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When I visited the 1855 Isaac Leister House, 11142 W. Bradley Rd. in April, I went alone. When I returned to see it now that renovations are complete and it’s been listed for sale, I brought company.
The home was built by Leister before the Civil War in what was then the Town of Granville, where he and his brother each bought 80 acres of land after their arrival in 1839 from Pennsylvania.
You can see the MLS listing for the home here.
The Leister family owned the house for nearly 90 years, with Isaac’s grandson Walter selling it in 1944 to Willard and Delores Langenohl, where they raised five children. Their youngest son Brian owned the house until his death in 2018, at which point it was foreclosed upon by the bank.
The current owners – T’Angelo McNair, Brandon Clark and Barton Clark of All Service Contracting – purchased the home from the bank earlier this year, renovated it and are now selling it.
When I went back for a promised re-look, I brought Karen Samuelson with me. Samuelson arrived with her son-in-law and two young grandchildren.
One of three Langenohl daughters (and five children overall), Karen spent the entirety of her first 18 years living in the house. When she went off to college in 1968, Samuelson, now 71, never returned there to live, though she, of course, visited her family there over the years.
Her father died in 1996 and her mother – who died two years ago, just a few years shy of her 100th birthday – remained there with Brian until she moved to a nursing home in Plymouth.
Samuelson walked the large backyard and marveled at the renovation of her father’s carpentry shop out back into a small guest space. Will Langenohl was a dedicated carpentry hobbyist who had serious skills. Not only did he outfit the workshop, he built the building.
In fact, his renovation of the main house earned him a prize from the Milwaukee Journal in the 1950s (more about that in the history story linked above).
McNair and his partners tore out and renovated the kitchen that Langenohl had himself demo'd and rebuilt, but otherwise, they kept most of what Samuelson’s father had created: new floors, the built-ins, the ladder to the top floor.
“I think Will Langenohl was a genius,” McNair says. “We kept as much history as we could because that’s just what you do, right?”
But his team did a lot of work, make no mistake.
They finished the basement, installing a room and adjacent bathroom, they opened up the wall between the kitchen and living room, restored the fireplace, refinished the floors, added new lighting, updated the bathroom, added a laundry room and half-bath on the main floor, updated plumbing and electrical, plus they filled in a derelict in-ground pool and renovated the former workshop out back.
And they kept that exposed stone wall in the living room; a wall that was originally uncovered by Langenohl.
Walking in through the laundry room, past the half-bath and stopping in the kitchen, Samuelson says, “This is my mother’s dream.”
I ask if her mom would be happy with what McNair and the Clarks have done.
“Oh yes, she would (be happy) that they’ve kept the stone wall.”
And the fact that the fireplace is still there and still working, gussied up and leveled?
“Oh wow,” she says. “It’s excellent. Oh, I just love it.”
She then shows us some photos she brought of what the house looked like when her parents bought it.
There were seven Langenohls living in this house at one time, I remind Karen, who needs no such reminder.
“Yes!” she exclaims. “In 1,800 square feet! One bathroom, and the toilet in the basement, that was it. But in the '50s and '60s, we all grew up like that.
“I went to Brown Deer High School, and my friends that lived in Brown Deer were in a three-bedroom, six kids, one bathroom. It's just the way it was. Everybody lived like that.”
Samuelson recalls leaving a note as a time capsule when she was a child in one of the living room beam encasements. McNair and his team, however, didn't open any of those encasements and so, unless it's since turned to dust, the note ought to still be there for a future owner to find.
Next to the steps in the basement are some shelves – “we kept our shoes there,” says Samuelson reminding us that she has a history in this home that is written into her DNA now.
Then she notices something affixed to the side of the shelving.
“You kept the pencil sharpener,” she says with a smile and I immediately picture her dad standing there sharpening a cup full of pencils to take back out to his carpentry shop.
I ask Samuelson what her father would say if he could see now the home upon which he expended so much effort and energy.
“It would blow his mind,” she says.
We head upstairs and she points out which siblings occupied which rooms (the twins on the right and she and her older sister in the one on the left), and then we climb the ladder up to the attic room.
“That was the bedroom for us three girls after Brian was born,” she says. “You can imagine us flying down the ladder in the morning to go to school.
”The boys each had their own room. What was up with that,” she adds with a laugh.
Up there – where the current owners have created a media room that’s basically an intimate movie theater-style space with six recliners facing a big screen – Samuelson points out where her bed and her sisters’ beds were.
“And there was a desk over there,” she says pointing toward one wall. “I spent a lot of time working there.”
On the way back down, we all descend slowly, facing inward, as one does on a ladder. But not the 71-year-old Samuelson, who goes down facing forward, as if it’s a staircase.
“Muscle memory,” says Bart Clark, who waits at the bottom and is as surprised as I am by the sight, and Karen laughs. “Yep, muscle memory,” she says.
The four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home – which now has 2,199 square feet thanks to the basement and back porch renovations – has been listed for $499,900.
Here’s the description from the listing:
“This charming Historic home backs up to the 14th hole of the Dretzka Park Golf Course and is move in ready . The freshly painted 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath home is fully updated and yet still has original features like the stone walls, wooden beams and dutch doors. The main floor boasts an open concept between the spacious living room with a natural fireplace and a stunningly upgraded kitchen with new LVP flooring. The main floor also has a conveniently located half bath and laundry room. Upstairs is a drea- like bathroom showcasing new tile and fixtures, the master bedroom and two additional bedrooms all with the original flooring and built in closets plus a reading bench. As a added bonus the attic space has been transformed into a movie theater and won't disappoint! The lower level has a bonus living space.”
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.