Even in 1873, lake property in high demand
A photo gallery of this Mystery Place is HERE
The entrance to the Elgin Club is located on the north shore of Geneva Lake. This housing club was organized in 1873 by a group of Elgin, Ill., men under the leadership of Albert Lavoie and Charles Moseley.
The two men had tried to purchase only one acre for their use but the owner, John Wyckoff, wanted to sell all 16 acres of his land. The price was $400. It had 1,450 feet of lake shore.
The owners originally thought their development would be limited to 10 families. The original 10 included Dr. C.A. Yaeger, Charles Moseley, Carlos H. Smith, Frank Kelsey, E.P. Gerry, Ed Gooding, Marcus R. Johnson, Alfred H. Smith, Spencer A. Smith and Alfred Lavoie.
The idea was too popular. They divided the land they had purchased into 20 lots. The lots were 50 feet across and 200 feet deep and sold for $200. These lots sold within 10 days. The original owners in this development were all from Elgin. The additional 10 charter owners included D.F. Barclay, John Newman, Joseph Newman, Joseph Childs, Salem E. Weld, W.R. Burdick, L.M. Kelley, Thomas Lawrence, George H. Daniels and a Mr. Turner.
The first house was built in 1874 by Judson Gifford. He was the son of one of the founders of the city of Elgin. The club has a collection of 25 buildings, including 20 houses, the caretaker’s home, an ice house now used for storage and garages. Eleven of the houses reflect the Queen Anne style.
The club house, built in 1874, has since burned. In its place is a more modern home which was built by Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Zulfer Jr. and their son, Tony IV. Even with its Cape Cod shutters and California patio, it blends in with the surrounding homes.
In 1906 four of the cottages burned. Apparently, the fire started from a defective chimney. There was no fire protection at Elgin Club.
The waterworks from the R. T. Crane estate next door helped save the day. It also saved Mr. Crane’s boat, which was housed nearby. This fire caused the group to install a complete water system before the next season.
In 1933, a tornado came through the area and destroyed the club pier and did $1,000 worth of damage. In 1953, another fire destroyed the homes of A. D. Edwards and William Levering. It left only the frame of L.W. Schultz’s home. The Frank Rayner home had broken windows and blistered paint.
One of the nice things about this housing development is that many of the original houses still exist. They have been modernized and some have been expanded.