By Pamela S. Meyers
This month I continue my series on the historical mansions of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, my hometown. Many 19th Century mansions were built on the lakeshore after the Great Chicago Fire by displaced wealthy industrialists and bankers. Other well-to-do people soon followed and built their own fancy homes on the shores of the pristine waters of Geneva Lake.
Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by these mansions that I viewed from either a boat or the public access shore path that circles the lake. Structures so different from the humble home I lived in in the small town of Lake Geneva.
|Potter's home, so new it lacked landscaping|
Alta Vista was built by Orrin Potter, one of the founders of Union Steel, in 1881. Potter is credited with having an influential role in moving the center of the iron and steel industry from the East Coast to the Midwest.
|Taken in 1906 with landscaping and climbing ivy.|
Just prior to the fire, Willaim Pelouze of the Pelouze Scale and Balance Company purchased the property and quickly replaced the destroyed home with another—a total departure from the Victorian home that had burned. The new Italian style white-stucco villa with a red tile roof has stood out on the shoreline ever since.
In 1954, the land surrounding the mansion was
subdivided, as has happened with many of the estates on the lake, but the large
single-dwelling home still stands, reminding us of a time long lost in today’s
|Current day photo of Alta Vista, taken by me.|
The Vick family of Vick’s Pharmaceuticals is listed as a recent owner of the property. You may have used Vick’s Vapor Rub a time or two during a bad cold.
Alta Vista means "high view." I can see how the name was chosen because the mansion sits up high and seems to command the waters. I’ve walked the lakeshore path in front of this home, and it truly is magnificent up close and personal. The hill is very steep and the steps leading up to the mansion must give the current owners and their guests a good workout! It has it’s own private beach as well as a dock. At the end of the beach on the right of the picture, blocked from view by trees, is a steep cement walk that goes up at a very steep angle, then switches back and climbs more until it reaches the shore path. That also is a good workout that I can personally attest to!
Check it out for yourself if you are in the area. There are so many beautiful homes to view up close and personal. If you want more information about the shore path or excursion boat rides that are a little less strenuous, leave a comment and I'll be happy to send you information.
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries, and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other midwestern spots for new story ideas. If you happen to be in the Lake Geneva area on July 11th, you can meet Pamela and purchase her book set in historical Lake Geneva at the first annual Authorfest located in Library Park next to the beach.