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Lake Geneva Hotel, Lake Geneva, WI (1911) (S.171)
The Hotel Geneva Swimming Pool Circa 1967
 

In February 2009 Allen Hermansen sent us a copy of the March/April 1988 issue of Lake Geneva Magazine. It contained an article “No Rooms Available.” It included a photograph with a caption that read "In the last days the Lake Geneva Hotel...". What peaked my interest was the chain link fence on the left, but having no other information assumed it was part of the "last days of Lake Geneva Hotel, and part of the demolition process. 1

Caption: In the last days the Lake Geneva Hotel, stripped of its ornaments and trellises, fell into disrepair, with even its bushes untrimmed, its only profitable feature was a swinging singles bar called Snoopy’s.  Photograph by Alyn W. Hess.
 
In April 2010 we received a copy of the December 10, 1967 issue of the Milwaukee Journal, Sunday Picture Journal "The Wisconsin Legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright." Page 20 included an image with a swimming pool in front of the Lobby. The chain link fence now made sense.
Hotel Geneva 1967. Photograph published in the Milwaukee Journal, Sunday Picture Journal, December 10, 1967, page 20. "Later owners have added such un-Wrightian touches as Polynesian decorations inside and a swimming pool at the entrance. Like Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, built a few years later, it may be doomed. The present owner, former State Sen. George Borg, is considering whether to tear it down or to remodel it. Wright students hope to save it." Note: Name has been changed to "Geneva Inn".
 
George Borg. The Milwaukee Journal, Sept 1, 1967 reported that a tavern named the Geneva Inn belonged to George Borg, but mentions nothing about the hotel. Note: the image above clearly indicates that the Hotel Geneva is clearly the Geneva Inn.

The Milwaukee Journal - Aug 6, 1971 reported that Borg, 38, the millionaire grandson of the inventor of the automobile clutch, resigned from the senate in August, 1967, less than a year after being elected to his first term. The Hotel Geneva was demolished in 1970. In 1971 Borg operated the Riviera Inn at Lake Geneva.

 
But this raises a few other questions and observations:

July 1967: Richard Nickel documents Hotel Geneva. The restaurant in the "Dining Room" is "The Golden Orchid Cantonese American Cuisine". The "Lobby" exterior above the windows lacks the original "Hotel Geneva" lettering that existed for years and also the newer lettering "Geneva Inn" that George Borg added. The "Entrance" sign is empty, indicating that the restaurant may not be open. The sunken swimming pool exists, as does the diving board, but lacks the chain link fence. The three spot lights at the top of the "Lobby" aimed down at the pool are there. Foliage on the trees is lacking, indicating that it is more like winter than summer. The three foot high decorative wrought iron fencing placed above the "Planter" most likely was placed there to guard the windows during "swim play".

 
Detail. The "Lobby" exterior above the windows lacks the original "Hotel Geneva" lettering that existed for years and also the newer lettering "Geneva Inn" that George Borg added. The sunken swimming pool exists, as does the diving board, but lacks the chain link fence. The three spot lights at the top of the "Lobby" aimed down at the pool are there. Foliage on the trees is lacking, indicating that it is more like winter than summer. The three foot high decorative wrought iron fencing placed above the "Planter" most likely was placed there to guard the windows during "swim play".
 
According to Al Hermansen, "We had bar, but it was down in the basement. We converted part of the lobby to a bar". Photograph by Richard Nickel dated July 1967.
 
Details of the sunken pool, decorative wall and flower pots can be seen in this photograph, a detail of the above. Photograph by Richard Nickel.
 
Sept 1, 1967. According to Al Hermansen, George Borg changed the name to the Geneva Inn. "Inns were popular at the time, like the Holiday Inn." The Milwaukee Journal, Sept 1, 1967 reported that a tavern named the Geneva Inn belonged to George Borg, but mentions nothing about the hotel. Note: the image above clearly indicates that the Hotel Geneva is clearly the Geneva Inn. The Milwaukee Journal - Aug 6, 1971 reported that Borg, 38, the millionaire grandson of the inventor of the automobile clutch, resigned from the senate in August, 1967, less than a year after being elected to his first term. The Hotel Geneva was demolished in 1970. In 1971 Borg operated the Riviera Inn at Lake Geneva.
 
December 10, 1967. Published in the Milwaukee Journal, Sunday Picture Journal, page 20. "Later owners have added such un-Wrightian touches as Polynesian decorations inside and a swimming pool at the entrance. Like Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, built a few years later, it may be doomed. The present owner, former State Sen. George Borg, is considering whether to tear it down or to remodel it. Wright students hope to save it." Note: Name has been changed to "Geneva Inn".
 
Conclusion. Richard Nickel's 1967 image and the Geneva Inn 1967 image seem to cast doubts that both could have been taken in the summer of 1967. It is clear that the Geneva Inn image is the summer of 1967. This would tend to indicate that it was either photographed a year earlier, or as was Nickel's habit, recording buildings that were in jeopardy of being demolished.  One clue could be in a caption Ted Schaefer wrote in the Lake Geneva Magazine. "In the last days of the Lake Geneva Hotel... its only profitable feature was a swinging singles bar called Snoopy’s." This could have been the reason the "Geneva Inn" was painted over. When Nickel photographed the Hotel, the restaurant was clearly the "The Golden Orchid Cantonese American Cuisine". This would also indicate that it was not the summer of 1967. When we contacted the Richard Nickel Committee and Archive, the organization, they stated "Our files indicate the name 'Lake Geneva Inn, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.'  Which is how Richard Nickel must have referred to the commission.” This would again indicate that he would have referred to the name that it was called at the time, indicating that he photographed the hotel after Borg changed the name.
 
One additional footnote to the Nickel photographs. Nickel recorded the above image as the "Dining Room" when in reality it was the "Lobby". According to Al Hermansen, "We had bar, but it was down in the basement. We converted part of the lobby to a bar". The actual "Dining Room" was through a door on the far right. With tables and chairs it is easy to see why he had that impression. But a small clue is also present. In the detail below, Part of the ceiling "wall paper" or "covering is hanging down and water damage is evident. If the hotel had been operational at the time, it would have at least been cut off.
 
 
 
       Milwaukee Journal - Sept 1, 1967. "Lake Geneva to Suspend Borg Bar License. The city council Friday night voted to suspend the class B liquor license for a tavern here belonging to George Borg, Delavan, for 10 days beginning after Labor Day weekend. Borg resigned recently as a state Senator. The Action followed complaints by Lake Geneva’s mayor and police chief that minors were being allowed to loiter in the tavern, the Geneva Inn."
       Milwaukee Journal - Aug 6, 1971. "Borg Injured in Motorcycle Crash. Former Republican State Sen. George Borg was reported in critical condition Friday at University Hospital here with injuries suffered Wednesday when his motorcycle crashed into a pole and struck a tree near Lake Geneva. Borg, 38, the millionaire grandson of the inventor of the automobile clutch, resigned from the senate in August, 1967, less than a year after being elected to his first term. He previously had served three terms in the Assembly. He now operates the Riviera Inn at Lake Geneva."
 

Text by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright 2008, 2010

 
 
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