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Wright Studies
Lake Geneva Hotel, Lake Geneva, WI (1911) (S.171)

Not much has been written about the Lake Geneva Hotel.  Lake Geneva was a popular destination attracting visitors from both Chicago and Milwaukee. One of the few hotels in Lake Geneva, The Whiting House, built in the early 1870s was destroyed by fire in1894.  The lake front property sat vacant for 17 years while attempts were made to reconstruct a new motel.  This was finally accomplished by Arthur L. Richards and John J. Williams.
       Arthur L. Richards was a real estate developer in Milwaukee, WI. He is well known for his association with Wright and the development of the American System-Built Homes (S.200 - 204) (1915-1917).  These homes are still being discovered today. John J. Williams was a businessman from Chicago.  Richards and Williams formed the Artistic Building Company and developed the Lake Geneva Hotel.  This was Richards first project with Wright. Designed in 1911 as "The Geneva Inn", "The Geneva" opened in August 1912. Within two years, it changed hands due to financial difficulties. By the end of 1914 and the beginning of 1915 the name was changed to the Hotel Geneva, and it stayed the Hotel Geneva most of its life. During its final years it was known as "The Geneva Inn".
       In 1917, the Hotel Geneva was advertised as "New and Modern. 70 Rooms with Bath. Dancing, Swimming and Fishing. Fish or Chicken dinners. 9 Hole Golf Course Open to the Public. A. H. Thierbach, E. T. Nussbaum Owners."
       John K. Notz, Jr. writes that “in the 1920's, the Lake Geneva hotel was in its hey-day. It is said that, during the Prohibition that started in 1919 and lasted into the early 1930's, tunnels into the basements of nearby storefront buildings facilitated the movement of booze for consumption into the hotel and, when raids for Prohibition violations or gambling took place, the movement of customers out. While there are denials of that kind of activity in the local written histories such as the now defunct "Lake Geneva Magazine", such activities are more than plausible, as I have been told of biplane landings in the Winter on the frozen lake surface, for the purpose of picking up "booze" from the lake shore residences.
       "A long-time operator-owner sold it, vacant, in 1962 but

  took it back in 1965. Selling it, again, in 1966. Eric Johnson of Williams Bay, WI - then an architectural student - spent a Summer vacation measuring, cataloguing and sketching all of the hotel's panels, bricks and window sills."
       A set of images by Richard Nickel dated July 1967, shows that the restaurant had been operated as the Golden Orchid, Cantonese American Cuisine. But The Milwaukee Journal, Sept 1, 1967 reported that a tavern named the Geneva Inn belonged to George Borg, but mentions nothing about the hotel. (More)
       Richard Nickel also captioned image #3 as the Dining Room. This may be due to the assumed use at the time this photograph was taken. As you can see from the image, this area was converted to a dining area. In Monograph V3 p189, Pfeiffer, and in Lost Wright p119 Lind, both describe this area as the Dining Room. This can not be the Dining Room, but the Lobby. The Lobby is the only room that has a row of lower windows. The original drawings indicate columns in the middle of the Dining Room. The drawings also indicate a square in the center of the Lobby area in relationship to the placement of the skylight.
       Wright’s other collaborations with Richards included: Remodeling of the Hotel Madison, Madison, Project 1911
(V3 p192); Office Building and Shop, Milwaukee, Project 1913 (V3 p236); Chinese Restaurant, Milwaukee, Project 1913 (V3 p237).
       There were many classic Prairie styled Wright details. The basic materials were wood and stucco.  Strong horizontal lines, low-pitched roof, broad overhanging eaves, horizontal rows upon rows of leaded glass windows, leaded glass light fixtures and doors, vases, and decorative poles, the prominent centrally located fireplace and chimney, terraces and porches. There was a beautiful art glass skylight ceiling in the lobby. The lobby included built-in seating, a large semicircular fireplace with a semicircular metal sculpture and fireplace andirons.
       Ownership continued to change over the years, the building deteriorated, it became vacant and in January 1970 after a fire, it was demolished.       September 2008
Text by Douglas Steiner, Copyright 2008.

