Millionaire Paul Ryan’s Magnificent Home
House Speaker's Georgian home might befit a founding father. Take that, Donald Trump.
For the first time in history Wisconsin is the home state of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 1st District Congressman Paul D. Ryan of Janesville. Ryan, who ran as the Republican candidate for Vice-President in 2012, was also the first Wisconsinite to appear on a major party national ticket.
Ryan’s district includes the Milwaukee County communities of Oak Creek, Franklin, Hales Corners and Greendale. Altogether four congressmen — half of the state’s delegation — represent some portion of Milwaukee County, although it has only 16 per cent of the State’s population and less than 2 per cent of its land area. What some may see as gerrymandering, House Confidential views as an opportunity to visit the residences of more congressmen serving in the same session than this county has ever known.
Ryan’s residence is a Georgian Revival mansion in downtown Janesville, which was a settlement when Ryan’s Milwaukee County communities were still cornfields. Janesville is the seat of government of Rock County. The county offices and Ryan’s house are both located on Courthouse Hill, a nationally and state-registered historic district.
If Ryan can’t find his birth certificate and needs a copy so he can get his ID to cast his ballot at the Hedberg Public Library, he will find it at the Register of Deed’s office, just four blocks away from his house.
Ryan’s home, built in 1929, has 5,786 square feet, 13 rooms, six bedrooms and seven baths. It sits on an ample lot of eight-tenths of an acre with a detached two-car garage. It is one of the finest of any politician’s homes to have yet been visited by House Confidential. But it was easily afforded by Ryan, who became a millionaire as a result of his marriage in 2000 to Janna Little, a former congressional staffer turned Washington lobbyist who hails from a wealthy family of Oklahoma trial lawyers, and who changed her name to Janna Ryan upon getting married.
This mansion, as a backdrop for a Speaker of the House, could not be any better cast, or of more formidable Republican lineage. It is well-designed, well-built and utterly representative of the highest elements of Federal architecture of the sort we relate to our Founding Fathers and the early years of our republic. As one description notes, the red brick house has a central doorway, portico with free-standing columns, overall rectangular form and balanced fenestration.
The brick is laid in Flemish Bond, more structural than the thin veneer courses most commonly seen in the Midwest, which cover up and fireproof what are essentially frame structures. The home is accented with white trim and black shutters against the red brick. The roof is grey slate — another sign of massive construction — and the gutters and downspouts are copper. The windowsills are stone — all these elements point to sound craftsmanship, traditional construction methods, and a hefty budget. Ryan’s first job may have been at McDonald’s, but this is no mere McMansion.
In many additional respects, including its gated fence, its dormers, its restrained yet dignified entryway, the home seems much more a product of the North Atlantic region than of Janesville, Wisconsin. It would not look out of place in the nation’s Capitol.
This may be because the architect of the home was from Washington D.C.
Appleton Prentiss Clark, Jr., [1865-1955] had a 60 year career. Clark’s father was a lawyer and Republican who supported voting rights for African-Americans. Clark, Jr. graduated from high school in the nation’s capital in 1883 and produced dozens of buildings there, some of substantial construction that now serve as foreign embassy residences, like that of Austria. At the time of his passing, he was considered the dean of architects of his era. At some point he encountered William G. Wheeler, for whom he constructed this home. This is one of many Clark buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and is believed to be the only one he built in Wisconsin.
Wheeler was a Republican attorney and a native of Rock County, much like the man who owns the home today. Like Ryan, he was an early go-getter. By the time he was 30, in the 1891, he was the District Attorney for the county, and later served as a member of the assembly as a U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin before continuing with what was apparently a lucrative practice.
Wheeler later sold the home to George Safford Parker II of Janesville’s Parker Pen family. Parker was a collector of early American furniture and art, and headed the Janesville Foundation for over 50 years. Parker also served as the chair of Milwaukee-based Manpower Group from 1976-1986, and as head of the state’s Republican party from 1974-76, and later on the national committee for the party. Upon his death in 2004, the home was transfered to his Caxambas Foundation’s hands for $432,700.
Ryan Home Comes With Remodel
Ryan, the third prominent Republican occupant here, bought the home on June 3rd, 2010 for $420,950, with Warranty Deed 1893929 being duly filed at the Rock County Courthouse right there on Courthouse Hill.
