Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region
880 S. Lake Shore Dr., Lake Geneva
The largest building watching over Geneva Lake, this 40,000-square-foot estate was built by Chicago businessman Otto Young in 1899. He built his fortune in the aftermath of the Chicago Fire in 1871, when he began investing in property around what’s now Chicago’s Loop.
Young’s original estate included roughly 50 rooms, including a billiards room, a music room and a 100-seat dining hall. There also was a swimming pool on the roof, a three-lane bowling alley in the basement and a jewelry vault.
Young only enjoyed the house for a few years; he died in 1906. The home remained in his family until 1939, when Young’s granddaughter donated the property to a local church, which used it as a private school for girls. The school lasted only a few years and after it closed, the property fell into despair.
In the early 1960s, Walworth County seized the property for unpaid taxes and it was auctioned off to a developer who converted the main floor into an elegant restaurant and the second floor into spacious condominiums. The restaurant closed in 1978, but the condominiums remained.
Young’s beautiful estate was recently purchased by a California buyer who plans to turn it into a summer vacation destination for her family.
Kane County Courthouse
100 S. Third St., Geneva, (630) 232-3400, countyofkane.org
This imposing courthouse was built in the early 1900s after its predecessor, constructed in 1854, was destroyed by a fire.
The four-story brick courthouse has three decorative archways at its entrance and decorative railings posted throughout the building. Murals inside are painted to fit 11 wooden archways on the fourth floor. They were designed by local artist Edward Holslag to portray the various communities of Kane County, including St. Charles, Geneva and Elgin.
On the front lawn, up a series of steps, sits the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, dedicated in 1915 in honor of Kane County’s Civil War veterans.
The memorial is topped with a statue of three soldiers: a standing soldier waving a flag, a kneeling rifleman to his right and a kneeling drummer to his left. Two eagles, their wings spread, flank the sides of the statue’s base.
The courthouse has witnessed moments of local history, but one of its most memorable happened on Oct. 25. 1960, when then-Sen. John F. Kennedy visited town during his presidential campaign.
As he ascended the steps with then-Geneva Police Chief Glenn McConnaughay, someone threw an egg toward the future president; it missed and hit the police chief.
“Glenn told me he was glad it was him instead,” says Terry Emma, executive director of the Geneva History Museum. “All he had to do was take his coat to the cleaners.”
Dickens Holiday Village
Downtown Antioch, (847) 395-2233, antiochchamber.org
Old England comes alive in downtown Antioch with this public art program and its life-sized figurines who look as though they’ve just left Victorian England.
Situated along Main and Lake streets, the lifelike figures are dressed in authentic-looking costumes and appear to be caroling, chimney sweeping and otherwise welcoming visitors. The public is encouraged to walk and explore.
In all, about 50 of these Dickens characters are spread through 29 scenes downtown.
They’re also inside Kringle’s Christmas Village, 510 Orchard St., where there’s an indoor showroom filled with Christmas displays.
Almost all of the figures are handmade by volunteers, crafted from wood and designed to pose for various scenes.
Volunteers used styrofoam heads to sculpt, paint and create characters and their props that together look well-suited for a Charles Dickens novel.
Groups of 20 or more can arrange a free tour guide with a seven-day advanced notice. Bus tours are also available for large groups.
Stop by the Dickens Welcome Center inside Hannah’s, 414 Lake St., to get a walking tour brochure, which explains where the characters are located.
Dickens Holiday Village is open through New Year’s Day. Kringle’s Christmas Village is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through New Year’s Day. Both activities are free.