By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 30, 2024 at 9:02 AM

Urban Spelunking is brought to you by Nicolet Law

In further proof that there’s a story in every building, when my friend Sara Meaney reached out to say that her upper East Side home has been listed for sale, I did some digging and found that the 1908 Arts & Crafts house, 2928 E. Kenwood Blvd., was designed by a rarely discussed, but important, architect for a long-lived and, at the time, well-known Milwaukee doctor.

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(LISTING PHOTOS: Courtesy of Shar Borg Team/Compass)
dining room then
(PHOTO: Courtesy of Sara Meaney)

The 7,425-square-foot house occupies an unusually large third-of-an-acre corner double lot on Kenwood, between UW-Milwaukee and Lake Park. As they say in real estate, “location, location, location.”

But with seven bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a three-season room, built-ins with leaded glass, regal wainscoting, an incredible butler’s pantry fitted out with beautiful wood cabinetry, crown moldings, exposed beam ceilings with interesting details (some of which were added later), four fireplaces, two-car garage and historic nuggets like brass intercoms and a dumb waiter, this place, designed by architect William H. Schuchardt, has more than its site going for it.

Yet it's also modern, with a new tankless water heater, new sewer service line out to the street and modern kitchen and bathrooms (plus, the city is currently replacing much of the sidewalk outside).

“It’s a wild one,” says Meaney. “We are ready to downsize after six years of restoring and stewarding it, and we listed the property about a month ago. Lots of interest and it’s clearly a lot of house for the typical East Side buyer.”

(PHOTO: Courtesy of Sara Meaney)

Meaney also has some more ephemeral items that contribute to the story of the house, which is listed at $1.395 million.

See the complete listing here.

“We have original construction photos, and we also received a personal note with interesting memory-based details that was hand delivered to us from the grandchild of the original gardener and groundskeeper when we first moved in and started restoring it,” she says.

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The owner of the house was Dr. Arthur T. Holbrook, who was part of a multi-generational line of Milwaukee doctors bearing the same name.

Who was Dr. Holbrook?

Dr. Arthur T. Holbrook
Dr. Arthur T. Holbrook. (PHOTO: Find A Grave/Debby Stevens)

Arthur Tenney Holbrook was born in 1870 in Waukesha to Josephine Tenney and Dr. Arthur Holbrook, who were married in that same city two years earlier.

The elder Holbrook – a dentist – was born in Madrid, New York, to yet another dentist, Edwin Almus Holbrook, and was sent to Waukesha in 1860 to study dentistry with his father’s brother, W. D. Holbrook.

After serving in the Civil War, Holbrook (the elder) studied at Philadelphia Dental College before returning to Waukesha to marry. In 1872, the family moved to Milwaukee.

The younger Holbrook went to Milwaukee schools and then studied at the University of Wisconsin for two years before transferring to Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1892. He continued his studies at Chicago’s Rush Medical School, graduating in 1895.

Returning to Milwaukee, Holbrook married Chicago-born Bertha Matson Andrews in 1903 and they had three sons, including another Arthur (also destined to become a doctor), Herbert and Matson.

By 1908, Holbrook – who was a physician, not a dentist (his younger brother Harold, also a Harvard grad, did carry on the family's dental tradition) – was doing well enough that by 1908 he could afford a double lot in the hot new 18th Ward neighborhood on the upper East Side.

At the time, as photos will attest, the land along Kenwood Boulevard and to the north was almost entirely open space, with just the odd house dotting the landscape here and there.

The house under construction. (POTOS: Sara Meaney)

That June 1, Holbrook’s carpenter, Charles Grunewald pulled a permit for the construction of the house – estimated to cost $15,000 – designed by architect William H. Schuchardt.

The architect

William H. Schuchardt was born in Milwaukee in 1874, along with his twin brother Carl, to Milwaukee-born Rosalie Winkler and German immigrant Louis Schuchardt, who had stopped in New York to work in his uncle’s banking business before arriving in Milwaukee, where he would work as an accountant and auditing clerk at Northwestern Mutual Life for nearly half a century.

