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Started as a posh resort, Resthaven later served vets

Nov. 28, 2012

Resthaven has been described by a 1910 brochure writer as "Neither a club, a hotel, or a sanatorium, but having the characteristics of all three."

Before Resthaven was built, the land atop Hickory Grove Hill was the farm of J.K. Anderson.

After opening in 1905, Resthaven operated as a plush resort for about 15 years. It was designed as a place for rest and recreation for stockholders and their families and other guests. This included services such as curative baths, a swimming pool, a solarium and a gymnasium plus Waukesha's famous waters.

The décor was beautiful and extravagant. There were paintings by European artists, murals from Tiffany, rugs from the Orient, and mahogany woodwork all creating an atmosphere of comfort and elegance. The resort had its own dairy farm, a golf course, a tennis court and a huge lawn for croquet.

Resthaven was built with some advanced ideas for construction including using locomotive train cinders in the wall partitions. Some very prominent men from Milwaukee and Chicago were stockholders and bondholders.

At the end of WWI, the government took over Resthaven as a hospital for veterans. The Veteran's Administration ran it for a decade. In 1944 after a quarter-million dollar renovation, Resthaven began a career as atuberculosis hospital for veterans. By 1958 the TB cases dwindled, and because of new drugs, patients didn't have long hospital stays anymore. The government finally closed Resthaven in October 1958 and transferred patients to the VA at Wood and Madison.

Resthaven owed its beginning to a health fad and was closed by the effectiveness of 'wonder" drugs. Unfortunately, the resort period in Waukesha was coming to an end just about the time Resthaven was built, so it never lived up to its great expectations.

In April 1963, the building was sold to New Tribes Bible Institute, a nondenominational group that trains Christian workers for ministry to other countries. Now the Bible Institute has owned the building longer than any previous tenant. It was designated a local landmark in the 1980s.

This site features a Waukesha County historical marker erected and maintained by the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum. Please visit our website at www.waukeshacountymuseum.org to see information on all of our historical markers. To find the markers, go to the bottom of the home page. For each marker you will find pictures, maps on how to find them, and history.

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