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Wisconsin: Lake Geneva – playground of the wealthy

Wisconsin's Lake Geneva was once the getaway of Chicago's rich and famous - vestiges of its glamorous past remain today

Nestled 50 miles south of Milwaukee and Madison in Wisconsin is the resort town Lake Geneva, a quaint little town on the banks of Geneva Lake.

There are plenty of small boutique shops, restaurants and bars that dot the streets of the downtown of Lake Geneva. We had not come to eat or get some retail therapy – our mission was to check out the Lakeshore path which runs from the town centre around the banks of the lake. Here you will find many Gilded Age mansions, many built by wealthy Chicagoans. It reminded me a lot of the Newport, Rhode Island mansions. The literally tightly follows the banks of the lake and passes through the backyards of these mansions. I wasn’t too concerned about the privacy of homeowners as the path was still quite away from their actual houses – but it still felt a bit voyeuristic. Some of these mansions are huge. Stone Manor, for example, is so large that it was recently converted into six luxury condos!

A large lakeside manor on Lake Geneva, Wisonsin
A large lakeside manor on Lake Geneva
This palacial building has now been sub-dividing into luxury condos - Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
This palacial building has now been sub-dividing into luxury condos
A long climb to this villa - Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
A long climb to this villa
A pretty gable leading to a boat launch - Lake Geneva, Oregon
A pretty gable leading to a boat launch

It doesn’t take too long to get to the outer reaches of the town. You can keep going along the shore path but there is increasingly less to see. So, after about 30 minutes of walking, we turned around.


Another perspective of viewing the lake and there is no better way of doing this than taking a cruise on the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. Their mail ships are the only water mail delivery service in the country. Their public tours include a narrated history of the historic homes as well as the area and its development. All tours give the narrated tour with the exception of the Cocktail Cruise which provides live entertainment.


Black Point Estate, is a hilltop mansion built by Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp in 1887. The estate is so private that it can only be accessed by the public via the lake.

This 20-room Queen Anne-style “cottage” was completed in 1888 for $20,000. It included 13 bedrooms and only one bathroom. It sat on nearly eight acres of beautiful grounds that included 620 feet of undisturbed Geneva Lake shoreline. Sadly, for Seipp, he only got to enjoy it for two seasons before he died in 1890.

The cruise and guided tour of the historic site takes roughly 3 1/2 hours.

Address:Tickets can be booked through Lake Geneva Cruise Line (262-248-6206)
Hours:Open May 1 to Oct 31 – one tour daily at 10:30 am
Admission Fees:General Admission: $39, Senior (65+): $37, Child (5-17): $27 Child (Under 4): Free
Map:Google Map

We had a very enjoyable time at Geneva Lake. If you include the Black Pointe Estate tour in your plans you could easily spend a day in the area – and there are plenty of options for eating and drinking. So, if you are in the area take a detour and explore one of the less known (unless you are from Wisconsin) tourist spots in Wisconsin.

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