Like his client Holbrook, after studying in Milwaukee Public Schools, Schuchardt attended the University of Wisconsin. After spending a couple years, from 1891 to 1893, in Madison, Schuchardt moved over to Cornell University to study architecture, and he graduated from the Ithaca, New York school in 1895.

(PHOTOS: Courtesy of Sara Meaney)

After college, Schuchardt spent a year traveling, stopping in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, before returning to the U.S. in 1896 and taking a position as a draftsman with Richard E. Schmidt in Chicago.

The following year, he was back in Milwaukee doing the same work for Alexander Eschweiler.

However, by 1898, the young architect had taken a job in Philadelphia with Cope & Stewardson. Two years later, he was back in his hometown, employed as a draftsman for architect Elmer Grey.

Although he entered into a partnership with Howland Russel in 1901, it seems that Schuchardt may have gone back out east to work for a couple years, before returning home and opening his own architectural practice in 1904.

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Living room
(PHOTO: Courtesy of Sara Meaney)

Schuchardt began designing a number of homes in the burgeoning upper East Side, including examples for Loyal Durand, 2025 N. Lake Dr., in 1906; and Augustus F. Chapman, 2426 N. Terrace Ave., Howard Greene, 2025 N. Lake Dr. and Louis Heilbrouner, 2950 N. Shepard Ave., in 1908.

In 1911, Schuchardt married Gertrude Nunnemacher, the daughter of prominent Milwaukee parents, Rudolph Nunnemacher and Emilie Vogel.

Later, Schuchardt would form a partnership with Walter W. Judell and their work together includes Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1905 W. Wisconsin Ave., built in 1915, and the Harrison Green house at 2671 N. Wahl Ave. two years later.

When World War I led to a steep decline in building, Schuchardt – still technically in partnership with Judell until 1919, when they split after designing a home for Theodore Vogel at 2219 N. Lake Dr. – took a job as vice president, secretary and general manager of Pelton Steel on Milwaukee’s South Side, as well as a secretary/treasurer’s position with Western Iron Stores Co. Downtown.

(PHOTO: Courtesy of Sara Meaney)

During this period, Schuchardt was a member of Mayor Daniel Hoan’s public housing commission, which focused on a housing shortage in the city. It was a subject on which Schuchardt had written nearly a decade earlier, espousing the benefits of co-partnership housing corporations, around 1910.

Three years after that, he submitted a plan for a Garden City-style development to an international land use competition. By the dawn of the 1920s, Schuchardt emerged as one of the major players in the 29-acre Garden Homes Housing Project development for which he designed nine cottage prototypes that were built from 1921 to ‘23.

In 1924, he was appointed president of the Milwaukee Public Land Commission.

Schuchardt’s personal life was less bright. While on a trip to California, Gertrude, then 30 years old, shot herself in the chest in a Los Angeles hotel, after, according to the Los Angeles Herald, suffering “a physical and metal breakdown.”

This source posits that Gertrude was likely distraught that she could not have children.

coach house
(PHOTO: Courtesy of Sara Meaney)

As a tribute to his late wife, an artist, Schuchardt began acquiring prints and donating them to the Milwaukee Art Institute – 171 of them, by the likes of Rembrandt, Piranesi, Durer, Corot and others, by 1924. At the same time, he created an endowment to add more works to the collection and in the following years, 150 more prints and drawings were acquired, including works by Constable, Goya, Homer, Man Ray, LeWitt, Kokoschka and Ruscha.

But, Schuchardt, perhaps haunted and still distraught, felt the time had come to leave Milwaukee and in 1926 he returned to Cornell, this time as a teacher. Later, he moved to California, where he died in 1958.

