Get a glimpse of this house in the woods from lake path

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Ginny Hall | June 6, 2014

This is another house that you only see by walking the public path around Geneva Lake or by taking a boat ride on the lake. It is worth the special effort to see this lovely home. It is on the north shore of the lake, east of Chapin Road in the town of Linn.

The house was begun in 1905 for A.C. Bartlett, who was in the Chicago hardware business. Building of the house began under a circus tent during the winter.  Bartlett wanted the house completed as a birthday surprise for his wife in spring.  The architect was Howard Van Dorn Shaw; Richard Soutar was the local contractor. Fredrick Clay Bartlett, son of the owner, an artist/muralist, also had a hand in the design.

The 45-acre property on which it was built was purchased from L.Z. Leiter at $1,111 per acre. Leiter had gained the land earlier for $100 an acre. Bartlett also bought Leiter's steam yacht “Daisy.” It was found to be in poor condition after 30 years of use.

When the house was completed it was deemed one of the prettiest houses around.  In June 1909, the Ladies Home Journal featured the house and called it one of the most beautiful country houses in the nation. Several years later it was included in another magazine in an article as one of the 12 best country homes in America.

The large U-shaped main house, featuring an enclosed courtyard, is 110 feet by 78 feet with the longest part facing the lake. The smaller studio building contains a studio, dining room, two bedrooms, bath and kitchen. In the summer, this served as a guest house. 

The estate had two pools and a spring. The Mallory spring is a feature still seen on the lake walk. The spring was known for its clear water and its mineral content. An article in the Aug. 1, 1874, Geneva Lake Herald lists the minerals as “Magnesia, lime, iron (a trace), soda, carbonic acid (free and combined) and sudphuric acid.” Claims were made of its medicinal value.

When A.C. Bartlett died in 1922, he left an estate valued at more than $2 million.  Mrs. Bartlett would receive one-fifth of the income from the residual estate along with $50,000 in cash. Each of his three children received cash and stock or a trust fund. His will included generous bequests for his servants and employees. Several charities and institutions also benefitted from his will.

In 1936, the property was bought by Col. William M. Spencer, a manufacturer of insulated railway cars. He sold it in 1972 when he was 80.

A 1974 news article indicated that the current owner was Patrick Ryan. The house continues to maintain its beauty through the efforts of the later owners.
Ginny Hall, a historian from Delavan, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.

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