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Lakeside House

Lakeside House

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-25114

Lakeside Water Cure

In September 1854 Dr. James E. Gross selected a site in today’s Olin Park for a healing resort he called the Lakeside Water Cure. He and co-owners George Delaplaine, a real estate speculator and secretary to three governors, Elisha Burdick, a real estate speculator, and Leonard J. Farwell, a former Wisconsin governor, began erecting the facility in November and completed it in August 1855.

The steam-heated building was on an elevation 30 feet higher than Lake Monona and 25 rods back from the shore, in the midst of a 50-acre oak grove, on gently undulating ground that sloped both north and the south from the spot. Close by was a brook (Wingra Creek) flowing with a large volume of clear water. The four-story main building was 92 feet in length and 40 in width, contained 60 apartments, and had piazzas on the first and second stories. The dining room and parlor were each 40 by 20 feet, with high ceilings. A two-story wing was devoted to bath rooms.

The building accommodated 80 patients. Board and treatment cost $12 per week, and ladies and gentlemen accompanying patients were charged $9. Children and servants paid $7, or $8 if they took their meals at the public table. Persons occupying rooms by themselves paid full price. The first consultation or examination, whether the patient entered the establishment or not, was $5.

In June 1859 a “war” erupted when Delaplaine and Burdick opened a road to the Water Cure through land owned by George B. Smith and Henry Turvill. Turvill dug several ditches across the road at one point to obstruct users. According to the Weekly Argus and Democrat, “those who need this avenue to the city are very indignant, and say that there shall be a road to the Water Cure... as it affords several large neighborhoods a direct route to the city. It is besides one of the most beautiful drives about the city. The quarrel is wrong, and the road should be opened.”

By July 1861 the institution had failed and Turvill, who had been appointed receiver, advertised it in the local papers: “Lake Side Water Cure. This estate, situated on the south side of Lake Monona, is open to rent to a responsible tenant. The building was constructed with reference to use as a retreat for invalids, and is well adapted either for a hospital or hotel, and being provided with steam heating and pumping apparatus, cooking range etc., is more convenient than any other structure of the kind in the West. It is distant two miles, by a pleasant drive, around the Bay, or one mile across the Lake, from Madison, and is surrounded by varied and picturesque scenery. Connected with the establishment are excellent stables, bowling alley and other convenient out buildings, and there has been constructed upon the premises, in a grove of native oaks bordering the Lake, a carriage drive of over a mile in circuit. It will accommodate 120 guests. Excellent lawns, gardens, and meadow land belong to the premises. For terms apply to the undersigned at his residence, one-fourth mile east of Lake Side.”

In 1866 the Water Cure was refurbished and renamed Lakeside House. On August 21, 1877, it burned and was not rebuilt. Today Lakeside Street is all that remains to commemorate the facility.

Mark Gajewski