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Sharing history, one man works to keep Wisconsin's first Black-founded resort community from being forgotten

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Posted at 5:19 PM, Feb 27, 2023

WALWORTH COUNTY, Wis. — A nearly century-old community in Wisconsin represents an important piece of history in the state. During this Black History Month, TMJ4 highlights Lake Ivanhoe, the first Black-founded resort community in the state.

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Peter Baker, president of the Lake Ivanhoe Property Owners Association, stands in front of the historic marker from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

“This is the historical marker,” said Peter Baker, president of the Lake Ivanhoe Property Owners Association as he walks up to the historic marker.

Baker proudly shows off the marker he fought for 20 years to get for his community. He says within Lake Ivanhoe, the community always knew its historical significance.

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Children fish at Lake Ivanhoe

“It is historical in the fact of its founding. It was founded by three African Americans out of Chicago,” said Baker. “They used to do a lot of fishing, but because of racism in the time, in the 20s it was really hard to find places to fish.”

The three men, Jeremiah Brumfield, Bradford Watson and Frank Anglin, found safety during a time of segregation on a 46-acre lake in Walworth County just east of Lake Geneva. According to Baker, the men decided to create their own resort community there for African Americans on Lake Ivanhoe.

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People stand in front of a car with the pavilion at Lake Ivanhoe in the background. The pavilion hosted dances, bands and had a restaurant inside.

“It became an actual resort town where they built a large pavilion overlooking the lake here. From there it was a town they were selling lots and it became a place of safety and security for African Americans,” said Baker.

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People with fishing poles next to Lake Ivanhoe

In its heyday, in the 1920s when it was established, the resort had bands, dances, and restaurants, with all the amenities for people to fish, hunt, vacation and live. Forty years last, in 1965 Peter first came to Lake Ivanhoe as a 10-year-old from Chicago. A weekend fishing trip changed his life.

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Children in a boat on Lake Ivanhoe

“It was probably the most amazing thing for me at that age that you could camp down at the lake without any harassment,” said Baker.

He convinced his parents to first buy a summer home there and then he moved in and has never left. Over the years, the makeup of the community has changed. The pavilion was torn down and now it is only a residential community. But the legacy of welcoming everyone remains. Baker works now to make sure it is not forgotten.

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Children on a boat in Lake Ivanhoe

“It was a very special place,” said Baker.

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Peter Baker, president of the Lake Ivanhoe Property Owners Assocation, stands on his deck which overlooks Lake Ivanhoe.

The Wisconsin State Historical Society put up a historic marker in Lake Ivanhoe in October of 2022 to honor its founding. Baker is working to continue to gather pictures of the resort community through the years.

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