By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 08, 2021 at 1:02 PM

This week a Cincinnati art auction house will host a two-day auction of American furniture, folk art and decorative art that includes a number of works from a renowned Wisconsin collection.

The auction, which takes place March 9 and 10 beginning at 9 a.m. at Cowan’s – a Hindman company – will include 56 objects collected by Paul M. Bentley, a lifelong collector who, with his wife Judith, amassed a unique collection in their Oostburg home, designed by Chicago architect Margaret McCurry and called “The Crayola House.”

Crayola House
(PHOTO: Light Photography for Mahler Sotheby’s International Realty)

The colorful house, designed to resemble a ship’s prow and completed in 2005, was listed for sale last autumn for less than it cost to build.

Bentley – who spent 30 years as an advertising executive in the Milwaukee office of Kramer-Crasselt – died in Oostburg in May 2020 at age of 74.

According to a press release from the gallery, “Known for his interest in exploration, Bentley had 30 years of experience diving Lake Michigan shipwrecks and was a volunteer with the Wisconsin Historical Society Underwater Archaeology team. This led him to write an essay about the life of a retired ship captain, which served as inspiration for McCurry’s design of the home.”


Among the Bentley lots on the block are a sternboard portrait bust of Daniel Webster (lot 1; estimate is $6,000-9,000, pictured above), a large carved and painted “Miss Martin” ship-form bird house (lot 25; estimate is $2,000-4,000), an eight-foot-long carved wood alligator figure from Spring Point Light in Maine (lot 23; estimate is $2,000-4,000) and a carved and painted whale-form hanging restaurant sign (lot 6; estimate: $1,500-2,500).

Bidders will be able to participate in the auction via absentee bid, phone or live online at the Cowan’s website.

You can view the catalog here.

The session one auction page is here, and session two is here.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.