Grand Geneva Timeline
1834 In 1834, government surveyor John Brink mapped the region and named the lake in honor of his hometown, Geneva, New York. Chief Big Foot and his people were forced to leave two years later and the village of Geneva was incorporated in 1844.
1871 The two events that bore the greatest influence on Lake Geneva’s popularity were the re-introduction of passenger rail service and the Great Chicago Fire, both of which took place in 1871.
1966 The official groundbreaking of the Lake Geneva Playboy Club Hotel took place on Friday, August 26, 1966, with typical Hefner flourish. It took three years to plan and construct the 265,000-square-foot building.
1967 Seven interconnected buildings made up the five-acre central complex overlooking the manmade Playboy Lake. The structures had a touch of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in their design, emulating the Prairie Style architecture that Wright is most often associated with...
May 6, 1968 The property opened on May 6, 1968 as The Lake Geneva Playboy Club Hotel, with Hefner, members of his inner circle, local dignitaries and the Mayor of Lake Geneva in attendance.
1968 In the summer of 1968, the Playboy Club opened The Brute. The Brute’s 68 bunkers and average green of 8,000 square feet was consistently named among the nation’s best, and remains one of Wisconsin’s golf treasures.
1969 The no- name sculpture was constructed in 1969 by sculptor and Lake Geneva resident Charles Moelter. When guests observe the enormous untitled sculpture on the 16th tee of the Brute golf course, they often ask “what is it?"
1970 Having its own airport was another bonus for guests. Many pilots merely flew in for lunch and departed soon after. Landing fees were $3 in the mid- 1970’s, bringing in about $18,000 per year.
1971 Grubbing and staking of the golf course began in September and by October, 1971. One of the 18 hole courses, the par 71, 6,900-yard Briar Patch was a Scottish design by Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye.
1971 Bill Pullen served as the Managing Director of The Playboy Club from 1970 to 1972. While there he had his share of celebrity encounters. Pullen remembers Sonny and Cher’s 1971 performance...
1971 The ski lodge was designed in the shape of two intersecting snowflakes by Alexander Mcllvaine, the architect who created the Sqauw Valley complex for the 1960 Winter Olympics in California.
1972 Many other celebrities such as Bob Hope, Sonny & Cher, Tony Bennett, Liza Minelli, Diahann Carroll, Peggy Lee, The Smothers Brothers, Frankie Avalon, The Monkees, Milton Berle, George Carlin, Mel Torme, Jerry Lewis, Ann Margret, Doc Severinsen, Joan Rivers, Bobby Rydell, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Phyllis Diller and Louie Nye entertained crowds at the Lake Geneva Playboy Hotel.
1978 Shade Tree recording studio officially opened in early 1978. Performers who passed through Lake Geneva included some of the music industry’s biggest names.
1982 On March 24, 1982 the Great Gorge and the Lake Geneva Playboy Clubs were sold to Americana Hotels and the familiar welcoming signs at the entrance were dismantled and removed.
1984 Singer John Denver and his father would fly in on their private plane and play a few rounds. Baseball legend Mickey Mantle hit the links here. So too did NFL running backs O.J. Simpson, Gale Sayers, and Jim Brown. Major League Baseball Players from the Brewers...
1993 In 1993, the property was rescued by Marcus Hotels who paid just one-third of what Playboy sold it for in 1981. The resort was shut down in the fall of 1993 as renovation began and was rebranded as the Grand Geneva and repositioned as one of the premier resorts in the upper Midwest.
1994 The Marcus renovation turned the complex into a state-of-the-art facility. The plans included a major reconfiguration of the interior that moved the registrations desk, shifted the indoor pool, and created a lobby lounge and living room space. It also enhanced and updated the restaurants and lounge.
1994 Since opening Grand Geneva in 1994, the Marcus Corporation has worked to enhance the quality of the resort, including three successful restaurants: Ristoranté Brissago, the Geneva ChopHouse, and the Grand Café.
1997 In 1997, the Briar Patch underwent a major renovation by noted golf architect Bob Cupp, at which time it was renamed The Highlands. The former recording studio space was turned into an engineering office and the air strip was recertified and reopened.
2001 In 2001 new recreation was added in the form of the Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark, a 50,000-square-foot, indoor/outdoor waterpark.
2005 In 2005, the Marcus Corporation increased the convention space to 62,000 square feet of meeting space and exhibit area. They also added an eight thousand-square-foot ballroom in the center of the building to complement the convention space.
2009 By 2009, major upgrades included expansion of the outdoor pool deck, featuring eight arching fountains, a California-style fire pit and dining area adjacent to the Geneva ChopHouse, and enhancements to the resort’s signature spa and salon.
2009 In May 2009, Grand Geneva broke ground for an herb and vegetable garden, which now provides fresh produce for the hotel’s five restaurants. In June 2009, the resort earned official certification from Travel Green Wisconsin.
2011 To accommodate animal lovers, the pet-friendly resort launched a Pet Club in 2011.
2013 In 2013, Grand Geneva was selected by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the top 10 golf resorts in the northern United States.
2013 In May 2013, Grand Geneva opened The Geneva Club with an atmosphere similar to a home library. The Club includes a fireplace, bookshelves, comfortable seating and workstations for individuals and small groups, Wi-Fi Internet access, printers, and televisions for monitoring the day's events.