Since the mid-nineteenth century, Elkhart Lake has been a popular destination. Its early growth was due in part to the arrival of the railroad in 1873, bringing passenger trains full of vacationers, race enthusiasts, gamblers, and gangsters alike from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay, all drawn to its resorts and its spring-fed water where guests enjoyed fishing, swimming, boating, hunting, and entertainment.
THE RISE OF SIEBKENS
In 1912 Herman and Laura Siebken emigrated from Northern Germany, settling in Milwaukee, WI. Drawn by the bustling resort town, the family moved to Elkhart Lake in 1916 to open Elm Grove Coffee Garden. The summer business flourished, and in the fall of the same year, the Elm Park Hotel on Lake Street, now Siebkens Resort, was acquired. Having operated hotels in Germany, Herman Siebken borrowed from his experiences to instill old world traditions, evident in the food, drink, and entertainment at the resort.
RELAX AND ENJOY A WONDERFUL VACATION
The reputation of Siebkens Resort grew, and soon swimming lessons were offered at the Siebkens pier, and picture shows became a frequent occurrence in the Elm Park Theater. It also became a tradition that German singing troupes would serenade the guests, with their arrival becoming a highly anticipated event each summer. This tradition would continue at the resort for over 70 years.
ROAD RACING IN ELKHART LAKE
In 1946 Herman’s daughter Olive (but everyone called her Ollie) took over the ownership of the resort. While her love for antiques is well known, having established an antique store at the resort, it’s perhaps her role in bringing open road sports car racing to the Village of Elkhart Lake that is her lasting legacy. The only woman member of the first race committee, Ollie’s hospitality and advertising of the events helped make the early races a great success. Held over three years – 1950, 1951, and 1952 – the events quickly swelled to 130,000 spectators (estimate) and featured the finest marques (Allards, Ferraris, Jaguars) and drivers (Briggs Cunningham, Jim Kimberly, John Fitch, Phil Hill). The cost of a room at Siebkens on race weekend? $10/night per person, including three meals daily.
AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARK OF SPEED
With road racing outlawed following a tragic accident at Watkins Glen that killed a seven-year-old spectator, attention in Elkhart Lake turned to the creation of a dedicated race circuit. Ollie once again became integral to the effort, helping sell stock to raise money for the construction of a private race course. In 1955 Road America, one of the premier race circuits in the world was opened southeast of the original open road circuits. Siebkens Resort became the place where the race teams and drivers could be seen, including Paul Newman, who stayed in Room 11 while filming the 1969 movie Winning, about professional racing.
A LEGENDARY RESORT
In 1977 Ollie passed the management of the Resort to her daughter, Pam, and husband, Douglas Lueck, who continued to honor its German heritage. The fourth generation owners – Laurie and Lisa – granddaughters to Ollie, would later take over the reins. Each generation helped to expand the legacy of Siebkens Resort by continually improving the grounds, adding new amenities, and building the most recent addition to Siebkens Resort, our Condominium Hotel building, offering deluxe accommodations. Today our standards for hospitality have never been higher, and our commitment to the heritage of Siebkens Resort is intact and currently being refreshed through new branding, facility updates, and a food and drink menu that honors our history of quality. We invite you to come and experience it for yourself; “Relax and Enjoy a Wonderful Vacation”.
Siebkens Resort 284 S. Lake St. Post Office Box 336 Elkhart Lake, Wis. 53020 firstname.lastname@example.org 920-876-2600