Michael Horne
House Confidential

Power Broker Bill Drew’s Home Office

Drew and his wife, consultant Mary Cannon, made a lot of money working from their lovely West Side colonial home. It's on the Spaces and Traces tour tomorrow.

By - May 16th, 2014 02:46 pm
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Here is a rare chance to see the interior of a House Confidential home. This dwelling at 1800 N. 60th St. [originally 698-60 St.] has been the residence of William Ryan Drew and his wife Mary C.Cannon since August, 1985. It is one of the homes on the Historic Milwaukee, Inc. 2014 Spaces and Traces tour to be held Saturday, May 17th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 13 sites throughout the Washington Heights neighborhood in the City of Milwaukee.

William Ryan Drew House

William Ryan Drew House

The substantial dwelling with 2,421 square feet of finished living area was constructed in 1927 at a cost of $19,200 for Louis and Eleanor Scheich. Louis was the president of what was then Security Bank. Scheich paid $7,500 for the 75 x 139 foot lot upon which the 2-story brick-veneered Colonial was built. The land is valued at $40,200 today, the improvements at $250,900 for a total assessment of $291,900, down from a high assessment of $343,400 in 2006.

The property includes a detached 20 x 20 foot garage built at about the same time as the residence. Both home and garage are nicely detailed, with arched leaded windows, tile roofs and copper drainpipes. The assessor also noted coved plastered ceilings, a stone entry and a double laundry sink down in the basement. Expect to see many varnished surfaces.

Your Spaces and Traces tour will show you the first floor with its living room, dining room, kitchen, sun room, hall and lavatory. The second floor is reached by an open oak staircase with ornamental iron railing and has 4 bedrooms and a full bath. There is yet another half-bath somewhere in the house. 

The home has three fireplaces, including one in the rec room located in the 1340 square foot basement. Oh, and what a mischief those fireplaces have been over the years, dating back to before William Conroy bought the joint in 1977 from L. Strazis for $38,000.

“Previous owner [Strazis] didn’t maintain House, Just let it go,” the assessor noted in 1978.

As an example, the assessor noted, “Fireplace in bsmt damper doesn’t work + it smokes back.” So did the fireplace in the sun room, the assessor noted, “but this is due to settlement which is pulling FB base + part of Chimney Away from House loosening at wall and moisture to cause walls to buckle. Paneling will have to be removed, fireplace Rebuilt completely or taken down. … Bsmt floor – wood on concrete – all buckled + must be Replaced or Removed. Living Room cracks when boiler blew up on previous owner (new boiler) upstairs okay. Plumbing in bsmt marginal.”

In 1985, after undergoing many repairs. the home was sold to the current owners for $79,000. “Int of house completely repainted and carpeted,” the assessor noted on a visit.

Unfortunately, though, “Fireplace in Sun Room still non functional. … Fireplace damage is noticeable from ext also.”

See for yourself the changes the Drew-Cannon regime has instituted in this home on the western edge of the City of Milwaukee and revel in this rare opportunity to see the inside of a House Confidential home.

About William Ryan Drew and Mary Cannon

Atty. William Ryan Drew, 78, is a 1966 graduate of Marquette University Law school and carries license number 1008452 from the State Bar of Wisconsin where he is an emeritus member in good standing. He is a “Real Estate and Construction” lawyer at O’Neil Cannon Hollman DeJong and Laing S.C., a firm that bills itself as “Wisconsin’s Premier Lawyers and Litigators.”

According to his biography on the firm’s website, “Bill uses his extensive background in city, county, and state government to help his clients resolve the municipal and real estate development issues they encounter when dealing with government agencies.”

Drew rose to his position as fixer through his service as 4th District Alderman for the City of Milwaukee [1968-1974], Common Council President [1972-1974] and, from 1974-1988 as Commissioner of the Department of City Development during the administration of Mayor Henry Maier. He played a key role in the development of what is now the Shops of Grand Avenue and the Milwaukee Center.

Drew left city government when John O. Norquist became mayor, as it was clear the new mayor had different ideas about how DCD should be run. But Drew got on the Summerfest board, and had the contract to redraw the city’s aldermanic districts following the 1990 census. “I left City Hall and I have never looked back, and I don’t regret that at all,” he told a reporter. In 1992 Drew surfaced on the west side of the river when he became director of administration for new county executive Tom Ament. At that time, Drew’s wife, consultant Mary C. Cannon, of Cannon & Associates, had the contract to supervise the construction of the $106 million jail then being built. Drew was working for his wife at the time as a subcontractor on the jail job, but quit that gig to heed the Ament call. All very cozy. The business was operated from the Drew – Cannon residence on N. 60th St.

Drew was also involved for years at Wisconsin State Fair Park. As Bruce Murphy wrote for Milwaukee Magazine, the creation of the Wisconsin Expo Center was promoted by then-governor Tommy Thompson and by Drew, whom Thompson had appointed to chair the State Fair Park Board. “The plan Drew backed depended upon hurting the city by stealing bookings from the Downtown Midwest Express Center, according to one close observer. Sure enough, once it was built, the Expo grabbed away the Journal Sentinel Sports Show, the realtors’ home show and the Con Ex heavy equipment and machinery show from the Midwest Express Center,” Murphy reported.

Drew is currently the Vice-Chairman of the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, where his term expires on September 15th this year. He also pulls down over $40,000 per year for 10 hours of work weekly as Executive Director of the Milwaukee County Research Park. Although Drew claimed his City Hall days were over in 1992, he resurfaced in 2007 as president of the 12,000 City of Milwaukee retirees.

The Rundown

  • Location: City of Milwaukee, on its western border with Wauwatosa
  • Neighborhood: Washington Heights
  • Subdivision: Lands between W. Vine St N 57th St Rosedale Park & N 60th St.
  • Year Built: 1927
  • Style: 2-Story Brick Colonial
  • Size: 2,421 square feet
  • Fireplaces: 3, perhaps not all in working order
  • Rec Room: Yes. With a fireplace and a new wooden floor.
  • Taxes: $8,698.18
  • Assessment: Land $40,200 [$3.85 s.f.] Improvements $250,900; Total: $291,900
  • Walk Score: 69 out of 100 “Somewhat Walkable”
  • Transit Score: 48 out of 100. “Some Transit”
  • Street Smart Walk Score:  71 out of 100, “Very Walkable” Meritage is just blocks away.

How Milwaukee Is It? The residence is 4.44 miles from City Hall, where Drew long commanded great power.

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One thought on “House Confidential: Power Broker Bill Drew’s Home Office”

  1. tomw says:

    Along with the midnight ride of Paul Revere, does anyone recall the midnight destruction of the mansions on Wisconsin Avenue to allow Marquette to build its Student Union? Wasn’t Drew DCD commiss then?

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