  History    1925    Gilman Lane 1935-1945    Nickel 1967    Swimming Pool    Demolished    Light Pole    Post Cards 
  Light Fixtures    Art Glass    Andirons    Behind the Scenes    Related Books & Articles  

Pictorial History

The Whiting House, built in the early 1870s was destroyed by fire in 1894.  This is the original property where the Hotel Geneva was built.  Boat landing with Whiting House in background.  Shows original lagoon in front of the Whiting House.  Postcard printed in Germany and published by James Leonard Publishing, Lake Geneva, Wis.  See additional information about the Whiting House.


Original aerial view drawing drawing. "Frank Lloyd Wright Monograph 1907-1913", Vol. 3, Pfeiffer, Futagawa, Yukio, 1991, page 189-191.

Postcard using Wright's original drawing.  Published by Acmegraph Co., Chicago, IL  Early drawings included a proposed three story section on the East end, which was never built.
"The Geneva," Lake Geneva, Wis. This may be one of the earliest images of the Hotel Geneva.  Published by V. O. Hammon Co.,  Chicago, IL.  Circa 1912.  The History of the Hotel Geneva viewed through Post Cards.
Drawing submitted by Wright and published in the Architectural Record, June 1913, p572.
Also published in the the Architectural Record, June 1913, p573.  Wright’s other collaborations with Richards included: Remodeling of the Hotel Madison, Madison, Project 1911 (V3 p192).
Hotel Geneva 1915. From “Lake Geneva”, Published by Morrison and Rogers, Lake Geneva, Wis.
Copyright 1915, by C. MacKay Morrison.  (See Ceramic Plate)
Images from the Eric Milton Nicholls Collection, circa 1925

These images are from the Eric Milton Nicholls Collection and may be some of the earliest documented photographs of the Hotel Geneva, including an excellent photograph of the "light pole" and

  possibly one of the only photographs of the East end of the building.  The NLA dates these images circa 1925.

Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
Text by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright 2008
Images By Gilman Lane, Circa 1935-1945

Little can be found about Gilman Lane. He photographed buildings in the Chicago area including many of Wright’s work. His photographs were given to the Oak Park Public Library after his death in 1961.  These Lane images were photographed 1935-1945.

  They are important because they give a picture of the Hotel Geneva in a more original state before changes were made.  Gilman Lane images courtesy of the Oak Park Public Library, Gilman Lane Collection.
Gilman Lane images courtesy of the Oak Park Public Library, Gilman Lane Collection.
Text by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright 2008
Images By Richard Nickel, 1967

This set of six images were photographed by Richard Nickel in 1967, for the Historic American Building Survey (HABS). Nickel (1928-1972) was killed in April 1972, when a stairwell in the Chicago Stock Exchange building collapsed on him. HABS began in 1933 and has been administered jointly by the Library of

  Congress and the National Park Service. The Library of Congress has digitized photographs, drawings and other data from the project. A number of HABS photographs were taken by Chicago photographer and preservationist Richard Nickel. This collection of six photographs are available from the The Library of Congress.
This collection of six photographs are available from the The Library of Congress.
Text by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright 2008
The Hotel Geneva Swimming Pool Circa 1967

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".  Continued...
No Rooms Available” By Ted Schaefer

No Rooms Available: Once-Famous Lake Geneva Hotel Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright Checks out of Local History.
...late summer of 1912 - a stunningly different but equally memorable (as the Whiting House) resort hotel was occupying spot and officially opened for diners and overnight guests. Wright’s long, low, cream- colored two-story building with its red 

  cantilevered roofs overhanging it’s banks of leaded glass windows stretched from Broad Street to Center Street, sending terraces, gardens, and lawn toward the lakefront. The Lake Geneva Hotel’s interior was just as remarkable. The spacious dining room gleamed under a lighted, multicolored art-glass ceiling, its south side carrying a large outdoor terrace. According to local  Continued...
The Hotel Geneva Decorative “Light Pole” & The Darwin D. Martin “Birdhouse” (S.100) (1904)

