July 21, 2016
In this week's installment of Epstein's Throwback Thursday series we focus on The Abbey Resort and Marina located in Fontana, Wisconsin a project that Epstein designed and engineered back in the early 60s. When opened in May of 1963 the Abbey featured 225 guest rooms, multiple restaurants, convention facilities, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a marina with 250 boat slips.
Built for $4M ($31.5M in 2016) on a 92-acre site along the west shore of Lake Geneva, The Abbey was constructed on a site that was originally peat bog and swamp. In order to construct the building a 20-acre mooring pond was dredged to a 13-foot depth with the dredged materials removed through pipes. (The 242,000 cubic yards of earth dredged up was then pumped back onto The Abbey property, raising the land six feet higher) The ground was then compacted, concrete pads were poured and gravel spread, and in some areas wood piles were driven.
The Abbey, which was constructed in 10 months, features an iconic 80-foot tall A-Frame central building constructed of timber a design that was singled out from 123 entries and received a National Lumber Manufacturers Association Best Wood Design award for '63. This A-Frame design was meant to evoke the massive roofs of famed European Chalets and that was also the inspiration for The Abbey namesake.
As you can see from the photos here timber was the construction material of choice for The Abbey and is used throughout the structure. Wood was sourced from either the Pacific Northwest or the Mississippi Delta and, all in total, 1,068,000 board feet of lumber was used in constructing The Abbey.
To take advantage of the views of scenic Lake Geneva, two solid glass panels enclose the A-Frame and provide striking views of the Lake, landscaped grounds and sky. The Abbey features four buildings which were staggered to avoid monotony and the main lobby has 60 foot vaulted ceilings.
The Abbey was an immediate huge hit upon opening including serving as the stopover for the Detroit Red Wings who used the resorts various pools and saunas to relax and heal their muscles before games with the Blackhawks. Additionally, The Abbey, in the summer of '64, served as the roll-out spot for the American Motors Corporation's American Rambler automobile line.
Lastly, thankfully The Abbey still exists today and is now marketed as The Abbey Resort. For more info on what The Abbey is like today visit - http://www.theabbeyresort.com/