History

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In the Spring of 1855 prominent Chicago Surgeon and real estate prospector Dr. Philip Maxwell started construction of a large, handsome summer dwelling in Lake Geneva on land he had acquired years earlier, which at the time was “lakefront” property. The estate was named “The Oaks” in honor of the centuries-old trees surrounding the mansion.

The following Spring in 1856 he and his wife Jerutha moved into their grand new summer home overlooking Geneva Lake. Thus we titled the property MaxwellMansion1856.com as it was their first year enjoying the Mansion.

Tall windows, broad entrances, elaborate ornamental wood moldings, marble fireplaces and grand staircase gave testimony to Dr. Maxwell’s position as a community leader. Regarded as one of Lake Geneva’s finest landmarks, the building predates all of the area’s notable summer mansions and served as a summer residence for a line of several prominent Chicago industrialists who entertained both political and social dignitaries. General Grant once stayed here and it was also the site of an early courtship of Nancy Davis, who later became the wife of President Ronald Reagan.

The property was rescued from total dereliction in the late 1970′s by Ruth Ann and Christopher Brown who made it their home and established it as a five room bed and breakfast for more than two decades .

In 2002 Nancy Golden Waspi followed her heart and purchased the property to create a charming Inn and Restaurant named the “Golden Oaks” in honor of her Family and respect to the original name “The Oaks”. She further Improved the property and filled the home with love and great energy for the next decade creating beautiful and memorable experiences from all who visited.

In 2012 Andrew Fritz of Lake Geneva’s Baker House 1885, adopted the home from Nancy and began to put his creative twist on things. This became a detailed three year renovation project which included acquiring the adjacent land and buildings, which were originally part of the five acre 1856 Maxwell Estate. The completed boutique resort now encompasses three acres of gardens, lounges, outdoor fireplaces, a heated pool, croquet and bocce ball amusement and 30 luxury hotel rooms steeped in history and renewed with dramatic Gilded Age grander.

More History of Dr. Philip Maxwell

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There are many accounts of Dr. Maxwell’s size, humor and political prominence throughout history, here are a few century old quotes:

His spirited discussions at the billiard table of the old Tremont House with Dr. Egan, a like large man of wit and overflowing humor, have become legend.

Dr. Maxwell was known for his jolly demeanor

considered a leading spirit of the old garrison times

a rotund gentleman of about 280 pounds with a flair for horsemanship and a reputation for galloping hell-for-leather through town.

He was listed among “500 Chicagoans” on the census prior to the incorporation of Chicago as a town in early August.

Significant Dates

JULY 13, 1832

Commissioned assistant-surgeon, United States Army and was ordered to Fort Dearborn, Illinois 1833 as the eleventh and final surgeon.

SEPTEMBER 26, 1833

Signed the 1833 Chicago Treaty document with the Indians as a witness and received $35 for a claim he made at this treaty;

1836

He invested in 1600 acres (of the then conflicting land claims against federal surveyors) at Lake Geneva He is acknowledged as “The Father of Lake Geneva for having put up the money to plat the city. He remained at Fort Dearborn until its abandonment on Dec. 29, 1836.

JULY 7, 1838

Promoted to a surgeoncy and served in Baton Rouge La, and then in the Seminole war in Florida

1842

He resigned from the United States Army and became a successful private practitioner in Chicago with an office on Lake & Clark street.

1845

He served as Chicago City physician and sat on the Chicago Board of Health.

1847

Chicago’s historic Maxwell Street first appears on a Chicago map. Dr. Philip Maxwell is the namesake of this famous Street in Chicago, known internationally as a cultural landmark due to the impact this small area had on music, film and popular immigration culture.

1853

Became the State Treasurer of Illinois.

SPRING OF 1855

He started construction of a large, handsome summer dwelling in Lake Geneva named “The Oaks” in honor of the centuries-old trees surrounding the mansion.

SPRING IN 1856

He and his wife Jerutha moved into their grand new summer home overlooking Geneva Lake. Having now relocated to Wisconsin, his office at Springfield was declared vacant by reason of his non-residence in the state. He renounced Illinois citizenship and Democracy, and made his home at Lake Geneva and his political bed with the Republican party.

NOVEMBER 5, 1859

He dies at his home in Lake Geneva, hundreds of mourners travel by train from Chicago to see their great friend and leader laid to rest in the Pioneer cemetery

MARCH 27, 1875

His beloved wife Jerutha died from complications from a “cancer of the breast” at home in Lake Geneva