While our children played on the neighborhood playground, one of the other dad’s told me a little about the history of the land that our subdivision now occupies. I found it very interesting and did some investigating myself.
View from the front porch of the main building in 1947. The current playground would be in the foreground.
According to the Lake County History site, in 1904, a utopian group led by Jacob Beilhart made their home on the land. The group called itself the Spirit Fruit Society and practiced “free love” and communal living. They built a large 2.5 story house with a full basement by hand. It included all of the modern conveniences of the day.
Beilhart preached in Chicago and many visitors from Chicago came by train to visit the property. The visitors included Clarence Darrow and Beilhart’s friend C.W. Post (Beilhart had become friends with Post while he was a nurse at a Kellogg’s sanitarium in Michigan.) Post later tried to start his own Utopian community in Texas.
Beilhart died in 1908 and was buried on the property. His society remained until 1914 when they moved to California.
The building was then “rebuilt” and turned into the Wooster Lake Health Resort.
The information I can find gets fuzzier. At some point, the health resort seems to have become a mental institution. I’ve found it referred to as Sunnybrook Health Resort, Round Lake Sanitarium and Sunnybrook Asylum.
I can’t find when it actually closed down but the buildings became vacant and overgrown. Legends seem to surround it more than truth. I found stories of a caretaker going mad and killing the patients and the building being haunted.
I found this story from 1990 about a couple who was living on the property at the time. At that time the large building was no longer habitable. The couple made their home in one of the smaller buildings.
In 1995, the vacant main building burned down. Sometime after that, Ryland Homes bought the property, started a PUD and and we moved into our new house in 2003. We live just a short walk from where the commune building/health resort/haunted asylum once stood. We have never seen or heard any ghost.
Some other resources…
You can see a display at the Lake County Discovery Museum.
Book on Amazon: Spirit Fruit: A Gentle Utopia
Book on Amazon: The Reluctant Radicals
Book on Amazon: Voices from the Chicago Grave: They're Calling. Will You Answer?