Remembering Wisconsin’s Lake Life

Jeff Strahl's 'Little House on the Lake' is a tribute to our state's waterfront culture

There are still lakes in Wisconsin that are ringed by rustic cottages.

Lake Mendota is no longer one of them. But it was when Jeff Strahl lived on the lake as a child. It was a place of odiferous fish, bugs and seaweed. Neighbors gathered outside in the evenings. Many cottages, back then, were year-round residences for middle-class families.

Little House on the Lake (Spring Harbor Press, $65) is Strahl’s tribute to that disappearing scene.

“This was a community and culture that existed in Madison,” he reminisces.

Today, Lake Mendota’s cottages are giving way to large, upscale homes. Fewer than fifty cottages remain between Spring Harbor and Veith Avenue. Strahl set out to photograph each one. And he tracked down former owners to share their memories.

The full-color, coffee table-sized book is a photographic time capsule of screen porches, low rooflines, wooden windows and detached garages—and the long-beloved Wisconsin cottage lifestyle.

Karyn Saemann is a Madison-based freelance editor and book reviewer.

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