Black Point Manor
In 1885, O.D. Wetherell and G.B. Shaw purchased approximately half of a resort park known as Warwick Park located on the south shore of Geneva Lake at the area known as Black Point. The sunny side of the lake, exceptional views and the lagoon attracted the men to this property. They began construction of their residences, Linn Haven and Hill View, which were built overlooking the lagoon.
Oscar Daniel Wetherell had his own lumber yard in Chicago by the time he was 29 years old and branched out into storage elevators. Shortly after purchasing the Black Point property, he turned his business interests over to banking and formed Globe National Bank in 1890. He was so well respected for banking that he was appointed to Chicago’s City Comptroller by Democratic Mayor Harrison even though he was a Republican Alderman from the 4th ward. He was repeatedly asked to run for Mayor of Chicago, but always declined.
He was close friends with and possibly related through their wives, to G.B. Shaw, who was also in banking. Shaw was a Director at Metropolitan National Bank in Chicago. The two families vacationed for many summers together at the Wetherell home at the corner of Lake and Campbell in the village of Lake Geneva and they began building two homes overlooking the lagoon on Black Point in 1885.
The homes were completed in 1886 and 1887 and their three large steamers, Rambler, Mockingbird and Grayling were moored inside the Black Point Lagoon with drawbridges on each side for the boats to access the lake.
Shortly after the Wetherell and Shaw homes were completed, Conrad Seipp, a beer baron from Chicago, purchased the remaining 27 acres of the resort park to their west and built a large home, which they called Black Point Estate. According to the book Lake Geneva Newport of the West, by Ann Wolfmeyer and Mary Burns Gage, a couple of the Seipp’s children were out exploring the lake in a rowboat when they came upon the Black Point Lagoon by chance. Being out for an adventure, they entered the lagoon where they saw the three steamers.
They commented on how peaceful it was in the lagoon and that the water looked like glass. In mid-sentence, the young girl corrected herself and said it looked more like a mirror and then confusion came over her when she realized that she was looking at two houses that were mirror-images of each other and their reflection in the calm lagoon were mirror images of the houses. They burst out laughing as they realized they had seen a double reflection. Linn Haven and Hill View were built to be mirror images of each other overlooking the lagoon.
In late 1903, Wetherell and Shaw sold their properties to the Seipp family. Both Linn Haven and Hill View were razed shortly after and the property was used as green space and a playground for the Seipp’s children while the lagoon became home to the Seipp’s family steamers, the Lorelei, Nepenthe and Lively. In the winter, ice was harvested from the lagoon and used for refrigeration for the Seipp family.
In the early 1970s, six lots were sectioned off from the Seipp estate. The draw bridges were removed and boudlers were placed to close the openings of the lagoon. A twelve-level contemporary home was built on the the former Wetherell/Shaw property overlooking the lagoon. It was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
The home fell into disrepair and in 1999 the home was sold and eventually demolished, to make way for Black Point Manor, an 11,000 square foot home that was designed and built in grand scale and tradition of other historic homes on the shore of Geneva Lake.
Today, Seipp’s Black Point Estate and Gardens is still intact and located several properties to the west of the Manor. It has been preserved and serves as a historical museum run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Visitors arrive by boat, just as the Seipp family did in a bygone era.
Black Point Manor, continues to be one of the most recognizable homes on the lake. With 5 acres, the historic Black Point Lagoon, perennial gardens and 464 feet of Geneva Lake frontage, this exquisitely planned estate is truly an architectural masterpiece that will stand the test of time.
The history of this property was retraced by Wendy Murphy of d’aprile properties with the help of David Desimone, curator of the Black Point Estates and Gardens, Lake Geneva Newport of the West by Ann Wolfmeyer and Mary Burns Gage, as well as the handbook Chicago Stocks and Bonds 1891.