With only fond memories remaining, Lake Lawn Resorts closes today
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Lake Lawn Resort on Dec. 7, 2010, the last day the historic hotel was open following a foreclosure sale in October. Dan Plutchak/WalworthCountyToday.com.
DELAVAN -- Despite hopes that a last-minute deal would keep the historic Delavan vacation destination open, Lake Lawn Resort will close today, according to a posting on its Facebook page.
The post reads, "On behalf of the Associates of Lake Lawn Resort, we regretfully are announcing that Lake Lawn Resort will be closing its doors, effective Tuesday, December 7, 2010. We thank all of our past guests for your continued support and loyalty."
Dozens of people added comments expressing their sadness at the move. "Very sad. My family's been going to LLL for four generations, some of my earliest and best memories," one poster wrote.
Anchor Bank of Madison in October bought back Lake Lawn in a foreclosure sale for $19.97 million.
Two days after the sheriff's sale, Lake Lawn management sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development announcing that it was giving termination notice to 126 full-time employees. The jobs would end Dec. 7, the letter states. The notification did not include 50 seasonal employees and 110 part-time employees, the letter states. Businesses are not required to notify seasonal or part-time employees of a mass layoff event.
LAKE LAWN RESORT TIMELINE
The closure ends another chapter of a story that has been part of Delavan since the early 1800s. The history recently was documented in the book "Lake Lawn" by Chicago native Ellen Baker Bell. Published in 2009 by Arcadia Publishing, the book contains many pictures of the resort property throughout the decades as well as a foreword by Delavan historian Gordon Yadon.
Some highlights from Bell's history:
July 19, 1836—Samuel F. Phoenix stakes his claim near what is now the fourth green on the Lake Lawn Resort golf course. Phoenix and his brother moved west from New York to found a temperance colony.
1847—Brothers Edmund and Jeremiah Mabie buy property as a place to winter their U.S. Olympic Circus. The brothers' success landed Delavan on the map as Wisconsin's first circus community.
1878—The property becomes a vacation retreat when Anna Mary Phillips, the widow of Jeremiah Mabie, opens a 50-room hotel that becomes a popular vacation spot for Milwaukee and Chicago residents.
1904—Lake Lawn becomes the first hotel with electric lights on Delavan Lake.
1923—Commonwealth Edison buys the property and uses it as a summer resort for the employees of three utility companies, in the fashion of the period.
1929—George Borg buys Lake Lawn from Commonwealth Edison and opens it to the public.
1942—Lake Lawn starts to remain open year-round. The ballroom draws dancers from around the region and such musical greats as Lawrence Welk.
1948—Current owner Jay Reader, a pilot, leases property across from what is now Highway 50 and develops Lake Lawn's airstrip. As many as 50 planes land daily.
1955—Lake Lawn develops into the one visitors will be familiar with in 2010. The exception would be the resort's Native American theme that might make some politically correct people cringe in 2010.
1958—The owners take on a major expansion of the resort. Construction projects continue through the 1960s.
2004—Current owner Delavan Resort Holdings buys Lake Lawn Resort. Early in the year, resort owners present a $390 million conceptual plan to redevelop the property. The city approves the plan in September.
Plans include renovating 222 guest rooms, meeting rooms, main lobby, restaurants, bars and bathrooms.
Other plans include building two- and three-bedroom condominium units in five buildings known as the Villas of Harbor's Edge, moving the resort's main entrance from Highway 50 to North Shore Drive, building the Grand Delavan Hotel and Conference Center and building an indoor water park.
January 2009—The resort says it's officially done with the first phase of the upgrade. The $40 million project included improvements to guest rooms and public spaces.
May 2009—Orren Pickell Development of Lincolnshire, Ill., files a $13.1 million suit in Waukesha County Court. According to the summons and complaint, Delavan Resort Holdings broke a contract to sell 258 acres and 37 condos to Pickell.
June 30, 2009—The Delavan City Council unanimously renews the resort's liquor license as it was about to expire. On June 29, the resort pays the city $87,200 to take care of some outstanding invoices as well as a few that had yet to be cut by the city.
Aug. 5, 2009—Anchor Bank of Madison files in Walworth County Court foreclosure documents against the owners of Lake Lawn. Eventually, the Walworth County judges recuse themselves from the case, and it is moved to Racine County Court.
March 2010—Racine County Judge Richard Kreul makes a judgment of foreclosure against the resort.
June 8, 2010—The Delavan City Council again votes to deny Lake Lawn's liquor license because the resort owes $20,200 in cost-recovery bills. The bills are paid, and the resort continues to operate as usual.
Oct. 7, 2010—Anchor Bank of Madison is the highest bidder at a Walworth County Sheriff's Office foreclosure sale. The bank buys the resort for $19.97 million.