By Pamela S. Meyers
There was a time, long after the Great Chicago Fire had prompted many Chicago area millionaires to migrate to the shores of beautiful Geneva Lake in Southeastern Wisconsin that the Lake Geneva area became known as a proper place for convalescence from mental ailments and other emotional disorders. Over a period of time several sanitariums were established in the area.
One of the best known ones was called Oakwood. The stately-looking building, built halfway up a hill on the east side of town could be seen from the top of another hill on the west side of town as it vied for attention with the steeple of the nearby Catholic church.
|Dr. Oscar King
Photo from Facebook
Lake Geneva Sanitariums
Opened on May 13, 1885, Oakwood Springs was built at the then-astonishing cost of $80,000. Its treatments for diseases of the brain and nervous system were, at the time, the best the world could offer. In addition to promoting health via 63 acres of rolling hills and spectacular lake views, Oakwood’s attending physicians supervised a myriad of treatments. King would go on to acquire two other Lake Geneva properties and convert them into sanitariums. One was known as Lakeside, the other as Lakeside Cottage.
|Photo from Lake Geneva in
Arcadia Publishing 2005
|Lakeside Cottage as it appeared later
as the Luzern Hotel
Photo From At The Lake Magazine,
|Photo from Facebook,
Geneva Lake Museum Collection
One interesting note is that after Oakwood closed during the Depression, it went into disrepair and sat empty for many years. Over those years it suffered two fires and its dilapidated condition only added to its reputation among local children that the building was haunted. As a child, I heard those rumors and, just looking at it from afar, was enough to scare me half to death. I know local boys often went in there to play and horse around, but neither I or my girlfriends would never dare to go near it. It was eventually torn down and nowadays a medical building and apartment complex sit on the property.
Did you have a building growing up that the local children thought was haunted? Did you ever find out later the history of the building?
To learn more about Dr. King and his sanitariums and methods of treatment you can find Lisa Schmelz's full article at http://www.lisaschmelz.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Sanitariums.167110230.pdf
Pamela S. Meyers and her two rescue cats makes their home in northeast Illinois. Only a short drive from Wisconsin where she can be found nosing around the Geneva Lake area for new story ideas. Her newest book, Tranquility Point, Book 3, in her historical Lake Geneva series releases May 5, 2020.