For Sale: The Echoes Estate
Historic Echoes Estate - For Sale
First time to market in over 30 years
Written by Wendy Murphy, Mahler Sotheby's International Realty
The Echoes Estate in Fontana has just come to market for the first time in 30 years. The property is listed by Wendy Murphy, Real Estate Advisor with Mahler Sotheby's International Realty for $6,950,000.
The Echoes is a spectacular Queen Anne Revival home that was built on the south shores of Geneva Lake in 1896 for George P. Braun, founder of Braun & Fitts, who made his fortune as a manufacturer of Oleomargarine, a butter substitute. The home was designed by Henry Lord Gay, a prominent architect from Chicago, who also designed Younglands / Stone Manor, Moorings, Jerseyhurst, Folly, Maple Lawn, and his own residence Gaylynne, to name a few. Echoes is one of the most recognizable properties on the lake with its stately presence and asymmetrical façade. The home has unpredictable lines with a dominate round tower capped with a conical roof that rises on the east side, an expansive lakeside sunroom that wraps around the home and a porte-cochere on the west.
The three storied, gambrel roofed clapboard and wood shingled house has over 10,000 square feet of living space with six bedrooms, six full and two half baths. It is situated on 1.75 acres of woods with a gentle slope to the lakefront with 140 feet of Geneva Lake frontage. There is a 160-foot-long pier with two boat slips and a third shore station. The lot is irregular in shape and is 233 feet in width and 400 feet in depth, providing a substantial yard with a tennis court and a four-car heated garage topped with a rooftop deck overlooking the lake. There is also a large, elegant rooftop pavilion perched on the boathouse that sits on the shores of the lake.
At the time that Echoes was built, it was thought to have been the most modern and efficiently operated home that included a plumbing system that carried lake water and household waste. The cost to build the home was $18,000.
George P. Braun enjoyed spending time at Echoes and found relaxation with boating. He would race at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club along with his son, George Jr. He took on a business partner, John F. Jelke, who purchased the company after Braun’s death in 1905. The product was renamed Good Luck Margarine, which became the highest selling margarine in the country.
The estate was sold to Amariah G. Cox in 1913 and renamed Pleasant Hill. At that time, you would see peacocks roaming the grounds freely, as Mrs. Cox felt they were the most majestic birds and preferred them to ducks and swans. Pens were built on the property to house these regal birds at night, keeping them safe from the wildlife.
A.G. Cox was a paint salesman for the Rubber Paint Company of Cleveland and was so successful, the company had to build a factory in Chicago to keep up with his orders. Eventually he pulled together every cent he had to purchase the company in 1892. Included in the sale was a smaller affiliate, Zeno Manufacturing, that produced chewing gum. One of his customers was a struggling soap salesman named William Wrigley Jr, who offered chewing gum as a premium to help with his soap sales. Gum quickly became more lucrative than soap.
With Wrigley’s newfound success in the chewing gum industry, A.G. Cox moved the manufacturing facility from Cleveland to Chicago to begin producing gum under the Wrigley label. Wrigley purchased the Zeno company in 1911 and hired Cox to be the Vice President and Treasurer of the William Wrigley Jr. Company. By 1913, Cox sold his paint factories and began spending more time in Fontana, Wisconsin at Pleasant Hill. His granddaughter, Helen Atwater, a frequent guest at the estate, married William Wrigley’s son, P.K. Wrigley, the former president of Wrigley companies and the Chicago Cubs, in 1927.
Following the death of Mr. Cox in 1941, the estate was sold intact, but subdivided in 1957 to become known as the Brookwood community. The original home is easily recognizable as it still sits prominently on the shores. The first-floor veranda and second floor patio have been enclosed and an additional deck was added on the roof. The home is once again known as Echoes.
For a complete gallery of the home and details about the listings, visit www.EchoesEstate.com.
Resources: Lake Geneva Newport of the West, 1976 by Ann Wolfmeyer and Mary Burns Gage; Geneva Lake Stories from the Shore, 2012 by Anne Celano Frohna; WisconsinHistory.org; hhhistory.com
For an unbelievable story about the Butter/Margarine Wars that plagued our country and sent some of George Braun's partners (first owner of the Echoes) to jail, and the Dairy Lobbiest's attempts to require margarine be dyed the color pink, click here.
For a list of fun things happening in Lake Geneva, CLICK HERE.