Historic Walking Tour

Lake Walk Around Tour Map

1. CITY HALL – 174 E. Wisconsin Avenue – 1886.

Designed by Milwaukee Architect George B. Ferry, it was originally the civic center of Oconomowoc and over the years housed City Hall, the police and fire departments and a community auditorium.  Dances and plays were held on the second floor, which was later used as a courtroom and as council chambers. The City Council still meets here. The award-winning restoration/expansion of the building was completed in 1983 at the cost of $1.8 million.  It presently houses city offices and the police station.  The City Hall building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

city Hall 2#1 City Hall

2. CHASE BANK-138 E. Wisconsin Avenue – 1920s and earlier.

The building was originally the livery stable for the Jones House Hotel which stood on the corner west of here.  Later it became the Oconomowoc Wooden Toy Horse Company, maker of rocking horses.  The Bedford stone classical façade was added in the 1920s.

2.ChaseBank#2 Chase Bank

3. VILLAGE GREEN – Northeast corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Main Street (Hwys. 16 & 67).

Several Indian trails crossed here, and until recent times, a hotel occupied the site. The first, the La Belle House, with white frame construction, opened in 1850. It was destroyed by fire in 1875, along with other portions of the downtown. In 1887, a second hotel, the Jones House, later called the Majestic Hotel (1915), opened. It had a two-story open porch on two sides with the first floor used for dining and the second floor for hotel guests. In addition, local bands played from the second-floor porch for street dances held at the intersection. The buildings on this site played a long and colorful role in city history with a series of hotel owners, name changes and renovations. The last hotel, the Oconomowoc Inn, was condemned and razed in 1975. The Village Green is presently the site of many community activities.

Village Green

#3 Village Green

4. FAY BLOCK* – Southeast corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Main Street (105 E. Wisconsin).

This triangular building constructed by George W. Fay in 1869 is one of the most iconic sites in the community. Originally constructed of brick, the exterior and interior have been remodeled several times. After an unsuccessful burglary in 1868, Summit Bank, originally located in the Library Complex (#8), moved to this building in 1870 when the building became available. In September of 1889, the bank took on a new name, Bank of Oconomowoc, which it maintained until 1984 when it became First Bank of Oconomowoc, marking it as the oldest bank in the city. After 115 years at this corner location, the bank moved to its current site one block west. Another name change, First Bank Financial Centre, came in 1998. Throughout its history, the bank has remained an independently owned community bank. The FBFC is the second oldest bank in the state of Wisconsin.

#4-Faye-Block

#4 Fay Block Building

5. MANN BLOCK* – 102-110 N. Main Street – 1871.

This three-story Italianate commercial building included areas on the third floor used for an armory, social gatherings, public meetings and theatrical performances. Note the double-bracketed wood cornice and statuary niche with the date 1871 above on the eastern façade.

Mann Block

#5 Mann Block

6. PETER KLOSS SALOON – 125 N. Main Street – 1879.

The builder’s name and date appear near the roofline, which contains an ornamental brick cornice. This building still serves as a pub.

#5 125 N Main St

#6 125 N. Main St

7. THE TURNAROUND

In the early 1900s, a marine railway was built across N. Main Street at this site. The railway enabled an excursion and mail boat to be portaged across the two-hundred-foot isthmus between Fowler Lake and Lac La Belle.

8. VETERANS MEMORIAL PARK.

A three-story water-powered grist mill was located on the west side of N. Main Street from 1855 to 1935. Also located north of the entrance to Veterans Memorial Park but razed in 1988, were three buildings known as the “Library Complex.” These buildings were considered Oconomowoc’s original downtown business district. Early businesses once housed in these buildings included a hardware store, a general store, a bank (later City Hall) and a blacksmith shop, among others. The Complex also served as the public library/museum for many years.