One of the small details of the Martin complex is the “Birdhouse” Wright designed. Although this Hotel Geneva element is not a “Birdhouse”, the design is very similar. It is most likely to constructed of wood and leaded glass. Early images show the vertical pole to be 4.5 to 5 times the height of the decorative “light pole” base. Original aerial view drawing shows the decorative “Light Pole” setting on a much larger pedestal. It also showed a vase

  setting on a pedestal at each corner of the Lobby. The “globe” light fixtures do not exist in earlier images. The decorative “light pole” base was built into the vase pedestal. It may have been a decorative light fixture to light the stairs at night. These images of the Hotel Geneva are from a Real Photo Post Card Published by L. L. Cook Co., Milwaukee and a photograph by Lynn Anderson from No Rooms Available.
Text by Douglas M. Steiner, Copyright 2008
The History of the Hotel Geneva viewed through Post Cards.  Dating images of the Hotel Geneva.
There are very few photographs of the Hotel Geneva, so postcards become a good record.
Lake Geneva Hotel Light Fixtures
Lake Geneva Hotel Art Glass Windows
Hotel Geneva Fireplace and Andirons, Similar Andirons.
Behind the Scenes
Related Books
"Picturesque Lake Geneva" Denison, 1926, page 22.
"The Drawings of Frank Lloyd Wright" Wright, Drexler, 1962, page 47.
"Frank Lloyd Wright Vision and Legacy" Committee of Architectural Heritage, 1966, page 7.
"Frank Lloyd Wright: An Interpretive Biography", Twombly 1973, pages 77, 126.
"Frank Lloyd Wright: Three Quarters of a Century of Drawings", IIzzo; Gubitosi; Pfeiffer; Angrisani, 1977, 1981, page 30.
"Frank Lloyd Wright, His Life and His Architecture", Twombly 1979, pages 157-158, 396.
"Frank Lloyd Wright Kelmscott Gallery", Elliott 1981, pages 12-13.
"The Prairie School Tradition. The Prairie Archives of the Milwaukee Art Center", Spencer, 1985, page 78-79.
"Frank Lloyd Wright Drawings. Masterworks from the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives" Pfeiffer, Bruce Brooks, 1990, pages 173, 176-177.
"Frank Lloyd Wright and Madison: Eight Decades of Artistic and Social Interaction", Sprague 1990, pages 58, 61.
"Frank Lloyd Wright Monograph 1907-1913", Vol. 3, Text: Pfeiffer, Bruce Brooks;
Edited and Photographed: Futagawa, Yukio, 1991, pages 189-191.
"The Wright Style" Lind, 1992, page 213.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion”, Storrer, William Allin, 1993, page 172.
"Important Works by Frank Lloyd Wright From Domino’s Center", Christie's 1993, page 78.
"Prairie Art Glass Drawings", Casey 1994, page 33.
"Prairie Art Glass Drawings, Volume 2", Casey 1995, page 16.
"Lost Wright", Lind, Carla, 1996, pages 118-119.
"Stained Glass Window Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright", Casey 1997, page 14.
"Frank Lloyd Wright and the Living City" Delong, 1998, page 19.
"Prairie Art Glass Drawings, Volume 1", Casey 2000, page 33.
"Lake Geneva in Vintage Postcards" Smeltzer; Cucco, 2005, pages 58-59.
"Hotel Geneva", Meehan, Patrick (To Come)
Related Images and Articles
(Note, due to the fact that the internet is constantly changing, and items that
are posted change, I have copied the text, but give all the credits available.)
A) Architectural Record, "The Chicago Architectural Club, Notes on the 26th Annual Exhibition."  Lippincott, June 1913, page 572.
