Commanding a wooded site in a bend of the Sheboygan River, Riverbend evokes a medieval English manor house. In 1914, Philipp and Walter Kohler Sr., president of the Kohler Company, traveled to Europe to study industrial communities and gather ideas for Kohler’s planned company town. While in England, Philipp and Kohler admired the picturesque architecture and decided to re-create a bit of it in Wisconsin. To create a suitably English setting, Kohler engaged Olmsted Brothers. They laid out a driveway to the house, winding past a rustic log picnic pavilion, over a stone bridge across an artificial stream, and finally around a bowling green that forms the front lawn. They also created an artificial lily pond near the river, and at the rear of the house, a sunken formal garden enclosed by a stone wall completes the English manorial scene.
In designing the house, Philipp combined the rich textures and colors of brick, stone, stucco, and slate to fashion a Tudor Revival mansion. The rambling string of projecting gables, interspersed with chimneys, dormers, and bays, creates a lively interplay of shapes and forms. To link the Kohlers’ living space with their lushly landscaped setting, Philipp grouped leaded-glass casement windows that open onto vistas of the surrounding woodlands.
Besides overseeing the development of the nearby Kohler company town, Kohler also served a term as governor of Wisconsin in 1929. Riverbend is now a members-only resort.