June 15, 1948 – Green Bay Press Gazette
32-Room Mansion Near Sister Bay Now Owned by Green Bay Attorney
Fabulous, majestic, cathedral-like only partially afford a picture of “Solitude Castle.” One must see and walk about this immense 32-room mansion of Green Bay Attorney Victor McCormick at Sister Bay to know its size, to feel its splendor, and to appreciate its magnificence of architecture and setting atop a 200-foot promontory overlooking Green Bay and a backdrop of acres of dense timber and thicket.
Solitude Castle is built on a grand manner. There is nothing else like it in Door County, a locale with scores of large, beautiful homes, or in this part of the country for that matter. It took six years to build. It was home to the late Frederick Stock, for 37 years conductor of the Chicago Symphony. Dr. Stock lived there as much as he could from 1938 until his death in 1943. Mr. McCormick acquired the property two years ago from the conductor’s daughter.
The house is English Tudor, with deft touches of Germanic and Continental styles which Mr. Stock saw on his many trips abroad and incorporated into the plans. It seems he spared nothing in construction and interior, for he spent $120,000 to build and furnish it during the depression. Upwards of 600 loads of native stone, all hewed from underwater in the bay nearby, were needed to build the walls of the huge two-story, 225-foot-long residence. The stone is an unusual white, window casting, trim, and tile roof of a warm terra cotta shade. The contrast against the green of the lawns and woods frames the home as a brilliant highlight. Five stone chimneys, each capped with tile, run along the rooftop.
There are two living rooms on the first floor and one on the second, each with fireplaces. The main one is 37 by 15 feet. Its huge fireplace rises directly in the center and is Stock’s adaptation of a German castle style, which makes two spacious rooms. The walls and ceiling in this central room are paneled in clear pine, stained a rich brown and wax rubbed. Off in a tower-like wing on the main floor is an 18 by 17-foot library-living space. Toward the other end of the house in a similar tower is a second-floor studio, 27 by 20 feet, high ceilinged with big rafters sweeping across its breadth and a giant fireplace at one end.
This is the room in which Stock composed his music, did much of his arranging, and sat at his grand piano. The studio is soundproofed and has unusual texture plaster walls. The long table where Dr. Stock wrote his music is still there.
Five bedrooms, each with a tiled bath-shower, extend over the remainder of the upstairs. The rambling, straight effect of the home is broken by a slightly hinged wing, the entire design following the contour of the bluff on which it is built. A large kitchen, pantry, and freezer room are at this wing end. The painted and windowed 11 by 21-foot dining room is between the kitchen and dual living room. A two-stall garage built of stone like the house is next to the kitchen quarters.
So much thought and planning went into the mansion is known by the fact that every room in the house overlooks both the bay and the woods. A double terrace, fitted with a winding wall filled with flowers, stretches out from the house on the waterside to a rustic fence on the bluff’s edge 75 feet away. Out over the water to the west and left is Eagle Island. Way across Marinette – Menominee and the Michigan shore is seen on clear days, to the right and north stands Sister Bay harbor bluff. A pathway and steps were blasted out of the rock leading down to a water’s edge, boat landing, and boat house, along a 1,200-foot shoreline.
On the entrance side of the McCormick home are formal flower gardens, each with pathways of steppingstones. As one bed ceases to bloom another blossoms. Set in a clearing of 17 acres, there is a small guest house at the woods’ edge. And even a small orchard of cherry and apple trees – 50 each.
There is a basement under the central portion of the house, and ventilated tunnels under the remainder to prevent buckling of the oak flooring. A water system for drinking and one for gardening, sprinkling, and other outside uses, two stoker-fired furnaces for the hot water heating plant, two electric water heaters, and copper plumbing make the home equipment for year-round living.
Although Dr. Stock enjoyed only a few years at his estate, in the woods, he entertained many of the great in the world of music and the arts. Caruso, Toscanini, Andrew Mellen, J. Pierpont Morgan, and Stokowsky were among a few who enjoyed the hospitality of the first host of Solitude Castle.
Holabird and Root, who built Tribune Tower in Chicago, were architects for the home, and architect William Bernhard of Ephraim, was associated with the firm. Sam Erickson, a Sister Bay contractor, was the builder.