Yesterday’s Milwaukee

Love Nest of A Beer Baroness

Huge 1889 mansion is where Pabst owner continued her affair with her daughter's husband.

By - Nov 3rd, 2015 03:44 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email
Love Nest of A Beer Baroness. Image courtesy of Jeff Beutner.

Love Nest of A Beer Baroness. Image courtesy of Jeff Beutner.

Lisette Best, the granddaughter of Milwaukee brewery pioneer Jacob Best, was born in this city in 1848. At that time it was a tiny brewery with no hints that by the end of the 19th century it would become the nations largest. In 1859 her father Phillip would assume full ownership of the brewery and then name it after himself. In 1864 his daughter Maria’s husband Frederick Pabst would purchase a half interest in the brewery. In 1866 Lisette would marry Emil Schandein who would acquire the remaining half. Around 1869 the brewery would purchase the Melms Brewery, then the city’s biggest, from the widow of Charles Melms after his sudden death that year. This would be renamed the Phillip Best South Side Brewery.

Lisette, then in her early twenties, and her husband Emil Schandein then moved into the Melms mansion. In 1874 Lisette would travel to Germany and return with a 10-year-old boy named Jacob Heyl who would move in with the family and while still a teen, commence an affair with Lisette. Heyl later married her daughter Louise in 1886, but this was a sham marriage as his true love interest was Lisette herself. In 1888 Louise would die unexpectedly and a few months later her grieving father would also pass away while traveling in Germany. By now the brewery was thriving, growing by leaps and bounds, and Emil Schandein was in the process of building a new dream home at what now is 24th and Wisconsin. It would occupy an entire city lot and by comparison was at least double the size of the Frederick Pabst mansion just a few blocks to the east.

In 1889, one year after her husband’s death, Lisette would move into the dream home he had been building, along with Mr. Heyl and her other daughter Clara. That same year the brewery would be renamed Pabst and she would fill her late husband’s position as vice-president. Lisette was now officially a beer baroness. What better way to celebrate her new home (and new position) than by throwing a big party! And so Lisette planned a gala wedding, as her daughter Clara was now married to Jacob Heyl. He had now married both daughters while continuing the affair with momma.

Lisette, Clara and Jacob lived together in this spectacular mansion for about 16 years. This is an 1889 photogravure of the newly-completed home. It is from a book published by Simon Stein. Though Stein is credited for its photos, they are widely presumed to be by H.H. Bennettincluding this one.

The real fireworks would start after Lisette Schandhein’s death in 1905. As the will left the bulk of the estate to Clara and Jacob Heyl it was immediately contested by Clara’s siblings (a son and third daughter) in a trial in which the secrets of the sham marriage were exposed to the general public. It would make national news. Clara sided with her siblings and they were victorious in court. Clara would now be the executor and she would promptly divorce her husband. Not a fairytale ending at all but great fodder for newspapers of the day.

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.

6 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Milwaukee: Love Nest of A Beer Baroness”

  1. Gary says:

    There are other family incidents that lead up to the scandal breaking in 1905. I’m reminded of a malicious family incident that occurred years earlier to block the marriage of Schandein-Best daughter Ella to widower Dr. Louis F. Frank.

    The entire family traveled to Landstuhl in der Pfalz for the wedding only to be met with opposition to the match by Dr. Frank’s mother. She caused marriage banns to be posted by the government of that German state in Milwaukee papers – essentially to clear Dr. Frank of the inference of bigamy (how nasty was that?). Milwaukee English language press claimed outrage over that reporting in the local German press.

    It’s not a stretch to put that incident together with info. from court transcripts about how Louis & Ella Schandein Frank later came to the rescue of Ella’s brother from the abuse by his mother and stepfather/adopted brother.

    And then there was reporting on Jakob Heyl / Heil’s (spelling was more often “Heil” in the local German language press) gave a lavish wedding party for his sister Emma Emma Heyl (he had a sister?). I wonder if anyone’s written about Jacob Heyl’s horse farm in the Town of Granville. *

    Maybe J. Gurda could host a mini-series called “Schloß Schandein” written by John McGivern?

  2. Katherine Foland says:

    I am the Great grand daughter of Jacob Heyl- My grandfather was Jacob’s son Erik. Has anyone ever considered that the press at the time, as well as the attorney’s were slanted to malign Jacob Heyl so that they vast fortune would go to Dr. Frank?

  3. Gary Rebholz says:

    I would assume that Jacob Heyl had enough funds at his disposal to launch a strong defense. This would be a good time in Wisconsin history to rewrite his story. How is it that the birthplace of Jakob’s sister Emma (and Jakob?) was also Landstuhl an der Pfalz, the very place of the Frank and Schandein marriage?

    Portraits of Ella Schandein and Dr. Louis Frank, the marriage banns published to derail their marriage, and an even rarer photo of the Schandein mansion are found at http://milwaukeesgermannewspapers.blogspot.com

  4. Laurie B. says:

    While doing family research I started looking into the history of this building. My Great Great Grandfather, Howard Tuttle, Scenic Painter rented living and studio space at the mansion, where he committed suicide in 1925.

  5. Margaret Heaney says:

    I am JACOB BEST SN’s greatgrandaughter. And a direct descendant if Lissette..Wow..I had no idea…!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *