Historic Geneva Lake mansion preserved

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Lisa M. Schmelz | December 10, 2013

LAKE GENEVA — On the eastern shore of Geneva Lake, not far from Big Foot Beach State Park, is a simple yet significant home, built by a simple yet significant man. Known by many as Swinghurst, the vision behind this multi-gabled Queen Anne home was the Rev. David Swing. Born on Aug. 23, 1830, in Ohio, Swing would teach before he would preach.

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Ultimately, he would become one of the most influential ministers of the mid-19th century.Those said to be moved by his sermons, which were published weekly in Chicago newspapers, included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ward Beecher and Mary Todd Lincoln.

The home he built on Geneva Lake, which he initially named Six Oaks for the towering trees gracing the property, served as both a refuge for the fiery preacher and as an extension of his ministry. Interior and exterior balconies allowed Swing to deliver lakeside sermons. A stair-stepped landing on the second floor, overlooking the main living room, accommodated not only Swing and his pulpit but a choir. A large sunken tub on the first floor is where Swing was said to have regularly performed baptisms.

Swing was introduced to Lake Geneva through Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, as a guest at his Butternuts lakefront estate in 1880. The following summer, Swing returned as a guest of Levi Leiter at the Leiters' Linden Lodge. Leiter, it is said, would prove instrumental in Swing's decision to purchase lakefront property of his own.

As lakefront estates go, Swing's place was on the plain side and little here has changed over the past 130 years. Strolling its rooms, it's not hard to imagine Swing close by.

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