Memorial Park Nov 2015 W

#8 Veterans Memorial Park

9. ZION EPISCOPAL CHURCH – 135 Rockwell St. – 1889.

The Romanesque limestone church replaced an earlier brick structure. The land for the church was donated by John S. Rockwell, the “Father of Oconomowoc,” who built the grist mill, a dam and the lumber mill in early Oconomowoc. The beautiful peninsula setting on the lake is one of the city’s outstanding landmarks.

8. Zion Church

#9 Zion Episcopal Church

10. 238 N. LAKE ROAD – 1860.

The original structure was remodeled in 1899 by David Gould, a St. Louis millionaire.  Inside, the sixteen-room mansion was fitted with eleven fireplaces.  The once broad lot had sunken gardens and tennis courts.  It has gone through at least two renovations since that time.

11. 307 N. LAKE ROAD – c. 1895.

Built by Captain John Scudder from St. Louis, the house has a huge veranda which wraps around the building and makes it appear half again as large. It was known as “Scudder’s Cottage,” and remained in the family until the 1920s when it was purchased by Caroline Kohl. At a later period, it was owned by the Freemasons; the home is now privately owned. Note the exceptional oval window in the triangular gable.

#11 307 N. Lake Road

12. 317 N. LAKE ROAD – c. 1889.

Built by H. G. Brookings, a St. Louis businessman, the Queen Anne-style mansion was used as a summer home for the family until the 1920s. By 1955 the third floor and part of the second floor had been converted to apartments. The massive three-story octagonal tower has an unusual porch, opening on three sides on the top floor. The coach house in the rear is currently apartments, but the house itself has been restored to a single-family home.

317 Lake Road#12 317 N. Lake Road

13. 318 N. LAKE ROAD – 1882.

This was the former site of the Harold Peck mansion. Harold was one of the sons of Madame Peck (#18). He died during construction of the mansion. The home was completed by his widow at a cost of $15,000 and became one of the most expensive mansions in the area. In 1991 the home was razed, and a condominium built in its place.

318 Lake Road#13 318 N. Lake Road

14. 333 N. LAKE ROAD – DRAPER HALL.

This was formerly the site of a large, rambling hotel with a seven-column colonnade across the front. The columns were three stories tall. Famous guests included Grover Cleveland, Spencer Tracy and Marshall Field. In the 1870s, it had forty-six rooms; later remodeling doubled that number. The hotel passed through several owners and was finally razed in 1967.

Draper Hall

#14 333 N. Lake Road

15. 404 N. LAKE ROAD – 1874.

This was the home of J. C. Hitchcock, who was in the hardware business. The grounds had a large mineral spring which furnished the home with drinking water from cellar to garret. The “Swiss Cottage” home was designed by Milwaukee architect James Douglas, as was its next-door neighbor (#16). Both homes have the same floor plan.

404 Lake Road#15 404 N. Lake Road

16. 412 N. LAKE ROAD – 1881.

In 1879 Mr. Martin B. Medbery transferred the property to his wife, Eunice. Built by Mrs. Medbery, this house with its roof and stick-style gable is more typical of Douglas’ work. Henry Channon, a member of the English Parliament, lived on the top floor while he was writing his book Paradise City, a novel based on early Oconomowoc. In 1942 Catherine Clark, founder and owner of the Brownberry Ovens, and her husband Russell, purchased this residence. Many recipes for her nationally recognized products were developed in the kitchen of this N. Lake Road home. Drs. Ernest and Ann Bardeen Henschel purchased the home in 1966 and lived here for forty years.

412 Lake Road

#16 412 N. Lake Road

17. 423 N. LAKE ROAD – 1884.

This Queen Anne-style home was built by G.W. Fuller of Chicago. The north side wall has an unusual window layout, a scroll-cut decorative panel at the third-floor level and ornamental shingle siding.

423 Lake Road

#17 423 N. Lake Road

18. 430 N. LAKE ROAD – 1846 with later renovations.