Schuchardt’s house for Holbrook

Still in the early days of his long career, Schuchardt designed an Arts & Crafts house with gorgeous details for his client, Dr. Holbrook. When I first saw the house, I thought it was perhaps designed by Eschweiler, so perhaps Schuhardt learned a little something from his one-time employer.

The report prepared for the addition of the Kenwood Park-Prospect Hill Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, called the house an, “interesting response to a large site ... the architect was presented with an oversize lot, in this case, a double corner lot, and he also chose to place the house to one side in order to leave as much room as possible for garden space.


“Because the building program also required both an automobile garage and a stable, however, Schuchardt had to use ingenuity in order to fit them all into half the available lot space, which he did by creating a small courtyard behind the house around which he arrayed the various building elements that the program required.

“The result was a compact L-plan complex of interconnected elements that are attached directly to the rear of the house, forming a three-sided courtyard. This rear court and the large irregular plan, two-story house itself are clad in stucco and grouped multi-light windows are used throughout. The result is as much an urban as a suburban composition and is unique in the district.”

As noted earlier, photographs taken during the construction of the home show almost nothing around, except, notably, the Lee Dearholt House on Hampshire Street and Lake Drive, built in 1905.

By the time the 1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map was compiled, many of the lots were beginning to be filled in with homes.

Holbrook was there to see the neighborhood grow around him and ultimately boom with the founding in the 1950s of UWM.

Although he retired from his East Town practice in 1946, he remained active and over the years was a president of the University Club, the Milwaukee Club, the Harvard Club, and the Milwaukee Country Day School, as well as a member of the Milwaukee Academy of Medicine, Milwaukee Surgical Society and a number of other medical socities.


Bertha passed away in 1947 after a life dedicated to education. After attending Rockford Seminary in Illinois and completing the Junior Course at Chicago Kindergarten College in 1896, she was director of the Kindergarten and Training Teacher of the Colorado State Normal School, from 1901 to 1902.

After marrying, she continued to write articles on early education and she penned early reader books, too.

In an undated letter to Meaney, Gerry Broderick shared his memories – and some photos, many of which are included here – of the home and its owner.

“I've recently come upon the enclosed photos in my grandfather's archives,” Broderick wrote. “His name was Jim Hutchinson and he was a life-long gardener here on Milwaukee's East Side. He died in 1967.

“I recall your residence as the home Doctor Holbrook in the late 1950s and early ‘60s when my grandfather served as the good doctor's gardener. The ‘Doc’ was a big game hunter who spent most winters abroad in pursuit of the ‘trophies’ that he hung with pride throughout his home. As a little kid I can remember wandering through the house full of white-draped furniture and gazing in awe at the heads of lions, tigers and water buffalo staring down at me while Grandpa stoked the furnace and tended to necessary chores in the Doc's absence.

“That was over 65 years ago and the memories are still vivid.”

Meaney thinks that the Holbrooks also knew how to have a good time in earlier days, when Prohibition ruled the land.

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“(I’m) pretty sure our basement was a speakeasy for a while,” she says. ‘Two weird bricked up old staircases lead into the basement. They’re now hidden behind finished walls but for sure there was some stuff going on down there for a while!”

The Doc lived to be 97, dying at an East Side nursing home in 1968, though still calling the the Kenwood Boulevard home.

A few years later, then-owner S. A. Schapiro, received permission from the city, to remodel the house’s second floor above the garage, where he raised the roof to create a two-room apartment with a bathroom.

"These owners have really done an amazing job of restoring," says realtor Shar Borg. "You're a steward when you buy a house like this, and they've been phenomenal stewards, taking care of the tile roof, replacing the stucco that needed to be replaced.


"You have so much of the original workings of the house; you still have the intercom system on every single floor. I think the coach house is very special for somebody who wants an additional dwelling unit.

"You have all of this real old world charm and old world inner workings, but then you have all the updates. It really lives the way we live today. Great entertaining spaces, indoor outdoor, the double lot is crazy."

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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.