Home's original owner has left his mark on the area

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Ginny Hall | June 20, 2014

You can see FlowerSide Inn only by walking the public path around Geneva Lake or taking a boat ride on that lake. It is well worth the effort.

This house was begun in 1898 for Simeon B. Chapin, who had a Chicago brokerage firm. The architect was Benjamin Marshall, who also designed the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. According to one news story, Mrs. Chapin liked his plans because of the large closets he planned. The Chapins named their home “FlowerSide.”  

Chapin bought property along the north shore of Geneva Lake and later expanded his estate all the way north to Lake Como.  He named one of his farms, FlowerSide Farm. His other farms were Como Farm, Brookdale Farm, Allerton Farm and Summit Acres Farm. Another article mentions that he actually had six farms.

Brown Swiss cattle were one of Chapin's hobbies. During his time he had one of the best herds in the state. “Nick of Allenhurst,” No. 2873 was the junior champion at the 1909 national dairy show in Chicago.

The living room was 68 feet by 26 feet with a fireplace at one end. Eight years after the house was built it was expanded to accommodate a large pipe organ. The dining room was converted to a billiard room and the new dining room was 22 feet by 34 feet, with a marble floor and a fireplace. 

There were seven bedrooms with adjoining baths. Several had balconies and two had glassed-in porches overlooking the lake. The servants' quarters were in another wing. The two story house is a blend of American and English country-style homes. 

Also on the lakeside property was a three-car garage with a four-room apartment above it. There was a seven-room caretaker's cottage, a pump house, tool shed, ice house, potting shed and greenhouse.

Two years after the house was built, Chapin's brokerage firm moved to New York City. His new home was on Fifth Avenue in New York City, but for 57 more years the family made an annual trek to their home on the lake for the summer months. 

FlowerSide Inn received many prizes for its floral, fruit and vegetable displays at Horticultural Hall. Many of these displays from the lakeside estates were auctioned off to raise money for Holiday Home. In 1905 a prize-winning cluster of their grapes was bought by R. T. Crane for $100.

Their gardener and foreman, Charles Ackerson, made the estate gardens a thing of beauty. He was born in Sweden and worked for five years in the king's gardens there before coming to America in 1884. He first worked on the nearby Chapman Farm and then came to FlowerSide in 1901.

Chapin helped establish the Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol and he was the main contributor for the Lake Geneva YMCA building  fund. Chapin donated the land on which Horticultural Hall was built. George Williams Camp was another recipient of funds. The Chapin Foundation continues to fund worthy causes in the Lake Geneva, Williams Bay and Fontana area.

Chapin was one of the officers elected to form the Lake Geneva Historical Society in 1930. It was formed to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of white settlement around Geneva Lake. 

Chapin died in January 1945. His wife, Elizabeth, died in March 1946.  Then their daughter, Virginia Chapin Drake, took over management of the estate. His grandson, Harry Hartshorne Jr. operated FlowerSide Farms from 1946 until 1976.  He lived in the pump house on the estate and died Oct. 29, 2013.
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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