#11: 2088 South Church Street

This three-story cobblestone structure is a familiar landmark to folks of the East Troy area. However, most people are unaware of the unsolved mystery of this quaint, old Cobblestone, which has cause much wondering, and speculation for over a century. The tale begins long before Wisconsin became a state, when Samuel Bradley and his wife, having gained experience managing a small hotel in Milwaukee, relocated to East Troy, saying: “And now, we shall build a hotel of our own and it will be a good one- a monument to us.”

They bought a corner lot on the old trail from Milwaukee to Janesville, in the Village of East Troy, and set to work. To build this hotel, Bradley selected cobblestones from the glacial drift strewn over the fields and along the shores and shallow areas of Booth and Beulah Lakes. He could often be seen with his horse and wagon, gathering scattered rocks, often crossing the lakes in his rowboat, accumulating piles of stones to be reloaded in his wagon and hauled into town. It took years to gather enough stones to begin building and in 1846 Sam started construction of his dream.

Acting as his own architect, carpenter and mason, even burning his own lime for mortar, he built the three and a half story structure as far as the roof without any help. His building skill is borne out by the apparent preservation of the building after one and a half centuries.

The additional half story was the ballroom with one of the popular spring dance floors. When Sam completed it in 1849, his dream stood 40 by 60 feet and was considered to be the finest inn in southeastern Wisconsin. He named it “Buena Vista House” after an important victory the United States troops had just won in the Mexican War.

The Bradleys celebrated the opening of their inn with a lavish banquet and ball attended by many from the area, including a number of distinguished people. The inn was the site of many historical events in Walworth County. There was even a rumor that Abraham Lincoln slept there.

The inn was so successful that the Bradleys had paid off the mortgage on their property. Soon after that the Bradleys left, giving people the impression that they were going to England to visit relatives. They never returned to the inn that they had toiled so hard and so long to build. Months and years went by without a word of the innkeeper and his wife. Finally the inn was abandoned and stood vacant until 1868 when J.T. Rogers from the East claimed ownership. Rogers moved away and left A.O. Babcock in charge; later Babcock acquired a tax title and in 1875 sold it to James Primer who reopened the building as a hotel. Even today the mystery remains unsolved and will probably remain so. Why did the Bradleys desert the inn that they were so proud of? Some believe they sold the inn before leaving. Or were they just a jump ahead of a secret past, and the law? Were they robbed and murdered in England; and buried in an unmarked grave? Or did they start a new life across the ocean under an assumed name? Bradley left and enduring monument which will continue to serve our community for many years to come. In 1841 stagecoaches left from the lot that now serves as Obie’s parking lot. The livery stables, where people left their horses when going to Milwaukee, were here. The stables were demolished in 1915 and Lacy and Clancy then held sales on this land. At one time the Greyhound bus station was also here.