Call it the Lafayette Riviera perhaps, that row of gorgeous homes – all designed by well-known Milwaukee architects – at the top of Lafayette Hill, with their stunning views of the Downtown skyline, McKinley marina, Veterans Park and Lake Michigan.
Built for Brew City industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the houses, drawn in a variety of styles, seem to rarely hit the market.
But when one of them – my favorite – had a “for sale” sign out front recently, I decided to take a closer look.
The Tudor Revival house at 2014 E. Lafayette Pl. was recently listed by Falk Ruvin Gallagher Real Estate for $1.2 million. It has been sold.
What you can see from the street is an extremely alluring two and half story home, perched atop a high point with orange brick on the lower half and cedar shingles on the second floor.
There are carved barge boards on the gables, and the front gables are half-timbered. There’s a large front porch up a half-dozen stairs and just above it is a small patio.
What you can’t see from the street is that behind the house – designed by Ferry & Clas – is a later garage designed by Brust & Philipp and tucked between the two is an in-ground pool with a nice private deck.
The four-bedroom, 5,490-square-foot house – with four baths and two half-baths – as I said, was designed by George Bowman Ferry and Alfred C. Clas, the much-respected architects of the Milwaukee Public Library, the Court of Honor, the current Irish Cultural and Heritage Center, the Lake Park Pavilion and footbridge, and many other gems.
Built in 1897, it was the first of four Ferry & Clas gems on that stretch of Lafayette that you can still see today. The others are the 1901 Georgian Revival Carl Herzfeld House at 2022, the 1906 Tudor Revival W. Patton House at 2118 and the 1907 Emil Ott House (Clas also designed St. James Court for Ott) backing onto the bluff at 2121.
The house was built for Albert Gallun and his wife Hedwig (nee Mann), who had married in 1896 and were living on Prospect Avenue just north of Albion Place.
Gallun was born into the eponymous tanning family in Milwaukee in 1865 and studied at the German-English Academy before joining the family firm of Trostel & Gallun, which had been founded in 1858.
While still in his 20s he controlled Gallun & Sons – Trostel and Gallun had since gone their separate ways – one of the four largest tanneries in the country at that time.
After marrying Hedwig, who was from Two Rivers, they tapped the architects to design their stunning house in an equally striking location and it was there that they began to raise a family of four children: Elinor, Edwin, Albert Jr. and Gladys.
The beautiful brick was laid by Frederick Werner and the gorgeous woodwork inside was crafted by carpenter Frank G. Siebert.
By 1899, the home was ready for occupancy and it must’ve been a home that resounded with the German language – Gallun’s father, August was an immigrant from Osterwieck-on-the-Harz, Germany – because a 1902 classified ad for a “nurse girl,” noted that candidates must speak the language.
At work, Gallun, along with his brother Arthur, broke ground in their industry, pioneering a new method of tanning – called chrome tanning – that is the standard today. They also helped create and fund a tanning research center at New York’s Columbia University.
In something of a foreshadowing of the future, Gallun hired Brust & Philipp to design a garage (pictured below) that is tucked behind the house on Summit Avenue.
In just a couple years, Gallun returned to Brust & Philipp seeking designs for a new, much larger house, further north in the Prospect Hill neighborhood.
That home, at 3000 E. Newberry Blvd., sits directly across from Lake Park. It was ready for occupancy in 1915 and the family made the move, leaving the Lafayette Place house vacant.
It was listed for sale in January 1916.
Mrs. Gallun died in 1928, the year her husband retired, and the year he helped found the town of Chenequa.
Gallun, who had also served as a director of the Marshall & Ilsley Bank, passed away a decade later, leaving the Newberry home to Elinor, who lived there until around 1970.
Back on Lafayette Place, the home was occupied by Rezeau B. Brown, president and general manager of the Milwaukee Gas Light Company, and his wife Eliza.
“Commodore” Brown – as he was called at times in the local press – was active in the Milwaukee Yacht Club and his new home’s proximity to it must’ve been attractive and convenient.
The Browns remained for more than 20 years, until Brown, “decided to maintain permanent residence of the Pacific Coast,” according to an ad offering the house for sale for just $10,000 (because Brown was “desirous of making immediate sale”).
The advertisement noted that the large house could be converted into a duplex and it appears the new owner decided to take that sort of approach, though it took a little time.
In March 1942, the Tudor was sold to Mrs. Theresa Ernst, who lived there, but also hired contractor George Niedermeyer to create two rental flats the following, for which authorities sought to punish her for her overinflated rents in 1945.
Maybe that’s why Ernst didn’t stay long. In 1948, the house was again listed for sale, with the owner said to be “sacrificing,” by pricing it at $16,000.
Albert and Frances Young moved their family there in 1950 and thanks to their grandson Bob Apalsch, we get a peek into family life at the house.
