History of Black Point Estate & Gardens
The Geneva Lake area has been an upscale resort community in southeastern Wisconsin since just after the Civil War. Many wealthy Chicagoans in the late 19th century built mansions on the lakeshore to enjoy as summer retreats. Others remained in the city year-round while their homes and businesses were rebuilt as a result of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
In 1887 Chicago beer baron Conrad Seipp began construction for Black Point Estate & Gardens as a respite for his family from the heat and bustle of the city. Owners like Seipp never envisioned their homes could ever be more than that since there were no roads nor access to utilities. The estate could be reached only by boat.
The 20-room Queen Anne-style “cottage” was completed in 1888 for $20,000. It included 13 bedrooms and only one bathroom. It sat on nearly eight acres of beautiful grounds that included 620 feet of undisturbed Geneva Lake shoreline.
While building Black Point, Seipp was simultaneously erecting a new mansion in Chicago. During this process he moved much of the family’s furniture from the previous Chicago home into Black Point.
Unfortunately, Seipp was able to enjoy the house and gardens for only two seasons before his death in 1890. His family and four generations of descendants, however, never left. The original furnishings remained in the house while each generation added its own touches. So, today the home is a rare time capsule for historians. Everyday household items range from Victorian to modern but share the same family provenance.
Seipp’s great-grandson, William O. Petersen, donated the 20-room house, its grounds and furnishings to the state of Wisconsin in September 2005 for use as a historic site.
After a $1.9 million state-financed restoration, Black Point Estate & Gardens opened for tours in June 2007. Black Point Preserve Inc. Board of Directors, composed of dedicated volunteers, managed the house and property for five years.
The Wisconsin Historical Society assumed responsibility for Black Point Estate & Gardens on January 1, 2013. Black Point Estate and Gardens is open for tours from May through October. Visitors can reach the site by boat, just as family and friends did in a bygone era.
A conservation easement protects Black Point and its 620 feet of pristine shoreline from future development. A conditional use permit protects the privacy of nearby residents by defining the parameters of operation.
Black Point Estate & Gardens remains one of the finest examples of Queen Ann architecture and is considered to have one of the most intact collections of Victorian furnishings in the Midwest.
In 2014 Black Point Estate & Gardens was named among the 10 best home-estate tours in the US by Fodor’s Travel, alongside Biltmore Estate, Mount Vernon and Monticello.