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Friday, 09 May 2014 00:00

Historic Como clubhouse draws community together

Written by  Edwin Scherzer
The Lake Como Beach Clubhouse has hosted hundreds of social gatherings over the years. The building recently underwent renovations to make structural improvements. The Lake Como Beach Clubhouse has hosted hundreds of social gatherings over the years. The building recently underwent renovations to make structural improvements. Dan Plutchak

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- Lake Como stands still against a backdrop of properties, marsh, water and time. Property owners here are a mix of Chicagoland summer-only folk and all-season tested residents living side by side.

They share one thing in common -- membership in the Lake Como Beach Property Owners Association. The association was founded in 1926, somewhat out of necessity and partially to form a social society which maintains a simple structure of five board members and five officers.

The physical structure formed was the Lake Como Beach Clubhouse. The clubhouse has played host to dances, parties, weddings and just about any other function you can imagine.

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The year following construction of the clubhouse, the Lake Como Beach Women’s Club was formed, for the purpose of “providing entertainment, promote social gatherings, get the members acquainted with each other and work for the welfare of our community at Lake Como Beach,” according to the LCBPOA website’s history page.

According to Vice President Shirley Gorz, belonging to the association means pitching in everywhere.

“I’ve had every title there was in this place,” Gorz said. 

Originally from Pittsburgh, Gorz moved to Lake Como in 1987. She said the clubhouse has made the work and the memories worthwhile,

“It’s a building that’s a monument to the association,” Gorz said.

That monument, built in the mid-1920s, showed signs of wear and tear in the 1970s, and again in the 1990s, undergoing a facelift each time. About 20 years later, a more serious structural problem was discovered.

Clubhouse manager Stephanie Nicewarner said the problem called for a major renovation.

“There were rotting timbers under the building and even a section of the building that was no longer sitting on any foundation at all,” Nicewarner said.

After approval of bids, the clubhouse was closed during November 2012, and roughly $400,000 later, the building looks ready for another half century of partying.

In its heyday, the clubhouse was the center of attention as folks traveling up from Chicago by train would attend dances nearly every weekend. There was even a “Miss Popularity” contest for the ladies, and competitions for their male counterparts. Of course, times change and the social clubs that held sway in the ’30s and ’40s eventually ran into more competition.

Gorz, who’s held her own on the dance floor more than once, said it’s a different era for the clubhouse.

“They don’t have as many dances as they did before, the music is different, everything is different,” Gorz said.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the ethic of giving back to the community. The association still holds a Halloween party featuring abundant candy for the children, a Breakfast with Santa event and a New Year’s Eve dinner dance, all open to the public.

The Lake Como Beach Women’s Club still raises money through various functions, donating to Aurora Lakeland Medical Center, Town of Geneva Police Department and GIVE, Geneva Inspires Volunteer Efforts.

Additionally Gorz and Nicewarner shared that when Veterans of Foreign Wars Como Post 5811 lost its building to fire, the LCBPOA opened up its clubhouse to VFW members, allowing them to host meetings there.

There are legacy members such as current President Ed Gritzner, whose father, E.J., also served as board member and later officer. Many summer cottages bear the family name or pay tribute to a particular landmark such as “Elm Shade” or “Farm Hill.”

Though the frequency of dancing, get togethers and Miss Popularity contest might have decreased or moved on, the clubhouse always has been the focal point.

Nicewarner is trying to pull the charm of the past into the digital offerings of the present in her current position as clubhouse manager.

“I’m trying to get our social presence into this century,” she said, adding the building does a good job on its own, “selling” the appeal of Lake Como. “I love this building. It’s good for all the community events we do.”

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