"They lived in the house from 1950 until 1963," says Apalsch. "Being six years younger than the youngest aunt, I was more like the next child instead of the first grandchild. As kids we toured all over the neighborhood. It was a great time.
"My uncles spent many a spring night down at the boat well smelting. They caught pigeons to eat under the train bridge on Lafayette. my aunties played tennis quite a bit down the hill. we swam at McKinnley Beach. sleeded down the hill. Grandma would call when supper was ready. Spent quite a bit of time at the little (Back Bay) park down the street."
Albert Young worked as a machinst at the AC Spark Plug factory (now called the Kenilworth Building) on Prospect Avenue and later in Oak Creek (the site of Drexel Town Square).
Apalsch remembers that his grandparents used the home both as a single-family and sometimes a duplex during their 13-year stay.
"Our family did not use the house like it was designed," he recalls. "I believe the first floor was to be used for formal entertaining. The kitchen at the rear, the dining room in the middle, the two front rooms as parlors, then the entry foyer. Originally the dining room and the two front rooms had pocket doors allowing them to be open or closed.
"My grandparents used the front room to the right of the entry as their bedroom, my aunties used the other front room as theirs and my uncles slept on the third floor. The dining room was employed as the living room. The kitchen had a large table that held most of us. Sometimes renters had the second floor with all its amenities. It had not been structurally altered, though."
After the Youngs left, Joseph Beck owned the house until 1971.
It was a renter during that period who brought the house back into the newspapers in 1970, when he was arrested by policemen who spotted the numerous marijuana plants he had growing in his upstairs window.
After having been owned for five years by Wisconsin Realty, the home was returned to a full-time single-family dwelling in 1976 by its new owners, John J. and Margaret Garlic, proprietors of the well-known JJ Garlic restaurant on 11th and Wells and Fried Eggs & Tootsie’s eatery at 1901 E. North Ave. (later they’d also open a restaurant in the 4th Street Natatorium).
Just weeks after moving in and having the home’s stained glass windows appraised, thieves made off with the art glass on Oct. 25, and the Garlics ran newspaper ads offering $1,000 reward for their return.
The following August, police arrested an East Side man for fencing the windows. He’d bought them from another neighborhood man for $500 and sold them on to a dealer in Illinois at 100 percent profit.
The theft was part of an epidemic that year, with nearly 50 stained glass window thefts reported, including a whopping 16 from St. Paul Church of the First Born on 4th and Vine.
In 1984, the Garlics sold two of their three restaurants – holding on to the natatorium – and moved to Florida.
After hosting a well-publicized estate sale, they sold the Tudor Revival gem on Lafayette Place to Pat and Paul Vogelsang, whose family owned the house by far the longest of anyone.
"It was dark green with black trim," recalls their daughter Kayte Foster. "My brother was 5, I was 8 and the house felt like a huge adventure. My parents had the exterior sandblasted back to the original brick and lightened up the paint which made it look less intimidating."
In the 1990s, they returned the home to a duplex during a stint living in Germany, though Foster lived in one of the apartments during that time while attending UWM.
When the Vogelsangs returned from Germany, they renovated the third floor to its current state and, after spending a few years in the U.K., Foster and her husband returned to Milwaukee and the house, too.
"We moved in downstairs and my parents lived on the third floor and we all stayed like that for many years," says Foster, who raised two daughters there.
"I can’t explain how much I love that house, to be honest," she says. "My brother and I both have 4th of July weekend birthdays so that house was incredible to have parties and watch the fireworks every year. The backyard was a hidden oasis with a pool, until Park Lafayette towers went up, that is.
"The sledding hill across the street, the field near the tennis courts felt like our front yard we were there every day playing with the kids and the dogs. I coached Kickers soccer for many years and just loved raising my kids on the East Side."
But as life has changed, the house had become too big for Foster.
Recently, folks gathered outside the house once again, awaiting entry into yet another estate sale being held there over the course of multiple days, as the house is presumably prepared to be cleaned out for the arrival of the new owners.
What those new owners have by now found are high ceilings, beautiful hardwood floors, wood paneling galore, exposed wood beam ceilings, heavy wooden doors and an elevator.
Just out any of the front windows is one of the best views in town.
The main entry has a fine staircase that sweeps up to a landing where there is some of that stained glass the Garlics were eager to have back.
The dining room has a marble fireplace, pocket doors, large built-in cabinets, more wood paneling and exposed beam ceilings, and more stained glass windows.
The top floor (above) and basement (below) have been converted into large open spaces for entertaining and relaxation. The third floor also has a bathroom and kitchenette – likely remnants of one of the rental units – and can also serve as a guest suite.
The master bedroom has a spa-like bathroom and the kitchen is newly renovated.
Then there’s that pool and deck out back, which are about the only thing powerfully alluring enough to draw one away from the amazing view out front.
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.