Reviving the past

Exterior, interior upgrades being made at Roger Williams Inn

by Hannah Tetzlaff

Due to 86 years of housing guests and events, the Green Lake Conference Center’s (GLCC) Roger Williams Inn had visibly diminished.

But a restoration project is giving the inn a new lease on life.

According to GLCC’s Communications Director Jean Cornelius, the inn was once the property’s pride and joy.

“It’s both a local historical icon and popular place to stay,” she said. “It’s a classic inn and was the jewel of the Lawsonia Country Club in the 1930s; the place to stay.”

However, because of various renovations and changes over the years, the inn’s popularity declined.

Such alterations included smaller windows in the lobby — decreasing the amount of light — the removal of the pool in the early 1970s and the Snackery in the 1990s.

Instead of tearing it down and starting fresh with a new modern inn, the GLCC decided to restore the Roger Williams Inn to its former glory and to preserve this gem for years to come.

“Historical aspects of the inn are interesting and unique,” Cornelius said. “There are many modern inns, but far fewer interesting, historic ones such as Roger Williams Inn … We want the inn to continue on as a wonderful historic place for guests to enjoy.”

For the renovation, the GLCC is focused on reintroducing original aspects from the 1930s and blending them into a 21st-century setting.

“There were floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby [in the 1930s] that we’d like to add back in because they will allow light to pour in and offer even better views of the lake,” Cornelius said. “Opening up the Veranda and restoring the Crystal Room will provide fabulous conference, reading and social spaces in all weather.”

The GLCC began renovating the inn back in August 2012 and since then has steadily made progress toward completing its detailed renovation plan.

With the exterior scheduled to be finished this year, leaving a few interior projects left for 2017, the GLCC seems to be nearing the final stages.

Though construction continues outside the inn, rooms are available for guests to rent.

“People can stay at the inn,” Cornelius said. “We have already renovated the first, third and fourth floors — one floor at a time. Right now, we’re working on the exterior and since that doesn’t affect the interior, all rooms are available.”

She noted that room rates range between $75 and $115 per room/per night, depending on the time of year.

As guests stay at the Roger Williams Inn, they may observe some of the changes that are occurring in the next few months.

“The terrace patio walls will continue to be repaired, the exterior will continue to be repainted and the terrace patio will be replaced,” Cornelius said. “Handicap access from Memory Lane to the terrace will be added.”

Funding for the projects comes from the generosity of donors, meaning there is no final date for completion of the renovation. However, that doesn’t prevent people from lending a hand.

Cornelius believes that workers and volunteers are motivated to work on the structure because of their own past experiences.

“For some, it’s a personal history with the building,” she said. “They stayed there when they were younger; or they stay there every year … Others understand how important it is to carefully restore this charming inn.”

Cornelius has her own fond memories of the inn from when she was a kid.

“I stayed there with friends in 1981,” she said. “We were attending a large American Baptist youth conference of about 2,000 people. I was fortunate to stay at the inn, since not all participants could stay on grounds. It was a grand experience at a grand inn right on the lake. It was special to stay there as a youth.”

Because of the great times she shared at the building, Cornelius is looking forward to seeing life breathed back into the Roger Williams inn.

She noted there are various ways for people to help who desire to support the restoration process.

“They can volunteer their time, either as an individual or as a group, to work on the inn with the reward of knowing they helped restore a really cool inn,” she said. “People can also make a financial gift, online or by mail.”

To learn more about donating time or resources, individuals may visit and click on the “Give – Serve” tab.