Schweppe Mansion was built in 1917 on the shores of Lake Michigan by John G. Shedd (of Shedd Aquarium fame) as a wedding gift for his daughter, Laura Shedd, and her husband, Charles Schweppe (of Schweppes Beverage fame).
The house is the epitome of the turn of the century “gilded age” homes built by the super wealthy of the time, using only the most expensive materials fashioned by only the best and most expensive craftsmen of the day.
It is a testament to the excesses and grandiosity of the era as embodied by the American “Nouveau Riche” of those days. It easily rivals the most ostentatious of the big palaces that the royalty and aristocracy of Europe enjoyed in the 1900s.
It was however, not entirely tasteless like some other examples of that time like the Winchester House or Hearst Mansion. The craftsmanship of the– literally, miles–of woodwork in the place is astonishing, especially the floors.
The mansion was built in a very heavy, typically Midwestern, “Mock Tudor” style, massive and imposing. but elegant at the same time. Still, one can’t help but picture the owners of the building standing by, in their tails, starched collars and top hats, glaring relentlessly and cruelly upon the armies of exhausted workers who toiled endlessly to create these beautiful homes. Who would never so much as set foot inside such a place their whole lives and who probably went home to some filthy, overcrowded tenement in one of the many slum-like ghettos that existed for those that had the misfortune of being Black, Jewish, Polish or Irish.
The fact that many of the new rich at that time had hard-scrabbled, clawed and scratched their way up into the upper reaches of American society from roots that were steeped in the most abject poverty was probably what made these men so hard, merciless and ruthless in their dealings with others. Especially those who were “beneath” their own station.
Resentment toward their earlier lot in life, anger and a desire for revenge against the slights that others, and the universe itself, had inflicted upon them as children and young men seemed to be the motivation for becoming wealthy and powerful.
Once in the stratosphere of the ultra wealthy, these men very quickly forgot that at one time they had been dirt poor and low down, too.
The fact that so many of the new rich in America did not originate from old, long established aristocratic families that had their roots in Europe was probably what caused the European nobility to look upon them with such contempt and scorn.
This only exacerbated the resentment and hatred felt by the American new rich toward their old oppressors in the old country and just served as a further goad to outdo the Europeans in ostentatious displays of brute power and wealth.
There are tons of stories about the ruthlessness of the late 19th century American industrialists, ranging from no regard for worker safety, outrageous working hours, use of child labor–you name it. There are also many other stories, mostly apocryphal but too numerous to ignore, of how many of these men were heavily into the Occult.
Charles Schweppe, the original owner was said to be into spiritualism, reincarnation and a lot of other esoteric and possibly occult beliefs and practices. After his wife Laura died in 1937, he went into a deep depression, committing suicide in 1941. It is said that both he and Laura still haunt the place and that the large picture window that faces outward from their old bedroom has never needed cleaning. It has supposedly remained immaculate on its own since Charles died, even staying clean for a long period when the house was abandoned.