Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Historical Estates and Mansions of Lake Geneva

We are back for another stop on our tour of historical estates and mansions that surround Geneva Lake in southeastern Wisconsin.

Postcard (public domain)
There is so much that could be said about Loramoor, the once-large estate on the lake’s south shore that first began as an elegant getaway for the James R. Moore family. It later became a monastery during which time an addition was added for sleeping rooms. In more recent years, it became a subdivided property with only the out buildings from the original estate still in existence by being repurposed into homes.

The Moores had summered for two years on the lake, 
staying in a rented cottage, then after an interruption 
when he tended to his suddenly failing company,
James R. Moore
the Diamond Match Company, they returned to rent a home for a summer. The following year in 1900 they purchased the first parcel of lakeshore property on which the main house and the out buildings would be built. Over the years more land was acquired and by the time the estate was complete, more than 30 separate outbuildings comprised the compound. Famed architect of the time, Jarvis Hunt, designed every building.

Moore was an avid horseman and one of the outbuildings was a large stable with apartments on the second floor for the men who took care of the horses. Other buildings included farm cottages, a gardener’s house, a laundry house, a pump house, and many others.

Horse Stable

The horse barn (above) was large enough to stable 60 horses at one time. The brass-trimmed stalls were made of oak, and the floors were covered with wicker mats.

The main house was V-shaped, allowing every room (27 in total) to have a view of the lake, even those on the third floor.

After the failure of Diamond Match, Moore and his business partner brothers went on to form the National Biscuit Company.
Leaving the estate one would go under the arch with the gatehouse above

Following the death of Mr. Moore, the estate was sold to Frederick Countiss who changed the name of the estate to Downer Hall. The next owner was J. E. McCauley. Then later, four brothers by the last name of Lasker, purchased the property and the property stayed in their names until 1951 when the Franciscan Brothers purchased the estate and added a 43-room wing to the home, tucking it away from the front of the home and out of view from the lake. The brothers restored the mansion, keeping to it’s original design and doing all the work themselves. They then turned the stables into a library. Financial problems forced the brothers to sell the property in the 1980s to a real estate developer. The main home was torn down in 1984, replaced by a modern looking home. 

The repurposed horse stable is now on the market and you can take a virtual tour of the home by going to the Realtor's video https://youtu.be/A3Mbkj6f_zM  .

If you had a chance to time travel back to the early 1900s would you like to spend time at a large estate like Loramoor or would you prefer to stay put in 2017 and live a contemporary home like the horse stable is now?

References;  Information and pictures: Lake Geneva: Newport of the West; Ann Wolfmeyer and Betsy Burns Gage; 1976.

Discover Lake Geneva: Gage Marine; 2007

Pamela S. Meyers lives in northern Illinois with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Second Chance Love, and Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (a reissue of Love Finds You in Lake Geneva). Her novellas include: What Lies Ahead, in The Bucket List Dare collection, and If These Walls Could Talk, in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Midwestern spots for new story ideas.


  1. I would love to see the mansions in their heyday!!

  2. I agree, Connie. It would be nice to time travel back to when most the homes I've been describing were there and seeing how they looked in their prime and how the people of privilege who lived in them went about their daily lives.

  3. I would enjoy visiting the masions during their time. I've enjoyed the historical homes I visit and so glad there are the ones that have been preserved. Our minds can imagine how the home was lived in with filled with noise, smell, love and character of the residents. Thank you for sharing. Happy 4th of July to one and all.

  4. I would love to see and experience the times and mansions

  5. Love your stories about these old homes. When I was a teenager, we took a vacation trip to Michigan, but only made it to Detroit where we stayed with my aunt and cousins. Wish I had known about these homes back then. I would love to visit Lake Geneva even now since I am fascinated by old homes.

  6. thank you so much for researching and sharing this info. my grandpa lived in the mansion that was once the stable for all of my childhood and it was one of my greatest experiences spending so much time in such a historic relic. i would not know the history of such an important place to me if it weren’t for this article so once again, thank you.

  7. Why is Eleanor Durand not mentioned. And, her time and devotion spent on this prpoerty???

  8. Thank you. I suspected Loramore was in Wisconsin, and you have confirmed that. Nailed to our basement wall [above the used paint cans] for the past 45 years is a deer rack, with a commemorative medallion, stating it was the first deer, killed at Loramore [spelling on the medallion], in December 1900. My spouse's grandfather, Edward Alonzo Small born 1884, was hunting with his uncle, James Hobart Moore [JH Moore on the medallion]. Now I wonder if it was the first deer killed at Loramore or Edward's first deer kill. Nathanial Ford Moore, JH Moore's son and Edward's 1st cousin, was also born in 1884. The cousins were close friends in childhood, according to family oral history.