Since the 1800s, Lake Geneva has been a fascinating place with many famous structures belonging to some of the wealthiest people in history. Businessmen, real estate tycoons, actors and inventors have all owned homes along the Lake Geneva waterfront. Tourists have enjoyed looking at the beautiful homes owned by these famous figures for years.
Estates built on Lake Geneva include Tudor lodges and French chateaus. Part of the shoreline was once a section of the 1893 World Fair. To this day, it’s absolutely amazing to visit Lake Geneva and revel at the amount of wealth that is invested in these beautiful structures constructed on the shoreline just outside of Chicago.
Lake Geneva is certainly a great destination for those wanting to view the homes and estates of some of the richest people in the United States.
If you’re planning to visit Lake Geneva, consider taking your trip during the fall. Many people who live in and around Lake Geneva swear that the best time to visit is during the months of September and October. During the summer months, it’s fun to rent a canoe and cruise around the water looking at the beautiful Lake Geneva homes.
Remember to keep an eye out for some of the most notable and famous homes along the lake. To enhance your experience, do some research on the various homes and estates on Lake Geneva so you know some history about the individual houses and the people who lived in them when you visit.
Famous Houses on Lake Geneva
The Wrigley Estates is actually a collection of different properties named after the Wrigley Family. Yes, that Wrigley family. The family that built one of the largest fortunes in the United States and stands behind the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company, Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs, and the Wrigley Building.
The first home built on the property was Northwoodside, and it was built for the President of the Santa Fe Railroad, Henry Strong. It was later purchased by an inventor responsible for intems such as the sanitary milk bottle cap. The home was finally sold to members of the Wrigley family.
The Wrigley Estate houses take up more property on Lake Geneva than any other estate. The five houses that make up the Wrigley Estates are Hillcroft, Green Gables, Wychwood and there are two boathouses. While there is technically no “Wrigley Mansion”, Green Gables was the house where P.K. Wrigley himself chose to reside and the one that William Wrigley, Jr later purchased.
Many of the homes have undergone a certain amount of renovation and a few are now widely different from the original properties. Nevertheless, it is still interesting to take a peek into what life was like for one of the richest families in American history.
Otto Young, a Chicago Real Estate tycoon, began construction on Stone Manor in 1899. It was and still is the largest estate built on Lake Geneva. Otto Young’s story is that of the classic American dream. He migrated to the United States from Germany as a poor man and built himself a fortune that would compare to today’s billionaires.
In the early 1860s, Young used his savings from his cigar store to found a jewelry house. The store was very successful and he sold it in 1867. Work took him to Chicago, Illinois in 1871 during the Great Chicago Fire. Young saw potential in the regrowth of the city and established a wholesale jewelry house the next year as Otto Young & Co. His wealth grew, and he finally was able to design Stone Manor for himself as his own dream home. When the mansion was completed, it had seven levels in total.
The first two levels of Stone Manor are sub-basements. Above those are a main floor with a ballroom, library, music room, parlor, kitchen and game room. The next levels contain bedrooms and the fourth level serves as a recreation floor complete with a full gym. Finally, the roof is an open garden with a rooftop swimming pool.
Stone Manor has many beautiful and expensive features to admire. This includes parquet tile floor, 14 karat gold plated fixtures, and a ceiling painted by European artists. Young died only 5 years after the house was finished being constructed. But the home stayed within his family until 1939.
Edgewood Estate is a beautiful home on Lake Geneva that was designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw, who was one of the most famous names in architecture at the time it was built in 1906. The landscaping was done by Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect.
The home was originally built for another famous family: the family that started the Swift & Company, or the Swift Meat Packing Company. This was the first meat packing company in Chicago and was founded by Gustavus Swift.
Edgewood Estate was originally named Villa Hortensia after the wife of Edward F. Swift. Today, Edgewood is owned by a Chicago businessman who enjoys spending his summers in the home. The house’s landscaping is well maintained and well worth seeing.
House in the Woods
The House in the Woods, a beautiful Lake Geneva waterfront home, has an interesting story about the construction. A.C. Bartlett, a wealthy Chicago hardware distributor, contracted Richard Stouter for the construction of the home. However, Stouter was already working on two other estates, including the Swift estate.
Because of this, special accommodations had to be made to get the House in the Woods built. Interestingly enough, P.T. Barnum, the famous showman known for starting the Barnum and Bailey Circus, lent Stouter a large 3-ring circus tent so that the home could be constructed during the cold winter months.
After the winter construction, Bartlett surprised his wife with the house that later won multiple design awards. Today, the home is owned by a Chicago insurance executive.
After admiring the outside appearance and landscaping of Lake Geneva estates, be sure to visit Black Point for a look inside one of these gorgeous mansions. Originally built for Conrad Seipp, owner of a popular Chicago brewery, the house was later donated by a great grandson to the state of Wisconsin as a museum.
Black Point today is identical to how it was the day it was built. While it has undergone some renovations, visitors and tourists are able to view the home as it looked in 1888 and get the feeling of what it would have been like to live in the estate.
Inside is all the original furniture, drapes, rugs, plumbing, wood trim, molding and other features. In addition, tourists can enjoy seeing the evergreen trees that the Seipp family themselves were so fascinated with. Over their course of ownership, the Seipps planted around 74 different types of evergreen trees on the property.
Another one of the most popular of the Lake Geneva lakefront estates is Alta Vista. Alta Vista has handed down through multiple major businessmen. Each of whom has started major companies that still exist today.
First, the original Alta Vista mansion was constructed for the businessman Orrin Potter in 1881. Potter was a businessman famous for his work in the steel industry. Unfortunately, this home was burned down in 1919.
The next home constructed on Alta Vista was built in 1909 for Colonel William N. Pelouze, the founder of the Pelouze Scale and Balance Company that dominated the United States Postal Company.
Today, Alta Vista is owned by the Vick Family, the family that owns the popular Vick Pharmaceuticals, known for their famous Vick’s Vapour Rub.
A day on Lake Geneva will not lack in beautiful views of expensive and elaborate lake homes.
Spending a beautiful summer day on the water or walking along the water’s edge on a chilly fall day will give you the perfect opportunity to see the homes that surround Lake Geneva.
Whether you live in Illinois or you are visiting Chicago from far away, Lake Geneva is definitely worth the trip.