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History of the Greeks in Lake Geneva

Peter Pappas, the patriarch of the Greek community in Lake Geneva, came to the city a decade and a half after the turn of the 19th century. He worked as a waiter in the then-new Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Geneva Hotel, which was demolished 40 years ago.

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June 25, 2013 | 03:38 PM
Much has been written about the Anglo-Saxon Protestants from Vermont and upstate New York and their descendants who dominated Lake Geneva for at least the first century of its existence. Quite a bit has also been written about the Irish immigrants who settled in the "Irish Woods" west of Lake Geneva after they had built the railroad from Chicago to Geneva in 1856. They and their descendants became the largest ethnic minority population in Lake Geneva, and formed the backbone of the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church. Many residents are aware of the first Italian immigrants in Lake Geneva, the Lazzaroni family, who operated a fruit stand on the north side of the 700 block of Main Street during the years following the turn of the 19th century. The Lazzaronis later purchased the Hotel Clair (and the bowling alley beneath it), which is now the "Landmark Center." The descendants of the Lazzaronis are the Payne family.

But few residents are aware of the history of Greeks in Lake Geneva, despite the fact that they have played a key role in the city's restaurant and tourism business for more than seven decades and a Greek-American is a former mayor of Lake Geneva.

The patriarch of the Greek community in Lake Geneva was Peter Pappas. Pappas came to Lake Geneva a decade and a half after the turn of the 19th century as a waiter in the then-new Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Geneva Hotel (alas, demolished 40 years ago). Subsequently he brought his family from Greece to Lake Geneva, and, with his wife Georgia, opened Georgia's International Café on the west side of the 200 block of Broad Street adjacent to where Lake Geneva's bus station was once located. The Pappas family was followed by the Millas and later the Chironis families. Louie and Mary Millas arrived in Lake Geneva in the 1930s. They opened Millas's restaurant, which is today the Olympic restaurant, on the south side of the 700 block of Main Street. Louie and Mary Millas were Spyro "Speedo" Condos's grandparents. The Chironis family opened Chironis' restaurant, which is known today as Harry's, on the south side of the 800 block of Main Street. It is owned by Harry Chironis, the youngest son in the Chironis family.

Peter and Georgia Pappas's daughter, Angie Pappas, graduated from Lake Geneva High School in 1952. Two sons of the Chironis family, Alex and Jim Chironis, were star basketball players at Lake Geneva High School and Christine (Tina) Chironis was a cheerleader at LGHS. Ann Chironis graduated from LGHS in 1953, Alex Chironis in 1954, Jim Chironis in 1955, and Christine (Tina) Chironis in 1958.

The fourth and fifth Greek families to arrive in the city were the Condos families. George Condos was born in Milwaukee, but an ill-timed trip to his family's home village in Greece just before the outbreak of World War II stranded the family in Greece. After the war, he returned to the United States, settling in Lake Geneva in 1947 at the invitation of his in laws, the Millas family. George initially worked in Louie Millas's restaurant. George Condos' son, "Speedo" Condos, now owns the Harborside Pub and Grill, at South Broad Street and Wrigley Drive, across the street from the Riviera. He is a former mayor of Lake Geneva. Anthony (Tony) Condos, arrived in Lake Geneva in 1952. Tony Condos owns Anthony's Steakhouse on the north side of Highway 50, just west of Lake Geneva.

The Anagnos family, led by their patriarch "Big Nick" Anagnos, was the last Greek family to arrive in Lake Geneva. Nick purchased the Hickory House restaurant (in which this writer once worked as a dishwasher) from Rick and Earl Parsons, completely remodeled it and transformed it into Popeye's restaurant. Anagnos owned the Annex bar where Hogs & Kisses now stands. He tore down the Annex and built the Black Knight bar on that location on lower Broad Street. He renamed it Pappouli's. Later, he sold it to Jerry Ordman who renamed it Hogs & Kisses.

Anagnos and his brother-in-law Anthony (Tony) Condos purchased Millas's restaurant and renamed it the Olympic Café. Today members of the Anagnos family still own Popeye's. Greg Anagnos owns the Medusa restaurant at Broad and Dodge Streets, the former Hanny's White House restaurant.

George Argiroupolous, whose late wife Effie was Speedo Condos' sister, presently owns the Lake Aire restaurant at the southwest corner of Broad and Main Streets. It had been owned by Nick and Angie Pappas Petros and by George Condos. At one time Condos owned three restaurants in the 200 block of South Broad Street: the Lake View restaurant (today Speedo Condos's Harborside Pub and Grill), the Hob Nob restaurant and the Lake Aire restaurant.

Many of the Greeks who came to Lake Geneva originally lived on Pleasant Street and on Park Row. Quite a few of their descendants now live in Sturwood, a reflection of their upward mobility. Without a doubt, Greek immigrants and their Greek-American descendants have played a vital role in Lake Geneva for more than 70 years, a role that forms a significant part of the fabric of Lake Geneva's history.

(Many thanks to Speedo Condos for his informative reading of the first draft of this article.)


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