History of The Baker House
Built in 1885 as a summer residence for Mrs. Robert Hall Baker, (Emily), the 17,000 square foot, 30 room, Queen Anne Mansion was first named “Redwood Cottage” with the exterior shingles being completely made from the great Californian Redwoods. There are seven different ornate patterns cut into thousands of original shingles which are rivaled only by the craftsmanship of the pristine stained glass, hand planed custom doors, massive fireplace mantles and ornate inlaid wood floors found throughout the home.
Designated a Nationally Registered Historic Property, the Baker House is beautifully preserved with most all of its original ornate details intact. Throughout the home you will find inlaid wood floors made from 5 different species of wood (believed to be one of S.C. Johnsons very first home installations), thirteen ornate fireplaces surrounded by floor to ceiling hand carved mantles embellished with pristine J & JG Low Art Tile of Chelsea, Massachusetts. This rare and highly collectible tile can be seen in every parlor of the mansion and is rumored to be one of the most diverse and well preserved examples Low art tile in the country. (Additional examples of Low Tile can be found at nearby Black Point Mansion and the Richard Driehaus Museum in downtown Chicago).
The Land that the house was built on was originally given to Charles Minton Baker, (Robert’s father), in 1838 by the city of Lake Geneva as part of a “compensation package” for becoming the first District Attorney of Walworth County.
Emily’s husband, Robert, was born and raised in Lake Geneva and graduated from Beloit College before moving to Racine where he became an early partner in the J. I. Case Company. As a well respected businessman and community leader he soon was elected Racine Mayor and two-term WI State Senator before his untimely death in 1882 at the early age of 43. Two years later his widowed wife, Emily, began building this summer home as a grand tribute to the man she so adored on the lake that he so loved. Upon completion of the home, Roberts initials (R. H. B.) were lovingly placed in the threshold of the entry by Emily so she would never have to pass through the door without him. Today guests are still greeted by Mr. Baker as they cross that very same threshold and the essence of Emily is never far behind… as it is highly rumored that the Baker House has “Spirits” other than those poured into a glass.
Over the last 130 years the home has had many lives: a SUMMER HOME for Emily and her 5 children; a “fashionable” SANITARIUM for wealthy Chicagoans recovering from light nervous disorders and addiction; a clandestine Speakeasy during Prohibition and by the 1930’s it was the lakeside HOTEL and RESTAURANT, best known over the decades as the “St. Moritz”. In 2010 the “Redwood Cottage” was lovingly restored and decorated to represent the original style of a gilded age cottage. It has been renamed the BAKER HOUSE in tribute to Emily and Robert and the legacy they began.
We invite you to join us in exploring this magnificent home, to rest on our pillows, dine in our parlors and celebrate sunsets in our garden. You will be amazed how something old… can be Oh So New!