Women opened camp to share lake experience

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Ginny Hall | September 9, 2013

You can find the entrance to Holiday Home Camp on North Shore Road between Williams Bay and Fontana. At one time that road was called Uihlein Road — more about that later.

Holiday Home was established in 1887 as a private, nonprofit camp for underprivileged children, especially from Chicago, between the ages of 8 and 15. It is under the direction of the Lake Geneva Fresh Air Association. The camp covers 12 acres and has 50 feet of lake frontage.  

In the fall of 1886, a group of women met to see what could be done to give poor children a chance to spend some time on Geneva Lake. They formed an association and chose the name Lake Geneva Fresh Air Association.

The first president of the association was Lucretia J. Tilton. The treasurer was Emma Ayer and the secretary was Helen Fairbank.  

In the early years, all officers of the association were women, mainly members of prominent lake families. Men were first nominated to be part of the board in 1963. It is interesting to note, however, that the corporation was organized by W.H. Hammersley, E.D. Richardson and J.B. Simmons to conform to the Wisconsin laws requiring the incorporators to be Wisconsin residents.

The association purchased a 12-acre strip of land, 275 feet wide on the shoreline northeast of Forest Glen Park for $4,000. A large home was built to accommodate 75 children. The first campers' building was finished in July 1888. Also built were a caretaker's house and a cottage for the summer staff. Financing came primarily from families whose summer homes were on the lake. Dedication services were held on July 5, 1887, with professor David Swing presiding.

One of the founders was Richard T. Crane, who lived on the north shore of Geneva Lake.  Over the years, that family's interest continued through the efforts of Dorothy Crane Maxwell and Augustus K. Maxwell. In later years there was a cabin named for Maxwell.  

Another founder was Edward Ayer. This family lived on the south shore of Geneva Lake in the area of the current Abbey Springs and had two farms on County Highway B, outside of the village of Walworth. Ayer was the first president of the Field Museum in Chicago.

In 1903, the first Mid-summer Fair was held on the Levi Leiter estate to benefit Holiday Home.  The Leiter estate is now the location of Lake Geneva Manor.  After Horticultural Hall was built in 1912 in Lake Geneva, the fair was held there for many years. Later, a rummage sale was held at the same location to benefit the camp. In more recent years various benefits are held at the Lake Geneva Country Club.

In 1948, in an effort to maintain its standards and leadership in the camping field, the camp was closed for one summer. The main building was condemned as a fire hazard. Small cabins were built in the woods.  The communities of Lake Geneva, Fontana, Williams Bay and Walworth each contributed money toward a cabin, as did many of the lake families.

Holiday Home was the first camp to have a special session for diabetic children. At first there were separate sessions for the boys and the girls. Now, both boys and girls are accepted as campers during the same period.  The traditional two-week camping period was extended to three weeks for some of the sessions.

Holiday Home receives some state of Illinois funding, but much comes from donations from organizations and individuals. The camp always is looking for contributions so they can continue to serve the needs of those less fortunate.

Holiday Home now has 24 buildings on 26 acres of land.  They have 290 feet of lake frontage. The camp is licensed to have 100 campers for each session. Children now come from mainly the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

Now for the story about the former name of the road: It is interesting to note that if you speak to many local people they will pronounce Uihlein as “U-line.” Others, including those in the Milwaukee area, will pronounce the name as “E-line.”

I was told by a Uihlein relative that when the brothers came to this country from Germany, some settled in Chicago and used the “U-line” pronunciation. The brother who settled in Milwaukee used the “E-line” sounding variation. The variation continued to this day.

This may have been one reason for changing the name of this road.

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