Beach Street Bridge and Beach C.1930


Lake Delavan and the Highlands History

Development at Delavan Lake didn't begin until the first permanent residence was built by Dr. Fredrick L. VonSuessmilch in 1875 along the north shore. Mamie Mabie opened a small hotel at Lake Lawn three years later. A steamboat launch was built at that location also. The next 20 years saw a building boom of private houses, hotels and resorts. Most of the residents were summer retreats for Chicagoans who came up on the train, which at that time stopped in Delavan 6 times a day during the summer months. Livery buses took people from the train station in town
 to the resorts around the lake.


By the 1880s, Delavan had become a popular tourist destination and dozens of resorts were built to accommodate visitors. Ultimately, steamers and excursion boats with daily schedules were added to the lake for sightseeing and
 ease of movement between resorts. This additional influx of people needed entertainment, giving birth to Delavan’s ballroom era, which lasted until 1960.

Ash Street and South Shore Drive (Facing Channel), notice the trellis at the end of the street.  Millie Capp Wolfgram house on the right side of the street, the house still stands to this day.

Millie Capp Wolfgram was 6 years old in the early 1930's when her father built a home on the corner of South Shore Drive and Ash Street.  Millie said it took hours to get to Delavan in the days when the Highlands started to be developed.  Some of the early homes still standing are located on the corner of North Channel Drive and Cherry Street, South Channel Drive and Beach.  In the late 1930's Mr. Capp purchased property on Beach Street, where Millie and her family lived for years.  Some of us can still remember Mr. Capp sitting on his pier fishing during those long summer days.  The Capps suffer a tragedy during thier years in the Beach Street home, their son, capized a boat with 2 women aboard, he managed to help the women to the boat but lost his life.  

The Beach Street Bridge.  This house, built by the Capp family, sits on the northwest corner.

Mr. Capp rowing down the channel (c.1931).

Mary Stermer and her husband opened the Capitol Ballroom on the corner of South Shore Drive and County O.  This was a popular place during the late 1930's, during and after the war.  The Strummers built two homes in the Highlands, both on Beach Street.  Unfortunately, the Capitol Ballroom burned in the 1950's but the Strummers and her family stayed in the Highlands until her death in the 1970's,

Joe Russo, 4228 Spruce Street, said there was an ad in his Rockford paper for lots in Delavan at $99.00 each. He and his buddy knew the area because they had been coming to the Lake Lawn Ballroom and the Dutch Mill Dance Hall. Joe bought 2 lots on different streets, and in 1950, built his summer home on Spruce.  At the time, the beach property had 100 trees and brush as high as your head. Roads were 8 feet wide and made of gravel. Assessments were $5.00 a year for a lot, and $10.00 for a house on the lot. The kitchen building at the beach was erected in 1963, using money earned from the fun fair, and in 1974, the pavilion was built. Joe says the Highlands was organized in 1925 by Neil Kelly and Francis Geiss.3 




[1] City of Delavan website

[2] Delavan By Patricia Ruth-Marsicano 3Joe Russo,  July 2009



The association owns the beach, park, pavilion, bridges at Beach Street and Central Avenue, both North and South Channel roads, all roads north of the channel excluding Poplar and Spruce, and a strip of land located to the North of the sub-division. In addition, we own the posts used to mount the piers and the channel banks. The culverts and storm sewers located along LDHA roads and on the channel banks are owned and maintained by the association.