B) An Ad for the Hotel Geneva in 1917
C) An Ad for the Hotel Geneva in 1939
D) Hotel Geneva Brochure 1950-1955.  Includes text and photographs.
E) "The Prairie School Review" No 3, 1965, Tetzlaff; Corley, page 22.
F) Frank Lloyd Wright Newsletter - Second Quarter 1981 V4#2, "Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lake Geneva Hotel", Meehan, Patrick J.
G) Lake Geneva Magazine, “No Rooms Available”, Schaefer, Ted, March/April 1988, Pp 6-13.
H) "Prairie on The Lakes" by John K. Notz, Jr., 1996.
I) "Gangster Getaways." by Andria Hayday, 1998.
J) "Getaway Gangsters: Fact and Fiction." by Janet Deaver/Pack, 2004.
K1) "Lake Geneva Inn, Part One"   K2) "Hotel Geneva, A Question of Shame", Blogs by Mark Hertzberg, 2005.
L) "In 'Nickel's Chicago,' a Lost City's Lost Champion" by Edward Lifson, 2007.
M) Hotel Geneva Items, by Douglas Steiner
N) "History of the Lake Como Hotel" by Sharyn Alden Madison Magazine
O) "Owners & Managers of the Hotel Geneva" by Douglas Steiner, 2008
P) "Hotel Geneva and the Hotel Clair." by Douglas Steiner, 2008
Q) "The original Whiting House." by Douglas Steiner, 2008
 R) Map location of the original Hotel Geneva and the Hotel Clair.
S) Hotel Geneva Fireplace and Andirons, Similar Andirons.
Additional Wright Studies
Adelman (S.344)    Banff National Park Pavilion (S.170)    Bitter Root Inn (S.145)    Blair Residence (S.351)    Blumberg Residence (Project) 
Boomer Residence (1953 - S.361)    Brandes Residence (S.350)    Browne's Bookstore (S.141)    Como Orchard Summer Colony (S.144)  
Cooke Residence (1953)    Copper Weed Urn & Weed Holder    Disappearing City (1932)   
Elam Residence (S.336)    "Eve of St. Agnes" (1896)  
Feiman Residence (S.371)    Frank L. Smith Bank (S.111)    Gordon Residence (S.419)   
Griggs Residence (S.290)    Hartford Resort (Project 1948) 
Heller Residence (S.038)    Henderson Residence (S.057)   
Hoffman Showroom (S.380)    Horner Residence (S.142)    "House Beautiful" 1896-98  
  Husser Residence (S.046)    Imperial Hotel (S.194) Silverware and Monogram    Japanese Print Stand (1908)    Kalil Residence (S.387)  
Lake Geneva Hotel (S.171)
   Lamp Cottage, Rocky Roost (S.021)    Lockridge Medical Clinic (S.425)    Lykes Residence (S.433)  
Marden Residence (S.357)    March Balloons    Midway Gardens (S.180)    Midway Gardens Dish (S.180)    Nakoma Clubhouse  
Nakoma Furniture    Opus 497    Pebbles & Balch Remodel (S.131)    Pilgrim Congregational Church (S.431) 
Loren B. Pope (S.268) 
Roloson Rowhouse (S.026)    Shavin Residence (S.339)    Sixty Years Exhibition 1951-56    J. L. Smith Residence (1955)    Steffens Residence (S.153)  
  Stohr Arcade (S.162)    Stromquiest Residence (S.429)    Sutton Residence (S.106)    Teater Studio (S.352)    Thurber Art Galleries (S.154)  
  Tracy Residence (S.389)    Trier Residence (S.398)    Usonian Automatic Homes    Williams (Way & Williams) (S.033)  
Wyoming Valley School (S.401)   
Zimmerman Residence, (S.333) 
Frank Lloyd Wright's First Published Article (1898)
Photographic Chronology of Frank Lloyd Wright Portraits
"Frank Lloyd Wright's Nakoma Clubhouse & Sculptures." A comprehensive study of Wright’s Nakoma Clubhouse and the Nakoma and Nakomis Sculptures. Now Available. Limited Edition. More information.


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