Pieces of unique home return to Lake Geneva, now in museum
May 12, 2010 | 08:52 AM
|Where have Ceylon Court pieces
been all these years?
In 1958, Chicago designer Fred Boger attended the Ceylon Court auction, where much of the contents of the unique home, including the house itself were sold.
Years earlier, Boger had fallen in love with eastern architecture and design. He even traveled to the area following World War II.
So, according to his good friend, Ders Anderson, the late Boger had become familiar with Ceylon Court. When it went up for purchase, Boger was extremely interested.
It turned out, Boger purchased a sizeable amount of the home. Anderson said he believed his friend bought much of the building.
He hired a crew to dismantle the home and return it to his property near Crystal Lake and to other storage areas.
According to Anderson, some of the items included 50,000 ceramic roofing tiles, indoor columns and furniture. Most of the pieces were hand-carved woods of different varieties.
Then in the 1960s, Boger, an independent designer serving mostly Lake County and northern Illinois, started incorporating some of the pieces into his designs. He used the pieces in private homes and businesses.
Anderson said Florsheim Shoes stores purchased Ceylon Court columns and other carved materials for their stores throughout the Midwest. They used the columns and wood pieces to hold up shoe shelving.
By the time Anderson knew Boger, many of the pieces already were gone, used in homes and businesses throughout the area. What remained was located on Boger's 40-acre property under tarps and some was in storage.
Upon Boger's death, Anderson was among those responsible for the responsible disposal of the pieces. Anderson said it was always important to him to ensure some of the remaining pieces would be available to the public to see. He said Boger would have wanted that.
Anderson tried to find a home for the remaining pieces that were on Boger's land. He contacted the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Historical Society, neither of which were interested immediately in the pieces, despite their Chicago historical significance.
Then, the McHenry County Conservation District purchased Boger's 40-acre parcel and Anderson had to do something with the pieces still remaining on the property.
After waiting for possibilities of use by the Chicago Park District, Anderson said he eventually ran out of time. After waiting for about a year after he first heard from the Geneva Lake Museum, he finally museum personnel to come and take the pieces from his barn after storing them for some time.
Now, he is pleased the pieces will be available to the public.
"I'm satisfied with how it all worked out," he said. "Fred would be, too. He was a real interesting character. He was very creative and a well-respected designer."
Anderson said Boger wanted his 40-acre property to be used for educational purposes and it is. He also would be happy with how the Ceylon Court pieces would be used as well.
"He would have been thrilled by all of this," Anderson said.|
It's been 52 years since the exotic and unique Ceylon Court stood at Maytag Point on the shore of Geneva Lake. Overlooking the east end of the lake and Buttons Bay, the all-wood replica Buddhist temple brought here after the Columbian World Expo in Chicago in 1893 was a sight to behold.
Although the mansion is long gone, pieces of it were auctioned off and the remaining shell burned to the ground in a practice fire in 1958, the building and its historical significance now will be honored for years to come in the north exhibit hall at the Geneva Lake Museum.
Last month, volunteers moved to the museum a number of pieces that once were inside the great mansion. The pieces, which mainly are thick, heavy wood columns covered with detailed carvings, were donated in 2008 and remained in storage until now.
Museum personnel are thrilled to finally have the vintage pieces on display as they work to create an exhibit focused on the historical significance of Ceylon Court.
Ceylon Court originally was constructed by native craftsmen on the grounds of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exhibition. Queen Victoria had commissioned the one-of-a-kind building for the fair to honor Ceylon, modern day Sri Lanka, as a British protectorate. The building was used during the fair as a teahouse.
After the fair closed, the building was purchased by Frank Chandler, disassembled and brought to Lake Geneva on 24 railroad flatcars. Under the direction of Henry Lord Gay, it was reassembled and two residential wings were added. The home was completed in the summer of 1894.
In the early 1900s, the home was sold to Chiccago banker John J. Mitchell. The Mitchells were killed in a car accident in the 1920s while driving to Chicago. The estate was sold to F.L. Maytag. In 1940, son E.M. Maytag suffered a fatal heart attack at Ceylon Court, and a new owner was sought for the property. Eventually, the property was sold and subdivided in 1948. Efforts to save the home by having it placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings failed, the contents were auctioned off in 1958 and the structure was used in a practice burn for the Lake Geneva Fire Department.
Since, for most people, only pictures and memories of the building remain.
"Historically, this is great," Museum board member Vern Haan said about the museum obtaining the pieces. "This is like going to an old barn and finding a Rolls Royce under a pile of straw."
Ders Anderson was a good friend of the late Fred Boger, who purchased a significant part of Ceylon Court in the auction in 1958. Anderson provided the pieces to the museum about two years ago.
He said Boger was a Chicago designer of architecture and furniture among other things. He loved eastern design and traveled to the Middle East after World War II. Anderson said he believes Boger purchased much, if not most of Ceylon Court in the auction. After Boger's death, Anderson was left in charge of the remaining pieces from Ceylon Court.
Anderson said he finally found a home for the them with the Geneva Lake Museum.
"He would have been satisfied how it worked out with these pieces," Anderson said of his friend. "He would have been thrilled and if he were still alive, he would have a great time at a grand opening."
Museum Director Kathy Klaisner said Ceylon Court won't be the only focus of the exhibit. She said a number of items were brought from the Columbian expo to the Lake Geneva area and that will be focused on as well.
Klaisner called it a "very ambitious" project, but one she is very excited to be a part of.
"We think this is an important story to tell," Klaisner said about the importance and architecture of Ceylon Court. "We want this to be a showpiece of the museum and it's something the community will be able to learn a lot about."
The new pieces also will be integrated with older Ceylon Court pieces the museum already had on display in its south gallery. Those artifacts include furniture and other unique pieces.