Monday, 30th May 2016
On our 2nd day of our Memorial day weekend trip, is the historic site visit to Black Point Estate. This popular tourist attraction in Lake Geneva has been considered to be one of the best 10 House Tours in the US. Black Point Estate location is on the south shore of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin.
To be able to reach to the estate, we cruised via a boat from Riviera Docks along Wrigley Drive (in the downtown). The boat ride was not just a trip around the lake, but I found it fascinating viewing the jaw-dropping mansions and learning about the owners of those estates. Read more about The Boat Tour: Geneva Lake from my Lake Geneva 2016 series.
It took us an hour boat ride to reach our destination. Our boat docked at the marina then we climbed through the well-maintained hundred step stairs leading to the estate. At the mansion's terrace, we all gathered for a brief introduction and tours do's and don'ts. All the visitors we're grouped into 5, and a guide was assigned to each cluster. Then the tour guide started to share about the history of the estate.
Black Point Estate was built for Conrad Seipp, a Chicago Beer Baron. Conrad bought 27 acres in Geneva Lake after he and his family had some wonderful experience staying in two of the popular summer hotels around the lake. He commissioned architect Adolf Cudell to build his Victorian estate. Bringing the construction materials and furnishings was challenging at that time because the road access to the property was limited. They had to deliver it by boat over the open water and across the ice during winters. They built first the kitchen house (currently no longer exist) to temporarily used as a shelter for the construction workers. The kitchen house had 13 rooms: the kitchen, milk room, ice room, laundry room, dining area and bedrooms for the servants. The Seipp family and staff all lived in the kitchen house while they were building their 8000 square foot Queen Anne styled Victorian "cottage".
The estate was completed on 1888, and Conrad called it Villa Loreley which named after a poem by a Geman poet Heinrich Heine. When the tour guide mentioned about this poem about this myth on the lady at Rhine river, my eyes lit up because I found the story familiar. The tour guide even noticed me that he caught my attention while he was telling the story. But during World War I, the Seipps named it Black Point because of the rising anti-German sentiment in the United States.
Black Point has 13 bedrooms, originally there was no electricity and had only illuminated by gas, and there was no plumbing as well. When you viewed the house from the outside, you will find small external stairways and balconies which were used by the servants to be able to gain access to the bedrooms without going through the hallway. The mansion was not just a summer cottage for the Seipp's, but the home was open as a summer accommodation of the extended families and friends. According to the guide, during summer, the family accommodated around 80 visitors occupying at the same time.
As we went inside, I found every part of the house is filled in with preserved vintage furnishings and owner's personal stuff such as old hair brush, dresses, a doll house and more.
The decor in the house was used first in one of their Chicago homes. Over the years, there have been some changes to make the Black Point a historical treasure.
Black Point remained in the family until 2005 until it was donated to the State of Wisconsin.
Who are the Seipp Family? Learn more in The Four Generations: Seipp Family.