Note: The is the second in a two-part series.
Other venues in Lake Geneva that drew residents together included the Lake Geneva High School, the Lake Geneva Public Library, the old Y.M.C.A., and the city’s churches.
A significant change has been the location of the churches that residents attended. The Evangelical Lutheran Church (E.L.C.A.) was originally located at the southwest corner of Park Row and Warren Street. Residents called it the Park Row Lutheran Church. The “other” Lutheran Church in Lake Geneva was originally located on Walworth Street in the Crawford neighborhood. The St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church has always been on Main Street on the city’s east side at the top of Catholic Hill.
In 2022 many residents of Lake Geneva attend churches outside of the city including the Lakeland Church on Highway 67 and the Mt. Zion Church northeast of the city. The Evangelical Lutheran Church, which for many years was located at the northeast corner of Park Row and Clover Street is now on Bloomfield Road at the city’s far southeast edge. The other Lutheran Church that was once on Walworth Street is now located adjacent to the Oak Hill Cemetery. The Baptist Church’s building now houses the Topsy Turvy brew pub. What impact these changes in the locations of the city’s churches has had on a sense of community in Lake Geneva has yet to be determined.
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Today Lake Geneva is a spread out city as evidenced by the Shodeen housing development on the hill overlooking Lake Geneva’s north side, another Shodeen development on the northwest side of the city, and the Symphony Bay development on the city’s far southeast side.
Among landmark buildings that have recently disappeared besides the Traver Hotel is the Victorian Lodging on Main Street across the street from Library Park.
The Oakwood Sanitorium on the north side of Catholic Hill was still there when I was a youth although it was abandoned and in decrepit shape. It has since been replaced by the Havenwood condo complex.
The Dairy Queen on Wells Street no longer exists. Lake Geneva’s youth were deprived of a favorite gathering place.
In addition to the public schools in the 900 block of Wisconsin Street, Lake Geneva once had another public school, the Third Ward School, which had opened in 1874 in the 700 block of Henry Street. The Third Ward School’s building is today the home of Frank Kresen Post #24 of the American Legion.
Where Hanny’s Restaurant had once been at the northeast corner of Dodge and Broad streets is today the Zaab Restaurant. I spent many an hour drinking coffee and chatting with friends at Hanny’s restaurant. It was the place to go after Lake Geneva High School football and basketball games. In the mornings many workers in Lake Geneva had their “wake up” coffee at Hanny’s Restaurant before beginning their jobs. The Hickory House restaurant on Wrigley Drive across the street from the Riviera is today part of Popeye’s Restaurant. During the late 1950s I washed dishes at the Hickory House on the night shift from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m.
To the north of Hanny’s White House restaurant was Patsy DeMarco’s candy store where Lake Geneva’s youth bought root beer barrels, Jaw Breakers and bubble gum.
Many other changes in Lake Geneva have occurred over the past 80 years including a significant transformation in the character of the historic Maple Park neighborhood. For most of its existence, the Maple Park neighborhood was comprised of owner-occupied houses. The “anchor” of the Maple Park neighborhood is its namesake, Maple Park, which was one of two public squares the Irish-born surveyor Thomas McKaig designed in the plat of Geneva that he drew up in 1837-1840. The other public square is Seminary Park. In 2022 many homes in the Maple Park neighborhood are no longer owner occupied but instead are Air B&Bs or short-term rental properties owned by absentee landlords. This has diminished the community cohesion of the neighborhood.
Another major change in Lake Geneva has been in the demographics of its population. During the 20th century most of the people living in Lake Geneva were of English, German, or Irish ancestry. A few families were of Italian or Greek origin. In 2022 a considerable number of residents are of Mexican origin.
Lake Geneva’s topography has also changed. At the northwest edge of the city were two large hills which my friends and I rode our sleds and toboggans down during the 1940s and 1950s, Beginners Hill and Devils Hill. Today these two hills are the site of homes in the Edgewood subdivision. Also gone is the large swamp between Maxwell Street and Elmwood Avenue where I, Gary Gygax, and other young people hunted bull frogs and dodged snakes. The area where the swamp had been is now the site of large apartment and condo complexes. Lake Geneva’s primary shopping venue has migrated from the downtown business district to the eastern edge of the city beyond the glacier-carved valley in which Lake Geneva had been founded. Many of the city’s small stores have been replaced by large box stores such as Walmart, Walgreen’s, Home Depot, Target and Best Buy.
The hilly area west of Elmwood Avenue where cows once grazed is today the Sturwood subdivision.
The largest manufacturing firm in Lake Geneva, Trostel’s, which once employed hundreds of workers, is long gone.
Also gone are four venues where I and my friends spent many hours. Sherman Allen’s Root Beer Stand at the northeast corner of Marshall and Williams streets — where the Pizza Hut is today — the Penny Arcade on the west side of the 100 block of Broad Street, and JoVelle’s Grille on the northwest side of the city.
Many other changes have occurred in Lake Geneva over the past 80 years, but a future historian will have to recount those changes.
Patrick Quinn is a Lake Geneva native who is the University Archivist Emeritus at Northwestern University. Quinn can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.