Otto Young and his Stone Manor

Otto Young and his Stone Manor

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…

Lake Geneva

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).

Photo courtesy Kelly Vaclavek

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.

Terry Mayer Ariel Photo

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.

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20 Comments

  • Lynn May 22, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I want to Live here!

  • Branigan August 2, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Is there any way you can have an outdoor wedding ceremony at this beautiful place. My fiance and I have always wanted to get married in a special place in Lake Geneva!

    I believe the only way to have a wedding at Stone Manor would be to buy one of the units, and then have your wedding! Sorry, it’s privately owned and not open for bookings. I’d look to the Riviera for your best option. Thanks, David

  • Branigan August 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks David.

  • L Williamson August 30, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Contact me if you are interested in more information about Otto Young, his family and his homes. I am Otto Young historian. I have even traveled to his birth place in Germany and located his father and grandfathers graves.

  • Suzy Newbury October 10, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    The Otto Young story is really fascinating. Apparently even all his money could not buy him a membership into the Country Club & social acceptance. Just goes to show, money can’t buy…

  • Mike Luxem November 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Great story. My Great Grandfather was George Baker who served as Village President of Winneka 1902-1903 and worked for Otto Young in Chicago, maybe he helped carry furniture for the boss when the house was done.My wife and I drive our 1957 Chris Craft by Stone Manor and I always feel like where being watched as we cruise by ……

    • Roger Growden September 10, 2018 at 5:45 pm

      What was the name of your Chris Craft? I have a signed lithograph by Bob Stewart titled, “The Lorelei at Stone Manor”.

  • Ted Machado December 5, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Some time between 1950 and 1965, Realestate magnate John Bihlmire lived in this Italian style mansion. Mr. Bihlmire was very excentric and well connected in the late 30’s’s through 70’s in and around the chicago area. Rumor has it he had Lucky Luciano and other like him as clients. He made and lost a fortune a number of times. The master bedroom is 1600 square feet and is basically and elevator. It can stop on any of the 4 floors. A truly amazing place.

  • Soon K. Hahn-s Daughter February 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Interesting, historically approximate. While I was there for the drama between 1950-1965, I don’t have the adult’s perspective.

  • Linda April 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I have been facinated with Stone Manor since I was a child. Now that I know Obama and Rezko were there I’m over it.
    Ha! You and me both Linda! Thanks for reading, David

  • Amy Ludowese May 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    If anyone could send me more info about this house and Otto it would be great! just heard the story and took the boat tour and Im hooked! Please send me anything related to this fabulous property!!!!!

  • Charlotte Schmidt June 8, 2011 at 10:23 am

    There never were 50 bedrooms!! Many stories and newspaper articles miss a lot of the real facts! First floor had ballrrom/main room, music room, billiard room, library, dinning room, large entry with open stairs to bedroom levels – 2nd floor and 3rd floor. 4th floor was sort of attic feeling, no windows, skylights, storage and a miniture golf course. Each bedroom floor had aomething like 4 or 5 bedrooms, all connected by doors, with 4 or 5 bathrooms per floor. The basement had a very large ice house where ice was stored after being cut from frozen Lake Geneva in winter, then lasted thru the summer. There was also a bowling alley with 2 alleys, all in walnut wood. All floors had very extensive wood carving and typical castle rip-rap made of plaster. That was all restored by taking pieces down, being sent out where forms were made, then new plaster rip-rap made and painted. This was during the time Mr. Bihlmire owned the house. I was associated with the restoration done from 1964 thru around 1970, including the building of the olympic size swimming pool on the roof. Spent many hours enjoying the pool, and the long pier built my Mr. Bihlimire

  • Gail F. July 1, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I lived in Stone manor as one of the care takers and I can tell you it is haunted. A beautiful, big place, beautiful wood all over. Elevator, and more. Interesting place for sure.

  • DanC February 1, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Is there any truth to The Rolling Stones staying at the Youngland Mansion

  • Linda Williamson March 23, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I would like to talk to Daughter of Mr. Hahn, Gail F and Charlotte Schmidt. Would you please EMAIL me at linda1906@sbcglobal.net I am the Otto Young historian and currently in the middle of a book about the Young family and the history of the home. Please contact me.

  • Bill Krueger March 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    3-28-12 Bill Krueger: Linda Williamson is most definitely the most knowledgeable person alive regarding anything Otto Young related. She is a delight to talk with and is very willing to share her wealth of information.We became friends about 15 years ago when I was researching my book on Chicago’s South Shore Country Club. Otto Young’s Daughter Selma Cecile was married to the founder Lawrence Heyworth. Linda is a fascinating person who is most generous with her time and information.She is kind, funny, and an absolute joy to be around. Do not hesitate to email her. If you want to share info regarding South Shore Country Club email me at krueger17811@comcast.net

  • Harry W July 9, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I just read another article in the Lake Geneva Visitors Guide that gives another vague misleading history of Stone Manor.

    We worked with John Bihlimire and owned unit 2C from the very early 70s to the 90s. Happy to provide correct information to needed concerns.

  • Robert Kurland July 13, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I grew up right across the street from this magnificent place. When my brothers and I were young (8 – 12 years old), Mr. Bihlmire would frequently invite our family over to swim in the pool, and those memories will stay with my family for many years to come.

  • Robin Gwinn August 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Will they rent this place for weddings?

  • Steve Sevick May 22, 2014 at 1:04 am

    I worked as a waiter at the Stone Manor when it was a French restaurant around 1976/77. I knew John Bihlmire as a result.
    He was a stern man but quite nice once you got to know him. I do recall waiting on a large group that were part of the cast and crew for the film The Omen. One of the people I waited on was the actor William Holden. I also met the Maytag sisters there. We all had a great time
    working there and the place was fantastic.

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