In my meanderings through Milwaukee, I run into architect Eugene Liebert pretty often. Not only did he have a hand in designing the landmark Germania Building with his then-partner Herman P. Schnetzky, he also worked on a number of instantly recognizable schools – public and private – commercial buildings and churches in the city.
Like most architects of his day, Liebert also did some private residences, among the most notable and still standing is the Harnischfeger Mansion near 35th and Wisconsin.
Also surviving are three summer cottages that Liebert built for himself and family members in Glendale, on land he purchased in 1900 along the east bank of the Milwaukee River. The homes can be seen from across the falls in Kletzsch Park.
The most northerly of the three is the one Liebert built for himself and it’s a stunning Germanic place with dark wood, ornate German-language inscriptions and a matching garage with a cistern on the roof. Next to it is the most immediately eye-catchingly beautiful with its elaborate scrollwork and gorgeous curves.
Also still surviving, but not for much longer, is the southernmost of the three, now called the Liebert Dillig Residence, at 6435 N. Sunny Point Ln. All three were declared county landmarks in 2009.
Now clad in red siding, the cottage-style home was built for Liebert’s brother-in-law, jeweler Otto Logemann. One of the most interesting features of the home is its rustic stone-studded chimney, which has a firewood storage space that opens to both the inside and the outside of the home.
There’s also a porch facing the river that is most certainly an amazing place to watch a summer sunset.
In 2012, the City of Glendale offered to buy 16 homes on this flood plain with a mix of its own money and federal funds from FEMA in order to raze them. According to news reports at the time only four homeowners expressed interest in selling. Among them were the owners of the house Liebert built for Logemann.
"Over the years, development has occurred in the flood plain," WITI news quoted MMSD’s Kevin Shafer as saying. "What we’re trying to do is reduce the flooding that has caused. All of these acquisitions are completely voluntary, so if you don’t want to sell, you don’t have to, but you will continue to have these flooding issues. It will open up the area where water can flow because you won’t have those houses obstructing the view."
According to neighbors that sale has gone through and the home, which was due to be razed in March, is now set to meet its sad fate by July.
Whether or not the destruction of this single home will have any significant beneficial result in terms of flooding I can’t say. But surely the loss is a major one for Milwaukee architecture.
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.