A few weeks ago I took a boat tour of Delavan Lake. It was advertised as a sort of history lesson of the lake, including a tour pointing out the five Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes built on the water.
Delavan is a town about 6 miles from Elkhorn, where we live. It has a rich history as the winter home for over 20 different circuses in the late 1800s. Prior to that, Native Americans lived on the land. I had no idea that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed homes this close to us (aside from Lake Geneva and near Chicago) so I was quick to sign up for this tour. There's only so much one can get from reading the history and it's always better hearing the stories in person. More information on the history of these homes and the lake is available online, so I'm just going to point out a few things. I learned so much in the short time we were on the lake that now I can impress our visitors and give my own historical tour of the lake. I'm sure people will be lining up for that! This tour started at Lake Lawn Resort, on the north shore. It was originally a resort for the employees of Commonwealth Edison, as well as a few other utility and service companies. This resort has gone through many different owners and was eventually foreclosed on and closed. It was purchased by a group of investors and reopened in 2011. You can read more here.
As the tour began, we were told a story about Juliet, the circus elephant who was given a burial at sea in this lake. It was so nice to imagine that she was given a beautiful ceremony where she was let go to her final resting spot in the bottom of the lake. But I think the reality is that the ground was frozen when she passed and she was left on the lake until it melted. Either way, some people now believe that she haunts the lake and once in a while you can hear an elephant trumpet. Our tour guide left most of this part of the story out, I'm sure because he didn't want to sound like a complete nut job. The homes around the lake are gorgeous, I've compiled a few for your viewing pleasure.
Love this shot. No, this man was not posing for a JCPenney ad. He really was looking across the lake with his sweater slung casually about his neck.
The clock pictured below was originally displayed at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago (also known as the Chicago World's Fair). Originally built in Belgium, it ended up at this location on the lake after being purchased by a local man who refurbished it and aside from being a beautiful piece, it actually works! Lots more history behind the clock, if you are interested, here.
More beautiful homes:
In 1989 the water quality of the lake was addressed through a drawdown, kind of like a draining of the lake. Some people say the water was horrible because of the septic systems and how they were built around the lake, others say it was due to all of the fertilizer that was running off into the water. The fish were eradicated and alum was added to the bottom of the lake. According to our tour guide, this greatly improved the water quality and created a real estate boom of some sorts once it was completed. Many new homes started being built in the 1990's. This is what most lake cottages looked like prior to the drawdown:
Here are the Frank Lloyd Wright homes that are on the south shore of the lake, built in the early 1900's. I wasn't able to capture the fifth home because it was tucked back a bit.
Charles S Ross home
A.P. Johnson home
In my opinion, one of the best things about this lake, as is common on most of the lakes around us, is that while in your boat you can pull up to one of a few restaurants/bars, tie your boat to the dock and enjoy some food and cocktails.
I'm so grateful for all of the beauty and history that surrounds us in our new home. It's one of the many reasons we moved here and we are continually surprised and charmed by all of it.