It would be without merit to make the argument that Lake Geneva is anything but an idyllic locale. Blue water and white sails tend to make any setting look pastoral, but when you throw in generational appeal with quiet lanes, small clapboard cottages, and a 26 mile path connecting each to another, well, it’s downright bucolic here. Lake Geneva is visually stimulating, yes, but it’s also emotionally fulfilling in a way that those who do not own vacation homes here can imagine but never fully understand. Among throngs of individual associations and lakeside communities, there is one that remains revered as not only one of the most idyllic, but the only one that has a favorable price structure.
The Congress Club, a co-op style array of ten cottages in Williams Bay with lease-hold ownership, has two, potentially three listings available as of today. But with prices in the $1.3MM to $1.8MM range, these are not exactly attractively priced for most vacation home seekers. The Harvard Club, Fontana’s 19 cottage answer to the larger and more iconic Congress Club, has only had one public sale in more than ten years, and that is sale is the cottage that I just closed on yesterday at a buyer pleasing price of $475k. Less of a view than the Congress Club, but each unit still has a boat slip, and the lakefront of the Harvard Club is quite possibly the most beautiful and recognizable association lakefront park on the entire lake. The Harvard Club is a poor man’s Congress Club, but it’ll end up making you and your family feel like a million bucks.
At least that’s what it’ll make this new buyer feel like, if it hasn’t already. The sale wasn’t an easy one, and from the date my office first listed this cottage this spring, we had plenty of buyer interest, but only one who was willing to put his money where his mouth was. That buyer hung in there through a difficult three months, but any sign of weariness was undetectable yesterday at the closing. And when I stopped by on the boat later that afternoon to take them on a celebratory boat ride, I was pleased to find their two children swimming off the pier. It was a beautiful sight, and I was beaming like a proud parent.
The family will now enjoy their weekends in an entirely different way. That’s not to say that they’re suburban home isn’t beautiful and their landscaping plush, but the serene setting of a weekend spent lakeside cannot be compared to any suburban back yard or city roof top. After the routine develops, they’ll ultimately reflect on how boring those pre-Lake Geneva weekends really were. As with most cottages around Geneva, humble is an apt description. For the families and individuals who can see past the obvious lack of polish and absence of Viking ranges, there is a reward that is a life lived like the one that I fill the pages of this blog with every day. For buyers insisting on homes that look more like primary homes than vacation homes, the true feeling of an old school lakeside weekend will almost certainly escape them. But for those who can see past peeling paint and visualize generations retreating to the same modest, if ramshackle, cottage, in time they’ll understand exactly why I love this lake the way I do, and why I cannot imagine anything other than a life spent near its shores.
Congratulations to the newest Lake Geneva vacation home owner. The Harvard Club property will serve you well (even if the water didn’t work last night), and I can only hope that your name still adorns a small wooded plaque outside the screen door many generations from now. Please meet me at noon today for the secret handshake tutorial.