Michael Horne
House Confidential

Chris Larson’s Simple Colonial Home

The state senator has less than 1,000 square feet of space to call home. But he does have good bus service.

By - Jan 13th, 2014 11:40 am
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A snow-bedecked birdbath awaits warmer weather at the residence of Sen. Christopher Larson as a neighbor's Fraxinus americana shades the roof. A pair of Taxus baccata set off the utilitarian porch with a whimsical canopy that surmounts the Home's principal entrance, and announces: I am arrived! Photo by Michael Horne.

A snow-bedecked birdbath awaits warmer weather at the residence of Sen. Christopher Larson as a neighbor’s Fraxinus americana shades the roof. A pair of Taxus baccata set off the utilitarian porch with a whimsical canopy that surmounts the home’s principal entrance, and announces: I have arrived! Photo by Michael Horne.

There is a full 493 square foot basement underlying the two-493 square foot levels that together comprise the home of state Sen. Christoper J. Larson, his wife Jessica Brumm-Larson, PhD and their young son.

There are two bedrooms to house the young family, and one bathroom to attend to their needs. A kitchen and a living room compose the remainder of the occupied area, which totals 986 square feet of centrally air-conditioned space. This is a defiantly starter home. A little sister might upset the sleeping arrangements and occasion either a move or an addition, as has happened elsewhere in this Post-WWII city neighborhood.

The home was built by the Mikkelson company in 1950 in the Logan Park Subdivision. It’s the kind of neighborhood where, if you see a squad car outside a home at noon, it’s probably the cop who lives there having lunch with his wife, or at least until all cops move out of town.

Fred A. Mikkelson was an architect and developer, and subdivided this lot along with three adjoining ones in 1948. [Mikkelson Builders, established in 1908, is still in business in Urban Milwaukee.]

A juvenile Fraxinus, this one planted by the city, will likely escape the pruning disaster that befell its elder cousin. Yet perhaps the Emerald Ash Borer -- or the treatment of that disease -- may cost them both their lives. This view through the grounds of the Larson property, taken from the northeast, includes a glimpse of its garage, constructed in 1956. Photo by Michael Horne.

A juvenile Fraxinus, this one planted by the city, will likely escape the pruning disaster that befell its elder cousin. Yet perhaps the Emerald Ash Borer — or the treatment of that disease — may cost them both their lives. This view through the grounds of the Larson property, taken from the northeast, includes a glimpse of its garage, constructed in 1956. Photo by Michael Horne.

There was a nationwide shortage of housing in the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s, as World War II veterans sought a place to live after years of bunking with family, or in a barracks somewhere.

Lots like this one, which measures 40 feet by 130 feet for a total of 5200 square feet, were considerably larger than those of the old parts of town — places like Riverwest, Brady Street or Bay View, magnets for first generation immigrants who arrived in the era before zoning.

Here, the lot subdivided by Mikkelson was improved by the city with water, sewer, sidewalks, roadways and the new 20th century necessity — alleyways, the better for which to eventually build an accessory garage. That’s what happened here in 1956 when a 22 foot by 20 foot garage was planted in the back yard. (Nothing much else has been since).

The home was built at a cost of $8,000 for Elroy Kosanke, himself an apparent second-generation Milwaukeean whose family held on to the property after his death in 1984 — until at least 2004 or later.

The menacing branches of the neighbor's ash tree threaten to overwhelm the simple pine frame of the Larson residence. Photo by Michael Horne.

The menacing branches of the neighbor’s ash tree threaten to overwhelm the simple pine frame of the Larson residence. Photo by Michael Horne.

Kosanke’s home was completed on February 16th, 1949, and will celebrate its 55th anniversary next month. It looks like it is just on its second owner.

It was assessed at $5245 in 1950; $6,400 in 1955; $7,040 in 1959 and $8,010 in 1964, finally reaching its cost of construction (but assessed at a time when adherence to fair market  value, today’s goal, was not at its apex.)

Sen. Chris Larson and his wife, an Alverno professor, bought the property in 2009 for $142,000, near the time of its high assessment of $137,100. Today it is assessed at $14,300 for the land and $104,200 for the improvements for a total of $118,500, making Larson yet another Milwaukeean who is “underwater” on a very decent, well-maintained property in a stable comfortable neighborhood. There is also an Episcopalian church right down the block, an austere surprise in a working class district and a testimony to the diversity of Milwaukee. Taxes are $3,548.76 and were paid in full on December 30th, 2013.

