Once known as Redwood Cottage, the Baker House is located on the shores of Geneva Lake. It is one of the oldest homes on the lake and the last one of its kind in the city limits of Lake Geneva.
Built as a summer home for the family of Robert H. Baker, it cost a mere $15,000 to build when completed in 1885. Baker was best known as the mayor of Racine, a Wisconsin State Senator, and the CFO of the J. I. Case Co. But, he did not come to Geneva Lake by accident. Standing where the Bella Vista Hotel is now once stood an Italianate Style home where Baker was born. Baker’s father was the first District Attorney in Walworth County. The land that his home and the land where the Baker House resided was gifted to the senior Baker by Walworth County, as they could not afford to pay him a full salary at the time.
The striking, classic Queen Anne mansion is 17,000 square feet and features ornate carvings and inlaid hardwood floors rumored to have been installed by S.C. Johnson himself. The original Redwood siding that gave the cottage its name can still be seen in the turret. The wood was brought by rail from California to Wisconsin and once covered the siding of the entire building. There are 13 fireplaces throughout the home, each with original tiles.
Sadly, Baker passed away before the home was completed. It remained in the Baker Family for a short time before the death of Baker’s wife Emily. The oldest of their children sold the home to be used as part of a sanatorium complex. The complex consisted of three buildings that included a Surgical Center, Oakwood for those in need of guardianship, and Redwood Cottage, later renamed Lakeside Cottage. The cottage was for those with general or light nervous disorders.
When the sanitorium shut down in 1926 after the death of one of the head physicians, the house began its life as a hotel known as Lakeside Hotel. When the mortgage on the Lakeside Hotel was foreclosed on in 1942, it was purchased at auction and became known as Saint Moritz until the 1990s.
Know Before You Go
The Baker House operates as a boutique hotel and restaurant. Yes, visitors can wear the hats. The hallways are adorned with several dozen vintage hats that are meant to be worn by guests.