The most southern portion was built in 1846 by Martin Townsend for his son, Dr. Hosea Townsend, the city’s first resident physician. In the 1850s, it was purchased by Dr. William Warner, who built an addition to the north. Later, Rev. Ezra Jones, rector of Zion Church, purchased the property, added a second story on the north end and opened a school for boys. The property was purchased by Dr. Orlando W. Wight in 1869, but was sold again in 1873 to Mary K. Peck, aka Madame Peck, the widow of Philip F. W. Peck, who had acquired great wealth in early Chicago real estate. Mr. Peck died from injuries sustained during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Madame Peck became one of Oconomowoc’s greatest boosters and summered here for thirty years. She sold the home to her son, Clarence, and moved across the street to 503 N. Lake Road (#19). Clarence Peck’s addition of the ten Ionic columns, reportedly from the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, was the last major expansion of the home. Three other Peck sons built significant homes in the city: Harold (#13); Walter, Islandale in Lac La Belle; and Ferdinand, whose chalet once stood next door at 420 N. Lake Road, but was razed in 1938. The Pecks staged extravagant parties on the lakefront. The gazebo on the shoreline was part of a judging stand for yacht races. In 1923, the mansion was sold to John and Lenore Stevens. They divided the house in 1927 and sold the original southern portion of the property, which was remodeled in 1979. The northern building was later remodeled in 1988. Both houses were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. The two sections of the house were rejoined in 2010.

430 & 434 Lake Road

#18 430 N. Lake Road

Peck Home

Peck Home N. Lake Road

19. 503 N. LAKE ROAD – c. 1870.

Built by Albert Rockwell, the son of John S. Rockwell (#9), it once had a sprawling veranda on two sides. By 1884 Madame Peck (#18) owned this home and until 1926 summered here with her two daughters, Mary and Sarah. The house was sold in 1927 and remodeled into apartments.

20. 517 N. LAKE ROAD – c. 1840 and later.

The middle portion of this house is one of the oldest structures in the area. The first house in the village, a log cabin, was erected on this lot in 1837 by Philo Brewer. G.A. Foster built part of the present structure a few years later and eventually sold it to John S. (#9) and Lavinia Rockwell. After John’s death, his second wife Anna and Albert, a son from his first marriage, erected a stone wall facing N. Lake Road in 1868.

517 Lake Drive#20 517 N. Lake Road

21. N. LAKE ROAD DAM

The first dam was built in 1837 near where the bridge is today, but it washed out and was rebuilt several times. A sawmill and gristmill were also located here.  A navigational lock was built between the two lakes in 1885.

Lake Road Dam

#21 N. Lake Road Dam

22. 800 N. LAKE ROAD – KNOLLWARD – 1928.

The imposing mansion has been called the finest example of French Provincial architecture in the Midwest. It was built in 1928 by Marjorie Ward, the adopted daughter of A. Montgomery Ward of Chicago. The original cost was $80,000. A north addition was constructed in 1932 after her marriage to Robert Baker. In the 1960s, the estate was donated to Shorehaven, including a large sum for remodeling and building a two-story addition. It then served as a retirement home. In 1998, the original property was divided into four lots, all of which, including the Marjorie Ward home, are privately owned.

Knollward#22 800 N. Lake Road

23. 128 LISBON ROAD – c. 1873.

This Gothic Revival house was once home to Emory A. Clark, a Chicago furniture manufacturer. It supposedly was moved to this site from Lac La Belle. Many additions have changed its original design, but it still has some striking features, i.e., third floor balconies (both front and rear) with lancet windows, framed by gable-end ornaments.

24. 351 E. LISBON (viewed from Greenland Avenue) – THE INN AT PINE TERRACE – 1884.

