Storytellers of Lake Geneva History

Harry Hartshorne of Lake Geneva, WI

Remembering Lake Geneva legend and philanthropist Harry Hartshorne

The Lake Geneva Public Library’s partnership with the national nonprofit organization StoryCorps has been extended through the end of 2023, providing more opportunities for locals and summer residents to schedule a session to record their memories and stories through the innovative program.  StoryCorps, which was founded in 2003 by Dave Isay, is “dedicated to recording, preserving and sharing the stories of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs.” Participants schedule time to record themselves reminiscing and sharing memories, and the recordings are then added to a national archive in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Barb Krause, Publisher and CEO of Nei Turner Media Group, which publishes At The Lake, recently recorded a StoryCorps session with local historian Grace Ecklund. The recording is available online here. Their topic? Longtime Lake Geneva resident and philanthropist Harold “Harry” Hartshorne, Jr., who passed away in 2013 at the age of 95. Over nearly seven decades in Lake Geneva, Hartshorne (pronounced “hearts-horn”) was a fixture in many organizations, including the Lake Geneva YMCA and Horticultural Hall, as well as Music by the Lake, the Lake Geneva Public Library, Lake Geneva’s Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion and George Williams College of Aurora University. The local outpost of the StoryCorps project was even paid for through a grant from the Lake Geneva Public Library Foundation, an organization that Hartshorne himself established and initially funded.

Hartshorne was the grandson of Simeon B. Chapin, a Chicago stockbroker and the founder of the Geneva Lake Water Safety Patrol, who built a summer home named Flowerside Farm for his family on the lake’s north shore in 1897. In the 1940s, Hartshorne made a permanent home on the property following service as a pilot in the United States Air Force during WWII, as well as his grandfather’s death in 1945. Here, Hartshorne took up hobby farming on 240 acres, which became a lifelong passion, and engaged with the Lake Geneva community through his many philanthropic efforts.

In their StoryCorps session, Krause and Ecklund share their personal memories of their respective friendships with Hartshorne, including information about his unique upbringing on New York’s Fifth Avenue; his experience training French pilots in their native language during the war; and his love of music, including two Steinway pianos at the farm that he played at an expert level. What emerges from the conversation is a portrait of an extremely generous and elegant man whose many gifts are still enriching the community today, a decade after his death.

For more information about the StoryCorps project at the Lake Geneva Public Library, visit the library website. To listen to more StoryCorps recordings from throughout the United States, visit the StoryCorps website.

Author: atthelake

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