By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 04, 2024 at 9:01 AM

By now, if you expect anything at all, you likely expect this space to tell you about some stunning vintage home for sale in Milwaukee. And that’s exactly what you’ll find today, albeit perhaps not in the format you’d think.

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This recently listed three-bedroom, two-bathroom Classical Revival gem – with wainscoting, crown moldings, European crystal chandeliers, hardwood floors, marble tile decorative arches and Orlandini plasterwork ... as well as views of Juneau Park, Lake Michigan and the Hoan Bridge – is located in historic Yankee Hill at 1028 E. Juneau Ave. and 1929.

Views from the apartment.

The 2,825-square-foot property is a corner-unit condo on the fourth floor of the Knickerbocker Apartment Hotel, designed by architects Miner R. Rosman and Oliver Wierdsma, who, during their partnership – which endured from 1919 to 1930 – specialized in high-end apartment buildings like this one, which boasted a ballroom, a ladies lounge, a gift shop, a commissary, Madam Vantine’s dress shop and a rare book shop.

In the 1950s, the Red Lion Room was jumping, with performers like Sammy Davis Jr. on stage.

You can see realtor Kelly Tetting's complete listing for the property, which is listed at $695,000, here.

Among the architects’ other works are the Franklin Arms at 3120-28 W. Wisconsin Ave., Lakeside Apartments at 829 N. Cass St., the La Salle Hotel at 721-9 N. 11th St., Marquette Apartments at 1628 W. Wisconsin Ave., Roosevelt Arms, 2324 W. Wisconsin Ave., and the Underwriters’ Exchange, at 828 N. Broadway, which was built as offices but now houses apartments.


Rosman was born in Whitewater in 1884 and studied at Beloit College. He arrived in Milwaukee in 1904, where he worked in the office of Leenhouts and Guthrie as a designer and draftsman. And that’s likely where he met Wierdsma, who was a draftsman with the same firm beginning in 1911, and later rose to superintendent.

Wierdsma was the son of a contractor, carpenter, Ebbel Wierdsma, and he appears to have also done contracting work, having built the expansion of Kegel’s Inn in 1933 and 12 years later founded Oliver Construction.

In 1918, Wierdsma earned his state registration as an architect and the two left Leenhouts and Guthrie the following year to launch their partnership.

This relationship came to end as the Great Depression affected the construction – and therefore architecture – business and they went their separate ways, with Wierdsma focusing more on the building side, on projects like the Waukesha County Technical Institute and St. Joseph’s Hospital in West Bend.

Meanwhile, Rosman kept working on his own before going into a short-lived partnership with Robert H. Smith in 1939.

Rosman died in 1940, and Wierdsma in 1978.

But what about the condo and its building, right?

The Knickerbocker was built at a cost of a million dollars during a boom in apartment building construction not just in Milwaukee, but across the country. Many such buildings, including numerous residential hotels, went up on Milwaukee’s East Side and along West Wisconsin Avenue, too.

Buildings like the Knickerbocker, with its elaborately adorned lobby, were highly desirable and attracted upper- and middle-class residents. The Knickerbocker was, like its neighbor, the Astor Hotel, a respected address.

These buildings not only helped create density, but added high-quality housing units near the heart of Downtown.

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“The residential hotels of large cities, along with the luxury apartment houses of the early 20th century, represent a new type of lifestyle of the era for middle and upper class persons, a lifestyle that was reflected in a type of construction,” notes the National Register of Historic Places registration form for the property, which was designated in 1988. “This type of construction, the residential hotel, provided residents the prestigious address they desired and the services they wanted without the need to maintain their own home or apartment.

“The construction of the Knickerbocker Hotel also coincides with the development of transient lodging away from railroad-oriented hotels to those that served an automobile-owning group of travelers. These new hotels could be located away from railroads and also did not have to be exactly located Downtown since the automobile provided more flexible transportation.


“The residential hotel provided an alternative for transients brought about by the automobile. Because the Knickerbocker is one of the two best remaining examples of residential hotel construction in Milwaukee, and because this type of construction was important in the densif ication of the central city and represents a particular lifestyle of the middle and upper classes in the early 20th century, it is a significant architectural landmark in Milwaukee.”

In the waning decades of the 20th century, the Knickerbocker was gradually converted into condominiums, though rooms are still available for hotel use.

The building's lobby.

Just like in the old days, the lobby continues to house amenities, like a restaurant, salon and spa and the building also has a fitness center, tailoring and services, and meeting space.

Just outside the door is the north end of Juneau Park and pretty much all of East Town is in walking distance and the East Side, Westown and the Third Ward aren't much farther afield.

"This unit is a rare find," says realtor Tetting. "It is one of the two largest condos at the Knickerbocker, boasting a grand floor plan for entertaining and expansive views from its 27 windows. As of Tuesday, April 2, there are only five three-bedroom condos for sale Downtown with water views, prices ranging from $695,000 to $3,295,000.

"This is an incredible opportunity to experience luxury living in the historic and much beloved Knickerbocker on the Lake."

To see the condo, contact Kelly Tetting at RE/MAX Lakeside-West.

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.