By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 09, 2024 at 7:01 AM

A few years after being dismantled and put into storage, a reconstruction of the 1855 Dawn Manor Restaurant building at 413 S. Burritt Ave. in Lake Delton, near Wisconsin Dells, has begun.

Twin Cities-based Morrissey Hospitality is partnering with Uphoff Resorts to open a new $50 million Dawn Manor venue in the reconstructed version of the house on a new site on Mirror Lake a few miles from its original location.

Based on project renderings and photographs of the original house, the new build will not be an exact copy of the original.

Renderings of the new build.

The new Dawn Manor will be, in the words of a statement issued Tuesday, “a historic period-themed destination restaurant, bar, speakeasy and gift shop.”

It is expected to open next spring.

“Despite owning various business assets and restaurants across the country, this project is deeply personal to me,” said Steve Uphoff, CEO of Uphoff Resorts in a news release Tuesday. “Our family has been in the Dells since 1873, for six generations, and I grew up across the street from Dawn Manor.

“I have fond memories of this historic, one-of-a-kind house and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share this very special place with the public.”

Dawn ManorX

Uphoff bought the site at 469 County Hwy. A – which has a 1950s historic marker noting that it was the “Site of the Lost City of Newport” – in 2017 and sold the land three years later to Todd Nelson, who owns Kalahari Resorts.

Uphoff then had the house deconstructed and put into storage. Meanwhile, Kalahari is building The Kalahari Treehouse Collection at Dawn Manor with 21 luxury treehouses, 31 houses and a supper club on the site.

Dawn Manor was built by Captain Abraham Vanderpoel, one of the signers of the Wisconsin state constitution and a lumber magnate, in 1855.

A vintage undated image of Dawn Manor.

The historic marker at the site explains more:

“Here on the Wisconsin River the village of Newport was begun in 1853, planned for a population of 10,000. Assuming that the Milwaukee & LaCrosse Railroad would cross the river here, over 2000 settlers quickly came to Newport, causing a lively land boom. When the bridge and dam were ultimately located a mile upstream after an alleged secret moonlight survey, Newport was almost completely deserted in favor of Kilbourn City (today Wisconsin Dells).

“Only Dawn Manor, with its servant quarters, remains. ... The home is built of Potsdam sandstone, white mahogany and white pine, put together with brass screws and wooden pegs. Dawn Manor houses the art collection of George Raab, one of Wisconsin's famous artists.”

The Raab collection was in the house because the artist and his wife Helen bought Dawn Manor in 1942. Although Raab passed away the following year, Helen continued to own the house and 1,000 acres of land until 1970.

Early in its lifespan a Chicago millionaire name S.H. Kerfoot owned the house. Upon his death, his wife left the home vacant for 33 years.

It was then purchased by Chicago's William J. Newman who had Lake Delton created in 1927 as part of his vision for creating a resort, but he did not ever occupy it.

The house was then used briefly as a hotel before the Raabs purchased it.

Helen Raab restored the home to its original layout before leaving it to her son upon her death in 1970. Kirby Raab remained there until 1978.

Dawn ManorX

Uphoff bought the house from Helen Raab’s great-grandson George Raab III.

Over the years, the house hosted guests like architect Frank Lloyd Wright, actress Agnes Moorehead and steel mogul Andrew Carnegie, according to Uphoff Resorts.

Some of the 12 cast concrete laughing girls created by Wright for his 1914 Midway Gardens in Chicago later ended up in the gardens at Dawn Manor due to Newman's work in Chicago demolishing buildings.

The figures – based on Wright's daughter-in-law – were brought up by Newman when Midway Gardens was demolished in 1929 and later sold to Olgivanna Wright. They've since been painted and are at Wright's home and studio in Spring Green. (An alternate story is that the figures were purchased by Helen Raab and some of them gifted to Wright for the theater at Taliesin.)

Newman also carried to Dawn Manor remnants of the Chicago Board of Trade building, which his company razed, and those could still be seen on the property in recent years. Their fate is not known.

While the frame of the original Dawn Manor was not saved, Uphoff Resorts announced that, “all of the original exterior Potsdam Sandstone and many original materials including stained glass, the handmade oak grand staircase, hardware, fireplaces and furniture” will be part of the reconstructed building.

The new three-story, 12,000-square-foot venue will then have seven “historically accurate themed dining rooms” with 249 seats.

A rendering of the new build.

“Each themed dining room will transport guests to different facets of 19th-century history, complete with antique furnishings and select original artwork from George Raab, whose work was in the original manor and is now part of the Uphoff’s personal collection,” the announcement noted.

The original 1930s Uphoff round bar will be installed in a speakeasy in the lower level, along with a wine cave for private events.

A 2,000-square-foot patio will offer views over the lake, including of the Mirror Lake dam.

There will also be a gift shop with souvenirs, apparel and gift items.

The restaurant will offer contemporary American cuisine, “with historical inspiration from the 1880s,” from Chefs Justin Draper and Jayson Pettit.

Uphoff Resorts is based in Salem, Virginia.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.