It was built by Peter and Henry Schuttler, Chicago wagon manufacturers, as a summer home. The Schuttler brothers married into the brewing families of Anheuser and Busch. The estate included about 160 acres of forest and farmland. A large flower garden and lawn area once connected the mansion with the north shore of Fowler Lake. In 1988, the mansion was extensively renovated and is presently a bed and breakfast with thirteen guest rooms. Condominiums now occupy a significant portion of the original grounds. Pine Terrace was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Inn at Pine Terrace

#24 351 E. Lisbon Road – Pine Terrace

25. OAKWOOD AVENUE – FOWLER PARK.

Prior to 1851, a portion of this park served as a cemetery. The property changed hands several times before it was purchased in the 1860s by Dr. James A. Henshall, M.D. Around 1865, he developed America’s first private fish hatchery here. The coach house is all that remains of a once spectacular estate. Fowler Lake was formed when the first dam (#21) was built in 1837-38 at the Oconomowoc River’s entrance to Lac La Belle. In the early 1900s, there was an extensive ice cutting operation on the east end of the lake. Ice was shipped to Chicago and elsewhere. In 1945, this site was donated to the city as a park by sisters Ida M. Binzel and Mrs. E.C. Theobald, members of an early Oconomowoc family.

26. 354 N. OAKWOOD AVENUE – CORNERSTONE CHURCH – 1872-1883.

A congregation of Norwegian Lutherans began building the church seen here in 1872, but it was not completed until 1883. According to church records, it was known as Our Savior’s English Lutheran Church from 1883-1953. When the Lutheran congregation built its new church at Lisbon and Greenland, this building was rented by the Alliance Bible Church, services being held here until 1978. Abundant Life Church rented the property through June of 1979, later purchased the building, and remained at this site until July of 1996. The painted stained-glass windows are original and beautiful at night when lighted. Note the interesting octagonal steeple with eight gables. Currently Cornerstone Lake Country Church occupies this site.

Cornerstone Church

#26 354 N. Oakwood Avenue

27. 344 N. OAKWOOD AVENUE – c. 1880.

This house belonged to the Townsend House, a grand hotel, which once stood northwest of the Oakwood Avenue Bridge, commonly known as the Norwegian Bridge. The hotel burned in 1901. It had been the summer destination for Chicago society and was the scene of many gala social events of the era. This charming Carpenter Gothic home was used by the hotel as a guesthouse. It originally had no kitchen, because guests took all their meals at the hotel.

344 Oakwood Ave

#27 344 Oakwood Avenue – house belonged to Townsend House

28. OCONOMOWOC DEPOT – 115 Collins Street – 1896.

Although not directly on Fowler Lake, the Depot is noted because it is one of the most important landmarks of the city. Oconomowoc summer residents, Albert Earing, President of the Milwaukee Road Co., and Philip D. Armour, wealthy Chicago meat-packer, were instrumental in having the Depot built. The old facility, which overlooked the stockyards, was considered unsuitable for the reception of their distinguished guests. The Depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is presently used as a restaurant.

Oconomowoc#28 Oconomowoc Depot

Acknowledgments

The lake walk tour was originally compiled by Fran Brummit-Durkin and Rae Kinn circa 1990s.

Updated by Barb Elwood-Goetsch and Barb Hirsch, ©2017

Resources

  • Barons to Bootleggers, Barbara and David Barquist, ©2006
  • Early Oconomowoc Heritage Trail Guidebook, ©1975 J.S. Rockwell, Chapter #721, Daughters of the American Revolution
  • The Heritage Guide Book, Landmarks and Historical Sites In Southern Wisconsin, Russell Zimmerman, 1976
  • The Letters of Lavinia Rockwell, History Committee of the Oconomowoc Historical Society
  • Questers’ Guide to Historic Oconomowoc, © 1990, Third Printing, Spring 2007, J.S. Rockwell Chapter #721 The Questers, Inc.
  • Thank you to all the residents and volunteers that made these documents possible

* For more information, visit the museum or contact:

Oconomowoc Historical Society

P.O. Box 245, Oconomowoc, WI  53066

Phone: (262) 569-0740