Year of Construction: 4/22/1960
Architect: Wm. P. Wenzler
Contractor: Richard E. Capstran
Building Material: Wood
Original Owner: Richard E. Capstran
Original Value: $26,000
This home is the “youngest” on tour this year and is more appropriately termed French Eclectic in style. It shares many of the same characteristics as the English-inspired Tudors, the single defining feature that separates it from the others is its rounded entrance tower topped with a conical roof. More typically, French Eclectic-style homes are also topped with a hipped roof, but this example is gabled.
It was designed and built in 1930 by Roy C. Otto, who worked as a designer/contractor for about ten years. The house is believed to be among the last that he produced before spending the rest of his life operating bowling alleys in Milwaukee.
The home’s original owners were engineering expert Theodore Mickelson, who was born about 1871, and his wife Anna. They remained here for three years. The house was then sold to August Irving and Myra Scherer, who lived there for the next four years (until 1937).
The Scherer family has either owned or rented a total of three WHS tour homes featured over the last five years. A special thank you to the Scherer family for continuing to share historic family photos of each of them.
For the next nearly 50 years, the home was owned by businessman and part-time author and playwright, Laurence Gross and his wife, Helen (1937-1965) followed by Thomas and Jeanette Sommers (1965-1986).
Until 1986, the vacant lot adjacent to the south was associated with this house. That year, the lot and the existing swimming pool were sold off and incorporated into the lot to the east.
When the current owners bought the house, the floors were covered with thick green carpeting and the woodwork had been painted. They removed the carpeting and have, over the years, painstakingly stripped the woodwork.
Among improvements they made to the home are a family room addition, kitchen remodeling and the extensive terracing on the hill to the rear.
Previous Address: 346 Alta Vista Ave
Year of Construction: 1/31/1930
Original Owner: Theodore Mickelson
Architect: Roy C. Otto
Contractor: Roy C. Otto
Original Value: $13,500
In April 1926, construction started on the $40,000 home of Ernest and Burdell Swendson at 1651 Alta Vista Ave. The period revival home exhibits many of the style’s primary characteristics, including a dominant front-facing gabled entry; multiple-light, leaded-glass windows; stone, brick or stucco and false half-timber sheathing (or a combination thereof); wood-shingle, slate or tile-covered gabled roofs; and a dominant chimney.
After working as the manager of the Schlitz Brewing Company in East Grand Forks, ND, Ernest Swendson (born 1885) returned to his native city and started one of the earliest Ford dealerships in Milwaukee. Swendson Ford was established in 1915 at present-day S. 20th and W. National Ave. It no longer is standing. The dealership went out of business in 1979. By then, the business was run by his grandson, Thomas.
The Swendsons had four children. Dorothy, the eldest, was married at the house in 1934. Ernest retired in 1942 and the family remained in the house through at least 1949. They also owned a house near Lake Beulah, north of East Troy, where they eventually would move after selling the house in the 1950s to the second and only other owners.
The house, comprised of more than 5,500 square feet of living space, was designed by Buemming & Guth. It contains six bedrooms and four and one-half bathrooms. The kitchen was previously remodeled, but little else of the interior has been altered.
Both the front and rear entrances are fully separated from the staircase to the second floor in a fashion that is more typical of English manor houses.
Like all of the other tour homes, this house retains a significant amount of original detailing, including tile floors, leaded glass, an imposing stone fireplace and extensive woodwork throughout.
Although the home’s three-car garage would appear to be rather extravagant for the mid-1920s, knowing the original owner was a car dealer makes that extravagance logical.
Year of Construction: 4/14/1926
Architect: Uecker R. A. Inc.
Contractor: Uecker R. A. Inc.
Building Material: Stone & Stucco
Original Owner: Ernie A. Swendson
Original Value: $40,000
This home was built by and for building contractor Robert J. Stark and his wife, Anastasia.
The period revival home exhibits many of the style’s primary characteristics, including a dominant front-facing gabled entry; multiple-light, leaded-glass windows; stone, brick or stucco and false half-timber sheathing (or a combination thereof); wood-shingle, slate or tile-covered gabled roofs; and a dominant chimney.
The original plans for the house were produced in 1925 by Loos-Schneider. Loos and Schneider identify themselves on the plans as designers, but no such firm name was found in any local directories. The two are thought to have been Arthur Loos and William C. Schneider, two draftsmen who at the time worked at the Milwaukee architectural firm of Brust & Phillip.
Homeowner Robert Stark, born in 1892 and was the son of Theodore Stark, who established a construction/contracting business in Iowa in 1891.
Robert moved his family to Milwaukee between 1917 and 1920 and established the office of Theodore Stark and Company.
After five years in the Highlands home, the Starks, who had four children — Vincent, Robert, Mary Rita and Joseph — moved in 1930 to a house on Forest Street in Wauwatosa. They sold the Highlands house to sewer contractor Leroy (Roy) Zimmerman and his wife, Juva, who with their three children remained in the house until moving to Louisville, KY, in 1933.
The house was later owned by a few more long-term owners, including Alfred and Mae Bennett (1934-1945), Fordyce and Barbara Ross (1945-1964) and John H. and Cecelia Zwicker (1965-1982). The current owners have been in the home more than 30 years and have put significant effort into maintaining and restoring it.
When they could, they took advantage of the tax credit rehabilitation program. The house is eligible because it’s a contributing resource within a listed National Register Historic District.
Because of water damage, the living room ceiling was replaced and the sunroom at the rear was taken down to the studs and rebuilt, although it retains its original quarry tile floor. The kitchen, which had been remodeled in 1965, was updated in 2000.
Year of Construction: 5/16/1925
Architect: Stark Theo & Co.
Contractor: Stark Theo & Co.
Building Material: Brick, Stone & Stucco
Original Owner: Leroy G. Zimmerman, City Dir.