Sunday, November 3, 2013

Roberts Resort

The cities around Lake Winnebago emerged as centers of commerce and population because of good water transportation, add to that the introduction of the railroads and the area flourished.  By the late 1800's the communities near the lake began to exploit the lake as an attraction for summer tourists.  Fishing and sailing lured many to the lake.  In May of 1877 John Roberts was about to open his new resort hotel on Neenahs' Doty Island, so stated a feature in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of the 21st of that month.  The reporter paid a visit to the hotel and gave it a glowing review "The hotel is a building of the latest architectural design, and does great credit to the architect, Wm. Waters of Oshkosh."  The resort occupied the former farm of Governor Doty, on the island near the mouth of the Fox River; and commanded a view of the lake, Riverside Park and Neenah harbor.  The hotel was a two story wooden structure, 43' x 68' of 35 rooms, with a veranda across the front and one side and a balcony above the front entry.  On the first floor was an office, parlor, dinning room and several bedrooms.  Upstairs were suites and bedrooms with hot and cold baths and modern sanitary arrangements.  The interior was said to be well finished and elegantly furnished.  The hotel was erected adjacent to Governor Doty's log cabin which was to be used as servants quarters or a rainy day place, billiard hall and gentleman's smoking room. 
Mr. Roberts was born in 1833 in Oneida county New York.  He stared in the hotel business with a lodging in Schenectady and 1858 went to New York City until 1862 and then on to Newark, Ohio.  In 1866 he and his wife Martha moved to Columbus Wisconsin; and from there to Menasha to run the National Hotel; and in dew time he built his resort.  The business did very well in attracting pleasure seeker, so well in fact that three guest cottages were built on the grounds in 1881.  For what ever reason the property was sold in 1905 to John Strange who remodeled the hotel as his home.  He donated Doty Cabin to the city in 1923 and had it moved to the park just west of his property.  John Strange was the president of the several companies and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, serving from 1909 to 1911, all the time residing in the former hotel.  The property remain with the Strange family until 1965 when it was sold, subdivided and the old resort was razed.

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