It's changing here too.
For the better? For the most part. But there's a tug--and we'll get to that a little later.For sure, Lake Geneva is on a roll. It's surrounded by booming development on its edges that's beginning to ease closer to town, for one thing. For another, the semi-historically significant downtown is full of shoppers and full of flowers, and there was a time not long ago when it was full of neither.
Yes, there's more here than that deep, blue puddle, especially if the search goes a little beyond the corporate limits: great golf, some excellent places to eat, the above-mentioned shopping, rustic roads (officially designated, by the Wisconsin tourism people, "Rustic Roads"), farm stands and what every community needs: its own observatory.
But Hennerley is wrong. The lake is "the" asset. The rest is details.
The lake is what drew the Potawatomi here. Later, it drew the powerful and prosperous--various Swifts, one Smyth, an Allerton and a Wacker and assorted Wrigleys. The original Marshall Field didn't settle in here, but his original retailing partner did.
(A major incentive for the major-money people: the Great Chicago Fire. The elite had to meet and greet somewhere while their homes and businesses were being rebuilt after October 1871. And there was a train up from the ruins. Eventually the moguls built mansions, and many of them--the mansions, not the moguls--are still around.)
Some years later, Lake Geneva began drawing young, beer-swilling Fourth of July revelers who, in 1967, turned into young, beer-swilling rioters. Today's analysts differ on what ignited the fun--fun, because evidently there were no serious injuries--but the National Guard had to be called into quelling duty.
"There were like 15,000 to 20,000 young people from all over the country who came here," says Helen Brandt, curator of the Geneva Lake Museum of History. "It seemed like one basic party.
"I don't know if it was in response to the Vietnam War, but one of the things they destroyed was the Andy Gump statue. They smashed it to smithereens."
Gotta love Wisconsin. Iraqis smash Saddam statues. In Lake Geneva, in the heat of wartime, they smash statues of comic-strip characters.
Coincidentally, a year after Andy was turned to powder, Lake Geneva drew Hugh Hefner, and that, of course, settled down everybody.
The Lake Geneva Playboy Hotel and Country Club would wither, change owners and names, and continue to deteriorate (since 1994 it's been the Grand Geneva Resort, huge now and in all respects first-rate); nonetheless, Lake Geneva was forever transformed.
From a small town with bars, some motels, the odd castle and a lake, it was now on the way to becoming a year-round vacation destination for grownups as well as for kid-toting families, leftover thirsty collegians and remnant society types.
The constant: the Lake.
Which isn't Lake Geneva.
"It is actually Geneva Lake," insists Brandt. "I am very strong on that.
"Because in 1835, when the surveyor John Brink (the name as published has been corrected in this text) from New York state came here and saw the beauty of the lake, it reminded him so much of Seneca Lake, near Geneva, N.Y. So it became Geneva Lake, and it's on all the maps."
Over the next 170 years, that's never really caught on . . .