However, nearly two weeks after the sale, on June 15th, 2010, Permit BP101354 was issued to the Caxambas Foundation, its previous owner, “To remodel kitchen — Frame down new ceiling in kitchen and cosmetic work.” The permit cost $50, but the value of the new kitchen for the congressman was not mentioned. Perhaps it was a condition of the sale that the owner, a foundation with an address of 5320 N. Lake Drive, Whitefish Bay, should provide a new kitchen for the purchaser, a Member of Congress. The $27 million foundation is headed by Martha Parker Thermansen, George S. Parker II’s daughter. Perhaps a careless clerk recorded a former owner’s name on the permit. It does seem like a situation an elected official would want to clarify for the public.
After Ryan’s family moved in, the assessor knocked four years off the building’s effective age to reflect the new toilets installed in the home. The walk-up attic is a finished playroom and bedroom, but the faucets for the bathtubs there cannot be used. Fortunately, the playroom has a shower and two sinks.
In January, 2016 Ryan paid a $60 permit fee to have seven motion sensor lights placed around the home’s 0.82 acre grounds. In 2012, when he was running for Vice President, Ryan had to pay a $50 permit fee for temporary electrical service to accommodate the Secret Service agents who watched his home. I wonder if Mitt Romney ever reimbursed him for that little out-of-pocket expense. Or does Romney agree with Donald Trump that Ryan was responsible for the Romney-Ryan ticket losing the 2012 election?
Tax Incremental Payments
Ryan is known for being a master of budget minutae, and there is evidence he employs his analytic skills to the science of household management. For example, there is no penalty or interest assessed for making property tax payments on the installment basis. Ryan uses this thrifty expedient to help with his family’s cashflow. On January 28th 2016 he paid $5,468.24 of his $10,936.48 property tax bill, with the second payment due on or before July 31st.
Six Bedrooms in Janesville, None in Washington
When Ryan was mulling the speaker’s job, he made it clear that he did not intend for the new responsibilities to diminish his family time. He insisted upon travelling home to his district on weekends to be with them in this magnificent home. But during the weekdays, it is a different story. Ryan is one of some 40 members of the House of Representatives — mostly Republicans — who sleep on cots in their offices during the work week. He is the highest ranking member of the Couch Caucus, choosing to sleep in his modest Longworth Office Building space rather than in the tobacco-stained palatial Capitol building office left to him by departing Speaker and chain smoker John Boehner.
Milwaukee County’s Four Members of Congress
Milwaukee County was divided among four congressional districts following the 2010 Census. The members, and their Milwaukee County communities:
1st District, Paul Ryan (R)
Ryan’s district includes the Milwaukee County communities of Oak Creek, Franklin, Hales Corners and Greendale
4th District, Gwen Moore (D)
Moore’s district includes the Milwaukee County communities of Milwaukee, Fox Point, Bayside, Brown Deer, Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, South Milwaukee, Cudahy, St. Francis, Glendale and West Milwaukee
5th District, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R)
The longtime congressman’s district now includes the Milwaukee County Communities of Greenfield, Wauwatosa and West Allis.
6th District, Glenn Grothman (R)
Grothman’s district includes the Milwaukee County community of River Hills, and two tiny pockets of Bayside with a handful of residents.
- Owner: Paul D. Ryan; Janna L. Ryan
- Location: Janesville
- Neighborhood: Courthouse Hill
- Subdivision: Jackman and Smith’s Addition
- Year Built: 1929
- Architect: A.P. Clark, Jr., Washington D.C. [1865-1955]
- Style: 2.0 Story Georgian – Federal Revival brick mansion shows fine detailing and closely resembles similar homes found in places like Washington, D.C., where Ryan sleeps on a cot in his office.
- Size: 5,786 s.f..
- Fireplaces: Multiple
- Rec Room: Upstairs in the attic.
- Assessment: Land: 35,719 s.f. lot is assessed at $50,800 [$1.42/s.f.]. Improvements: $396,700 Total: $447,500. Current owner bought residence 06/03/2010 for $420,950.
- Taxes: $10,936.48 Paid on the Installment Plan. Most recent payment: $5,468.24 made on 01/28/2016.
- Garbage Collection Route and Schedule: Could Not Be Determined
- Polling Location: Hedberg Public Library, 316 S. Main St. Janesville
- Aldermanic District: N.A. [Janesville has a seven-member council elected on a citywide basis.]
- County Supervisor District: Rock County 24th District Supervisor Richard Bostwick
- Walk Score: 60 out of 100. “Somewhat Walkable.” Close to the Citrus Cafe and Wiggy’s Saloon. Ryan’s Janesville District Office, at 20 S. Main St., is just a half mile away, right past the South Central Wisconsin Builder’s Association. To be fair, though, Wiggy’s Saloon is more of a John Boehner kind of place.
- Transit Score: Could Not Be Determined
How Milwaukee Is It? Not very. The residence is about 75 miles from Milwaukee’s City Hall