03 July, 2014

Edithton Beach Revisted

My friend Rommy Lopat, who publishes the very smart Weedpatch Gazette sent me an email the other day with a link to an essay about Chiwaukee Prairie, WI - and what was once Edithton Beach. This was quite a coincidence, as I had recently discovered an old article in my files about it and I was planning on revisiting the topic here.

I've included the link to my original post above, but to quickly brief you:  Edithton Beach was the "millionaires" playground which Edith Rockefeller McCormick started to build with her real estate business partners Edwin Krenn and Edward Dato in the 1920s. It was located on the shore of Lake Michigan in southern Wisconsin, an area now known as Chiwaukee.

This is an advertisement that ran in the Sept. 16th, 1925 Chicago Daily Tribune with the recipients of prize money for the naming of the development listed at right. Over 80,000 people entered the contest, and Elmer H. Huge of Laporte, Indiana won first prize with "Edithon Beach." He was presented with a $1,500 check at a ceremony held at the Drake Hotel on Sept. 15th, 1925. Second prize was "Nirvana" ($500), and third prize ($350) was awarded to the almost identical "Edithston Beach." ($150 went to runner up "Krenado Beach.")

It has been estimated that Edith spent upwards of $4,000,000 on the 1500 acre project, from its inception in the mid 1920s until her death in August of 1932 - at which time she was liquidating assets to cover the interest on bond issues. All buildings in the development were to be like Spanish castles, an airport was laid out and a yacht harbor and a golf course planned, but only one building was ever erected.

The depression came in 1929 of course, and it was impossible for the firm of Krenn & Dato (funded by the Edith Rockefeller McCormick Trust) to sell any of the acreage. Up until the day of her death, Edith paid the amounts due on $1,137,500 in bonds and retired a large part of the issue. Almost five years later the Circuit Court in Kenosha entered a foreclosure decree to satisfy a $425,000 judgement secured by bondholders on the remaining debt.

It would take another decade, and the conclusion of WWII before anyone considered development of any sort. Plans were made, and once more, plans faltered. This was much to the benefit of what would eventually become Chiwaukee Prairie, managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy. 

No comments: