By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 08, 2023 at 9:07 AM

If you like this article, read more about Milwaukee-area history and architecture in the hundreds of other similar articles in the Urban Spelunking series here.

While the former First Wisconsin Bank building Downtown is getting attention for its new signs, further up along the lakefront, the Herman Buemming-designed Lake Drive home of one-time First Wisconsin Bank President Walter Kasten is for sale.


The house, listed for $2.195 million, also has an addition designed by Eschweiler & Eschweiler.

The 1916 home, listed with Suzanne Powers Realty, located at 4408 N. Lake Dr. in Shorewood, has a mere 20 rooms – including six bedrooms and 5.5 baths – in 6,922 square feet. It's located on a 1.35-acre lot that backs on to Lake Michigan.

According to The American Contractor magazine, contracts were awarded in early 1916 for the $18,000 “East Milwaukee” (as Shorewood was then called) house, designed by architect Buemming, for Kasten and his wife Anita (nee Heinemann).

The home was drawn in an Italian Renaissance Revival style and originally had a tile roof.


You can read much more about Buemming in this article about the Brady Street-area home he designed for his own family.

Walter Kasten was born in Milwaukee in 1880 to Frederick and Jane Guy Kasten, and studied at University School and at the Culver Military Academy in Indiana.

Returning to Milwaukee, he entered the banking business in 1898, taking a position with Wisconsin National Bank.


Ten years later, he married Heinemann, with whom he had three children: Gertrude Ann, George Frederick and Robert Walter. The latter’s son, Robert, Jr., served as a Republican U.S. Representative from 1975 to ‘79 and as a Senator from 1981 until ‘93.

By 1924, already surely settled in his new house, Kasten became president of First Wisconsin National Bank, which was founded in 1919. He was also chairman of the board of the First Wisconsin National Trust Company.

Three years later, Kasten tapped the equally respected Eschweiler & Eschweiler to expand his lakefront house.


Over his long career, Kasten would also serve as a trustee of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company; president of the Wisconsin Bankshares Corporation; treasurer of Columbia Hospital and as a director of many well-known Wisconsin institutions, including Harnischfeger, Briggs & Stratto, Carnation, A. O. Smith, Allis Chalmers, Chain Belt, Concordia Fire Insurance Company, Title Guaranty Company of Wisconsin, Kimberly Clark and Milwaukee Mechanics Insurance Company.

In 1931, Anita passed away and 14 years later, Kasten married Elizabeth Elser Falk, who had grown up in another lovely house down the street. She was the daughter of another bank president, who became VP at First Wisconsin when it merged with his Second Ward National Bank.

Elser had married Otto H. Falk Jr. in 1927 and the two appear to have been divorced, perhaps sometime in 1940.

Kasten died in 1950, though his widow – who was 28 years his junior – lived until 1974.


Based on the photos in the listing, some (but not all) of which are included here, courtesy of Powers Realty, the home is a stunner, with a beautiful entry hall and grand staircase.

It also has lovely hardwood floors, woodwork and ornate plaster ceilings; modern kitchen and bathrooms; a fully kitted out basement with fireplace, hot tub and wine cellar; and, outside a big patio space overlooking the lake.


Powers describes it as, “One of the most significant properties on Lake Michigan in Milwaukee with its exceptionally large lot and expansive lake frontage. This spectacular property features tall ceilings throughout, exquisite moldings, gleaming hardwood floors, amazing sight lines, large open room sizes and views of Lake Michigan from nearly every room of the home.


“Third floor maid's quarters are expansive and could be a terrific workout out area and second home office space. Bright and sunny throughout the floor plan lives well for today's lifestyle with open generous room sizes. Dual staircase to lower level rathskeller. The exceptional lot size and 3.5-car garage is rare find. New roof, copper gutters and flashing.”

I’m especially wowed by the space, pictured just above, that has panoramic windows offering an incredible view of Lake Michigan.

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