Tour tells tales of Lake Geneva history

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Dennis Hines | June 14, 2015

LAKE GENEVA — A good story never gets old.

So this summer, residents and tourists alike can stroll around downtown Lake Geneva to hear the back story of the city's most well known and remarkable landmarks.

Black Point Estate and the Lake Geneva Historic Preservation Commission are teaming up to offer Legends and Landmarks: A Walking Tour of Lake Geneva this summer. The tour features historic buildings and landmarks around the downtown area, as well information about some of Lake Geneva's historic figures.

“Part of the focus is architecture of the buildings in the downtown area and the historic Maple Park District,” said David Desimone, Black Point Estate site director. “People will be able to hear stories about the historic characters of Lake Geneva who helped to make it what it is. The focus also is on the movers and shakers of the community. There are stories about the Native American and early European settlers. It's a nice overview.”

Tours will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays, from June 18 to Aug. 20, and will be conducted by staff and volunteers from the Wisconsin Historical Society. Each tour will last about 90 minutes, beginning and ending outside the Riviera on Wrigley Drive on the lakefront.

“It's a nice way to spend an evening,” Desimone said. “The tour ends at about 8 p.m. It's enough time for people to grab dinner and finish their day in Lake Geneva ... ”

Representatives from Black Point Estate developed the idea for the tour after learning that the Lake Geneva Historic Preservation Commission was updating its tourism brochure, Desimone said.

“The Lake Geneva Preservation Commission was updating their booklet of the downtown area and the Maple Park District,” Desimone said. “At Black Point, we were thinking about developing programs that were more community based. We worked on (the tour) and did a lot of research.”

Ken Etten, chairman of the Lake Geneva Historic Preservation Commission, said the brochure includes several of the sites that are featured on the tour as well as other historic locations in the Lake Geneva area.

“(The brochure) includes a map that shows the route of the walking tour. It lists some of the buildings and homes that are on the tour and some background information on each of the buildings,” Etten said. “People either can go on a self-directed tour with the booklet or they can go on a guided tour. (The brochure) has photos of some of the houses and written descriptions of some of the houses.”

The brochures are available at Lake Geneva City Hall, the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Black Point Estate.

“The brochures are free, but a couple of people have asked if they could make a donation,” Etten said. “So, people can make a donation of $1. It costs us about $1 to publish a booklet, so technically they're covering the cost to publish a booklet. It also will allow more brochures to be printed in the future.”

The walking tour costs $8 per person or $15 for two people. Tickets can be purchased in advanced through Black Point Estate or the evening of a tour.

Desimone said Black Point Estate and the commission selected sites for the tour based on their interest and historical significance.

“Some of the buildings are significant because of their architectural design,” he said. “Other buildings were selected because of who the architect was and other buildings were selected because something significant happened there.”

Even though the tours haven't started yet, the idea is garnering attention.

“We field tested it a couple of weeks ago at the Lake Geneva library. There were about 85 people in attendance who said they were interested, so we were pleased with that,” Desimore said. “We consider it a fun, good way to spend a summer evening. There's a lot of interest in history in this area.

“I think it will allow tourists to have a nice feel of the community.”

Etten said the walking tour will help people learn more about the area.

“It's good for people who are interested in historic preservation,” Etten said. “When I travel to other communities, I like to do tours of their historic districts. Lake Geneva has an interesting history, and (the walking tour) will help make more people aware of it.”

Desimore said he hopes the tours will continue to be offered in the future.

“Our desire is when we put time and effort into something, we like to continue it for at least three years. This year, we will be taking feelers for how people feel about the tour,” Desimore said. “If Thursday is not convenient, we will move it to another day next year. We're hoping this will stick around for a number of years.”

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