s forested property is now part of Ellison Bay Bluff County Park.
The Cor-Ten steel and glass house includes a room cantilevered over a cliff, 150 feet above Green Bay. Hexagonal perforations in the steel beams lighten their appearance and weight, yet the triangulated cantilever system offers sufficient structural strength to weather 90 mph winds. Design Unit, the interior design firm of Kitty Weese (Harry’s wife), selected the furnishings. The interior is finished almost entirely in teak. A sunken sitting area with a circle of sofas (which convert into beds) allows guests to view the forested cliff and the Green Bay shore through a glass oculus in the floor. Above the sofa pit, Heineman’s desk commands a panoramic view of the lake. The freestanding cabinet wall behind the desk separates the living space from the kitchen, bath, and storage compartments. A spiral staircase twists up from the kitchen area to a tubular glass entrance portal on the steel-railed observation deck.