This floating castle appears to be from an enchanted fable, but in actuality it is Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castle.
A product of Prohibition, Camp Wandawega started as a clandestine speakeasy before becoming the idyllic resort it is today. Once branded “a bawdy house of ill fame”, Wandawega would go on to host all walks of life – from bigwig Chicago businessmen to illicit “ladies of the night” to Catholic priests – before being bought by David Hernandez and Teresa Surratt who run Wandawega today.
In 1925, America was five years into Prohibition – the nationwide ban on alcohol – and a select group of Chicago businessmen were looking for a reprieve. They built the Wandawega Hotel as a place for recreation — and liquor, prostitution, and gambling. Trap doors and hidden hatches were common within the Hotel’s walls, and it operated successfully until 1931 when a Federal raid temporarily closed it down.
By 1933, the alcohol ban had ended, but the desire for debauchery did not. Now a tavern, the Wandawega was nicknamed Orphan Annie’s – named after the Madame herself, Anna Beckford Peck. Criminals, Chicagoans, and even local law enforcement passed through for gambling, liquor, and visits from Annie’s ladies until 1942. That year, Peck was sentenced and sent to the local women’s prison.
The next owners would be a far cry from the philandering types that frequented the tavern. In 1951, the Andrzejewski family bought the property and renamed it Wandawega Lake Resort, providing Polish-style cooking and a modest vacation spot for families. Within a decade, the Catholic Church purchased the property and turned it into a retirement home for Latvian priests fleeing war-torn Europe.
For years, Catholic Latvians continued to visit Wandawega and it became a popular summer resort for families and their children. One of those children was David Hernandez, the current owner who returned to purchase Wandawega in 2003.
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