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

An impressive mid-century home is about to hit the market in Wauwatosa’s Wellauer Heights neighborhood and it has a lot of features – a sweeping grand staircase, panoramic views of Honey Creek Parkway, a half-acre lot, a spacious open plan layout – that contribute to its $985,000 price tag.


But there’s also something more.

In the bright, open great room is a somewhat incongruous marble fireplace surround that looks a lot older than the home itself.

That’s because it is.

Arthur MacArthur Jr
Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur Jr.

The fireplace came from a demolished home on Marshall Street that was once occupied by Arthur MacArthur Jr., son of a Wisconsin governor and father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

The white and grey marble fireplace features a prominent star located in the center.

How did this happen?

The story goes that in 1952-3, 72-year-old Eleanor Zaiser, widow of erstwhile publishing exec and later Ampco Metal Manufacturing president Carl J. Zaiser, was building a new house in the nascent Wellauer Heights neighborhood – developed by the Wellauer Realty Co.

Perhaps she was seeking an easier to navigate single-story home as she grew older, as she and her husband, who had died in 1946, previously lived in a two-story place on 68th and Hillcrest.

1101 N. Marshall
The 1866 Edward Townsend Mix-designed house.

At the same time, it was no secret that a frame house related to the famous MacArthur family was to be demolished at 1101 N. Marshall St.

That Edward Townsend Mix-designed French Renaissance house was built in 1866 for wholesale grocer John S. Ricker, of Ricker, Crombie & Co.

In 1907 it was rented from its then-owner Laura Chapman (widow of department store owner Timothy A. Chapman) by the ready-to-retire Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur Jr.

MacArthur was the son of the eponymous Scottish immigrant judge, Milwaukee city attorney and fourth Wisconsin governor. He had served in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, and was military governor-general of the Philippines during the American occupation.


MacArthur and his wife lived in the house until his death in 1912.

Though their son Douglas, himself a rather well-known military figure, to say the least, never lived in the house, he was known to be a regular visitor.

After efforts to convert the house to a VFW Post and/or a MacArthur “shrine,” the place was doomed when it was purchased with plans to create a surface parking lot.  

Perhaps there was a sale or maybe she just strolled in, but Zaiser’s daughter Dorothy Zaiser Dreher, “went to the MacArthur home, which was then being wrecked, to see if any part of it could be salvaged for use,” according to a contemporary newspaper report.

“She sighted a paint-covered mantel in the sitting room to the right of the front entrance. It was still in place in the wall – but because of the several paint coatings, it was impossible to tell of what material it was made. She decided to purchase it anyway, and bought it for a comparatively small sum.”

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Workers pulled the fireplace – which turned out to be marble – out of the wall in a dozen pieces and laid it out in the yard overnight until Zaiser could have it picked up and brought to Tosa the next day.

There, the Journal reported, “A painter worked an entire day removing the old paint coatings. Underneath was the mottled gray marble. A single white slab serves as the top shelf. Below it is an ornate decoration of the white stone in which a single star of the gray marble is centered.”

While a note in the possession of the current homeowners avers that, “the single star on the center of the face. ... is in reference to the general’s ‘one star’ rank,” it seems unlikely the MacArthurs installed the fireplace at that late date in a rented house, though surely it’s possible.

Less possible is the idea that, “It is plausible five-star General Douglas MacArthur hung his Christmas stocking on this mantle as a young boy,” considering that the young MacArthur was about 27 years old when his parents began renting the place.

Still, it’s pretty cool to think that either of the MacArthurs – the first father and son duo to each receive a Medal of Honor – built and stoked fires in the fireplace and warmed themselves in front of it, with Douglas perhaps puffing on his ubiquitous pipe.

By 1956, Dorothy was living in the house and it’s possible – as she had been divorced even before the new house was built – that she lived there with her mother as soon as it was completed.

The house was sold after Zaiser's passing in 1960.

great roomX

So, if you’re looking for a beautiful house in a top notch location that also contains a tangible piece of Milwaukee – and American – history, contact Kelley Ruzicka at Firefly Real Estate, because she’s got just the thing.

As for the site of the demolished house? Since 2007, the long-serving municipal parking lot has been home to a 10-story residential tower.

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.