Founded in 1890, the Oconomowoc Lake Club is a historical landmark on Oconomowoc Lake. For many, the Club has been a part of their families for generations. Our rich history displays the camaraderie of those who have made us who we are today.
The Oconomowoc Lake Club, organized in 1890, was founded, in part, as an improvement association in order that certain lake levels and inter-lake traffic might be maintained and facilitated.
A lock was proposed to control the level of the Lake where it flowed out to the Oconomowoc River. The Oconomowoc Lake Club installed the Danforth Lock, thereby solving the problems of lake levels, and to help with mosquito and malaria control. A U.S. Mail boat then was able to enter the Lake through the lock from Oconomowoc. The mail boat stopped at piers around the Lake to deliver mail twice a day, as well as groceries ordered from Vromans! The lock is now cemented shut, but there is a dam that is operated regularly to manage water levels on Oconomowoc Lake.
The history of the Oconomowoc Lake Club is inextricably tied to the history of the Villa Gifford (known as the Gifford Hotel in the 1800’s). Originally a residential home, the geniality of Mr. George P. Gifford, coupled with the imposing site and recreational attributes of Oconomowoc Lake, resulted in Mr. Gifford’s friends enjoying his food, weekend lodging and recreational activities.
In the late 1860’s, Mr. Gifford opened his home to selected guests, and over the years added to the home's physical structure to create an imposing and elegantly simple Hotel. The Hotel predated the founding of the OLC, and the first 19 years of the Oconomowoc Lake Club meetings and activities occurred at the Gifford Hotel, which was located just west of the present Oconomowoc Lake Club. The club house was completed in the summer of 1909.
A new and proudly served its members until on December 17, 1994, a fire claimed the "Grand Lady" after 94 years. After much negotiating with State and local authorities, the Oconomowoc Lake Club was rebuilt and on April 27, 1996, celebrated its Grand Opening just nine months after ground was broken. The Oconomowoc Lake Club emerged stronger, better and with a renewed spirit, to enable it to meet the needs of its members and the surrounding community for the next 100 years.