When you really stop and think about it, “Stone Manor” is a pretty boring name. Ugly even. Youngland Manor was the name bestowed upon this monstrous manse by its original owner, and that name seems a little more befitting of the enormous stone palace built on the eastern shore of Geneva Bay in 1899. The mansion meant everything to Otto Young, the original owner, and yet, today, we know the building by the most simplistic, boring name apparently given to it by one time owner Soon K. Hahn, Stone Manor. Just as we know the name, most of us vaguely know the odd history of the building. The home was originally built in 1899 as a vacation home for Otto Young at a cost exceeding one million dollars, then sold for as little as $10,000 (and some back taxes) at auction in 1954. The property fluttered through the most of it’s first century of existence as either a school, boarding house, restaurant, hotel, possible air force academy headquarters (great post on that coming next month), until it was finally renovated in the early 1990’s by trader Tom Ricci into six luxury condominiums. Oh, and Tony Rezko made dinner there for Obama, but they didn’t talk about anything…
I’ve shown property in the building, and written offers on units. I even started wearing Revo sunglasses after a showing in the building where I noticed the owner of the unit, a stylish fella in his 50’s, was wearing Revo’s. I figured, I couldn’t own his condo, but I could certainly buy his sunglasses. The entire first floor is one lavish unit, and the upper two levels house the remaining five units. The southern unit on the second floor was the infamous Mr. Rezko’s, and the unit directly above that was the unit that Mr. Ricci chose as his own. Prices in the building have fluctuated wildly, but it’s safe to say that any one of the units on the upper floors would probably not sell for a number that exceeds $1.6MM (perhaps closer to $1.2MM) When the building was restored and made available to the public, the units were offered between $795k and $1.4MM. When Rezko sold his stripped out unit, it sold for less than $900k, and truth is, I thought it was a great deal. The first floor unit is a different animal all together, with previous asking priced in the $4MM+ range. Anyone contemplating private frontage on Geneva would do well to consider Stone Manor, though as of my writing, there aren’t any units available in the building ( I can dig up opportunity there for you though).
The building history aside, it’s the man Otto Young that I find more interesting. A man who started construction on a house that was supposed to cost $150k and ended up running more than $850k over budget, just has to be a tad intriguing. I could have researched countless archived newspaper articles involving Otto Young, but I didn’t. Instead, I sat at a desk overlooking the lake at the Lake Geneva public library and found a couple articles that told me everything I needed to know about the man who built his very own Stone Manor.
Otto Young was a German immigrant who came to New York in 1859 as a 14 year old and soon thereafter began a job selling cigars in a New York hotel. For $3 a week. He remained New York based for quite some time, until moving with his wife to Chicago just after the fire in 1871, when he saw opportunity in all those ashes. He established Otto Young and Co, and wholesaled jewelry, but this wasn’t necessarily what made him rich. The riches came by investing the jewelry profits into downtown real estate, a procedure that was made economical by the bargains that followed the Chicago fire. The Chicago fire must have had a profound impact not only on Otto Young’s wealth, but on his thoughts regarding construction. When he began construction on his Lake Geneva vacation home, he made darn sure it was fireproof. If only that characteristic had caught on around the lake, we’d have far more historic homes that exist in actuality, rather than only in photographs.
A simple headline wraps up how Otto Young must have felt about his beloved Youngland Manor. “Otto Young Dies At Country Home”. He had a fabulous home on Calumet in Chicago, nearby Marshall Fields little domicile, but he chose to spend his final days battling tuberculosis at the lake, probably gazing out over the waters, watching those marvelous sunsets that Tim Allen can only dream of. He was said to have frequented Palm Beach, Florida in the winter months, but upon the worsening of his health in October of 1906, he didn’t opt for the warm weather of southern Florida. Instead, he headed up the lake, even as fall turned to winter, and the vibrant colors of autumn turned dark. Otto Young died December 1, 1906. Newspaper accounts state that upon completion of his lakefront home, he spent most of his time there, even though he maintained his Calumet residence. The shame of Mr. Young’s story, is in the timing of it all. See, Mr. Young built the home in 1899, and it took nearly three years to complete, so let’s assume it was the summer of 1902 before he truly got to enjoy his expensive masterpiece. Like a bad Alanis Morissette song, Mr. Young died just four short years later.
While it may be hard to relate to a guy who was worth around $30MM in 1906, and not every lake home needs to have 50 bedrooms and 40,000+ square feet, Mr. Young does have a couple things in common with current Lake Geneva vacation home seekers. His obvious love of the lake aside, Mr. Young also engaged in the time honored tradition of buying a boat almost immediately after buying his lake home. Never mind that his boat was steam powered and had a 12’ beam and was 72’ from stern to bow. Other than that and his ubiquitous manor made of stone, Otto Young was just a regular guy trying to find a way to enjoy just a little more time at the lake.