Fuller & Johnson Engine a Sleeping Giant

25 HP Fuller & Johnson rescued from an old stone building on Lake Geneva

| May/June 2000

Building the Fuller & Johnson was in since the '20s.

Building the Fuller & Johnson was in since the '20s.

It was a beautiful fall day on November 13, 1999, on the shores of Lake Geneva at scenic Black Pointe. Who would have ever thought that below the ground in an old stone building 10 feet from the lake shore lies the sleeping giant that once pumped water for the original Madlinger Estates: a 25 hp Fuller & Johnson engine.

With the original estate being divided up and sold off, the section with the old pump house on it now belongs to the Culbertsons (Ed and Robin). With the help of Ed and Robin and some other people, I learned that the old Fuller & Johnson engine once pumped water for the horse stables, laundry, servants quarters, the main house, and of course the lush flower gardens which covered the entire estate. One can only imagine how it may have been.

I first found the Fuller & Johnson 20 years ago, but hadn't acquired the love for rust yet. I was working for a local pier company, Austin Pier Service. We were taking out piers for winter on Black Pointe. Moving from one job to the next, I decided to walk the shore path to the next job. As I was going by the old pump house, I stopped and looked through the two very small windows in the doors. It was very hard to see in, because the small windows had wire mesh over them, and the building was pitch black inside. All that I could really see was the water pump, just inside the door, a Gould three cylinder. The engine was just a dark shadow in the back corner. On down the lake path I went. Over the years I thought about the contents of the old stone building many times.

I got on the hunt seriously this last summer. I first had to find out who owned the property the building was on. Seeing how most Lake Geneva lake residents are only weekend people, and are Chicago residents, it took some time.

This last fall I was working with a landscaper who owns a home up the road from the Culbertsons. When I inquired about the engine, he told me, "Yes, it's still there." I asked if somehow I could get in to see it and he replied, "The building isn't locked any more, you can just drive to my house and walk down to look at it."

Two days later I was there. I opened the door, turned on my flashlight, and there was the Fuller & Johnson engine, still resting peacefully just waiting to be rescued.