About Chris Larson

This view affords a glimpse of the accessory entrance to the Larson residence, also affixed with a canopy. Three snow snowshovels, each presumably selected for its distinctive performance attributes, lie at the ready, having clearly done their duty during the recent uncomfortableness. A Christmas wreath bedecking the principal entrance to the residence, was hung in 2013. Twin yellow-topped stakes stabilize a recently planted, city-owned Acer saccharum. Someday in the future, the Larson family can tap their own, sweet, maple syrup. Photo by Michael Horne.

This view affords a glimpse of the accessory entrance to the Larson residence, also affixed with a canopy. Three snow snowshovels, each presumably selected for its distinctive performance attributes, lie at the ready, having clearly done their duty during the recent uncomfortableness. A Christmas wreath bedecking the principal entrance to the residence, was hung in 2013. Twin yellow-topped stakes stabilize a recently planted, city-owned Acer saccharum. Someday in the future, the Larson family can tap their own, sweet, maple syrup. Photo by Michael Horne.

Christopher J. Larson [D-7th], 33, was elected to the State Senate in 2010 after defeating incumbent Jeff Plale in the Democratic Party primary election and surviving token challenge in the general election. At the time, Larson was midway through his first term as a Milwaukee County Supervisor. Running against an entrenched incumbent was a bold move, but Larson was spectacularly successful, winning 61 percent of the vote to Plale’s 39 percent.

Larson was just as bold once he was elected state senator, running just two years later and winning the position of senate minority leader over the far-more-experienced Jon Erpenbach. Republicans considered him green and inexperienced. “Sometimes, God gives you a gift,” crowed Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Janesville).

Larson and the Democrats are in the minority in both houses, which makes it difficult for them to oppose much of what the GOP does, and has limited the new minority leader’s impact.

As a county supervisor, Larson helped organize the Quality of Life Alliance, which was the galvanizing force behind the advisory referendum passed by Milwaukee County voters in November 2008, approving a one percent sales tax increase to provide funding for parks, transit and property tax relief. (Gov. Jim Doyle and the legislature declined to approve this.) Larson also created the “Dem Team,” which has helped train a number of liberal candidates in Milwaukee who have won races for city, county and state electoral positions. Liberals have hailed Larson’s work, while others have argued it has overthrown more moderate Democrats, further polarizing politics in Wisconsin.

During his freshman year in college, Larson, then 19, was ticketed for shoplifting, which he has called “a dumb mistake.” When elected supervisor, at age 28, he had been managing an athletic goods store in the Third Ward, a good fit for the athletic man who had once captained the cross country team of Thomas More High School, and, according to his biography, “learned to love Wisconsin’s unique beauty by running every inch of the south side.”

Larson has completed 22 marathons, and has a goal of completing a marathon in every state. Presidential candidates these days don’t even campaign in every state. This man has ambition!

Larson received a degree in finance at UW-Milwaukee in 2007 and has been much active in community organizations in his district and in the community at large. His affiliations include Planned Parent Advocates of Wisconsin, The Sierra Club, MPTV Friends, the Lake Park Friends and the Humboldt Park Watch, among others.

Larson got considerable publicity in 2011 during the controversy over the passage of Act 10, which eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public employees. Larson is poised before the camera, likes to wear vests, and can deliver a soundbite with the best of them.

The Rundown

  • Style: 1950 2-story Colonial Tract Home
  • Location: City of Milwaukee
  • Neighborhood: Bay View
  • Subdivision: Logan Park
  • Walk Score: 52 out of 100 “Somewhat Walkable” You’ve got Swig’s Pub and Grill just steps away, and Tenuta’s or Pastiche not that much further.
  • Transit Score: 43 out of 100 “Some Transit.” You can walk to the Green Line and take the bus straight to the airport — or the East Side. Sen. Larson is an avid user of transit and non-vehicular options for getting around. He is a connoisseur of proper walking and running footwear.
  • Street Smart Walk Score: 55 out of 100. “Somewhat Walkable.” I should say. The Milwaukee Diaper Service is just .8 miles away. And there is a neighborhood fishing hole just two blocks away in beautiful Humboldt Park.
  • Size: 968 square feet of living area atop a 493 square foot basement.
  • Year Built: 1950, with detached garage added in 1956
  • Assessed Value: Land — $14,300, Improvements — $104,200, Total — $118,500
  • Taxes –  $3,548.76, paid in full.
  • How Milwaukee is it? It is 4 miles to City Hall on foot, 5 miles if Sen. Larson drives over the absurd Hoan Bridge.

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Categories: House Confidential

2 thoughts on “House Confidential: Chris Larson’s Simple Colonial Home”

  1. Jim Bouman says:

    Tweak the math a bit and the Larson digs get an accurate ago of soon-to-be 65

  2. Jim Bouman says:

    age…

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