This was handed out by Lucy Ducharme during tours when she owned the wonder house:

He was a builder.

He was a poet and a philosopher. He was a dreamer. Conrad Shuck was all of these, but most of all he was a dreamer.

The doctors told Shuck, a Pittsburgh building contractor and stone quarry dealer in the pre-depression boom years, that his days on earth were numbered. So he decided to take his wife and nine children to Bartow, and to use his architectural knowledge and his fortune, to build the house of his dreams.

 When Shuck started the excavation for his dream house, he found that he was digging into bedrock. Undaunted, he decided to use the rocks to his advantage. A railroad line sold him a large number of steel rails as scrap material and since in Florida in the 20's good wood was scarce, Shuck decided to build his house of concrete over stone, reinforced with the steel rails. He took great pride in the fact that his four story house, with walls 18 inches thick at the ground level, was built almost entirely from the land it sat on except for the rails and imported tile.

The building of the house was therapeutic, for although construction of his house was to mean hard work, both mentally and physically, it resulted in 40 more years of life for Shuck instead of the one year the doctors had predicted.

The floor plan of the house is designed in the shape of a cross with each room opening up to two porches. This plan provided a cross draft for each room and in the days before central air conditioning, was indeed a boom for summer comfort.

Shuck designed the porches with hollow concrete columns to gather rain water from the roof. This was to give cooling insulation and to supply water for the planters from faucets in each column. Thousands of bits of glass and tile were worked into the concrete porches to add color.

When the foundation was dug, a pump room was built 22 feet down. The pumps are no longer in use. Then, 12 feet above that, a storage room was formed for fuel and pipes were laid from the sub-basement to a terraced pool, where fish were once stocked and a centrifugal pump was places about 10 feet underground.

The living room ceiling was constructed with removable panels so that each one could be taken out and redecorated separately without the necessity of redecorating the entire room.

A third floor porch features an 8 x 10 foot fishpond. The tile used in the designs embedded on the floor and railings of this and other porches was imported from seven countries, broken into tiny bits and set by Shuck himself.

To hide the electrical wires, Shuck designed a large round concrete post, which stand in the kitchen. Around it, he designed a rotary two tier cabinet, which when turned, opens all its doors at once. It serves as a spacious spice cabinet.

The eighteen room house has three full baths and two half baths. There are at least four doors in each room, each hand crafted. Crystal doorknobs in many of the doors have turned a lovely pale lavender. 

The DuCharme family purchased the house in 1964 and completed the construction. They made very few structural changes but did add central air and heat, enclosed a porch to be used for a breakfast room and remodeled several bathrooms.

Lucy DuCharme recently enclosed the front porch, converting it into two large informal living areas plus retaining one as a formal entrance into the house.

The "Wonder House" which was started by Conrad Shuck some sixty years ago, stands as a tribute to a man who dared to dream.

Wonder House, 1940s

Wonder House, 1940s