April 11, 2011

Marriage and Mansions

This weekend Joey and I had the pleasure of attending a marriage conference with our church, and it took place Friday night and Saturday at the Grand Geneva Resort in the nearby city of Lake Geneva. Lake Geneva is about 30 miles directly west of our city of Kenosha....

...it is a lovely place that we don't go to nearly as often as we should.

Here's a brief history lesson on the city:
Prior to the civil war, Lake Geneva was on the reverse route to the Great Lake ports for slaves escaping from Southern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky. After the war, the town became a resort for the wealthy Chicago families. These families began construction of the many mansions on the lake, and Lake Geneva became known as the Newport (RI) of the West.

The Chicago Fire of 1871 caused many Chicago families to move to their summer homes on the lake while the city was rebuilt. The construction and maintenance of these mansions, as well as household employment, developed a separate industry in the town adding to the milling, furniture, wagon and typewriter manufacturing enterprises.

The marriage conference ended around 2pm Saturday afternoon, and Joey and I decided to take a walk around part of the lake. The temperature was in the mid to upper 50's, and what was a very cloudy and foggy morning was turning into a clear and sunny afternoon. It was just foggy enough to not be able to see the other side of the lake.

One of the things I love about Lake Geneva are the many mansions built around the lake. And many of these houses were built along "Wrigley Drive" (remember Chicago-ans built many of these houses).

The city allows tourists to see some of these houses via a walking path around the lake. The path actually cuts through the very back of the yards of these private properties giving you a view of the houses on one side and the lake on the other.

I want to give you a peek at just a few of the lovely houses we drooled over, including one house that was especially enchanting. Journey with me...

House #1: While hard to see in this picture below, I love the slate-colored stone hedge that runs across the base of this house. And even though we are a few weeks away from green trees and colored flowers, you can tell this lawn is beautifully landscaped.

Most of the houses include some type of descending steps down to the lake dock where the owner's boat(s) will eventually be held once they're put into the water (around Memorial Day). I thought this set of steps was especially lovely with the pillars and pergola entrance.

House #2: Another beautiful white house. I adore the red brick steps leading up to the house. The bricks on the pathway are placed in a herringbone pattern. None of these enormous yards had even 1 leaf on them after the long winter. Someone earns a pretty penny maintaining this place.

Along the path, across from several of the houses, were sets of old steps that used to lead to docks (I'm assuming), but are no longer in use. This one looks like the path to nowhere.

House #3: The Stone Manor ... here's a little more history for you...

The Stone Manor is the largest mansion in Lake Geneva. It is an 18,000 square foot magnificent Italianate palace with a 250 foot veranda and an expansive lawn visible from downtown Lake Geneva. The estate was built in 1900-1901 by Otto Young, a man who made his fortune buying real estate along State Street in Chicago following the great fire of 1871. It was constructed for over $1,000,000 and features such as gold-plated fixtures, a basement bowling alley, and a third floor miniature golf course astounded even the wealthiest resident. The property was a single family home until 1939 when it was presented to the order of St. Anne to be used as an Episcopalian private school for girls. The school was discontinued after only a few years. Around the 1980's the mansion and remaining property were purchased for back taxes, reportedly for $74,000. It has recently been restored and converted to 6 condominiums ranging in price up to $1.6 million.

That house is so ginormous. I can't imagine that at one time only one family lived in it. Insane.

House #4: My favorite house on the short tour, and the one we spent the most time admiring, I've saved for last. You enter the back of the property through this fence-lined pathway. On the left side, you can see some of the dock riggings, which will eventually be placed in the water.

The entire length of the fence (both sides) is painted with a variety of quotes and flowers. We spent a bit of time reading the many quotes and seeing all the different authors, including some Bible verses.

About 1/2 way down the fence, you finally look up and see the beautiful house that graces the property. The balconies are splendid. In person, I could see the large wrought iron lanterns hanging from the balcony ceilings. The landscaping was also beautiful.

Located in the middle of the fence...

...are a few objects you can see in the picture above and the pictures below:

1. Two little gates that are across from each other. The gate on the left reads "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" and leads down to the lake dock. The gate on the right reads "Expect a Miracle" and begins a path that leads up to the house.

(Note: click on any of the pictures to view them in a larger format)

2. Directly to the left of the "Yellow Brick Road" gate is a tree on which hangs a bell. Written on both the bell and the fence railing beneath it are the words "Ring the Bell to Make Miracles Happen". Everyone who walks by rings the bell.

3. Across from the bell is a glass case that says "Share....Thoughts" and inside is a notebook and pen for passerby-ers to write a note or sign their name. I wrote, "Miracles do happen for those who wait upon the Lord! Thanks. Joey & Katie ~Kenosha, WI".

Another couple walking along the path offered to take our picture in front of the bell... not the best picture after walking a while on this humid, windy day, but it'll do.

Finally, here is a view of the city of Lake Geneva - looking back at it from along the path. The skies had cleared up quite a bit by this time to give a sunny shot...

All in all in was a great weekend. Another trip back to Lake Geneva may be required once the trees are green and the flowers have bloomed. And while we may not own a mansion, at least we know our marriage is built on a firm foundation - the Solid Rock. Pin It

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