Michael Horne
House Confidential

Mike Eitel’s East Side Idyll

Nomad owner's $590,000, 1902 home attracted the wealthy and a day care.

By - Aug 18th, 2017 03:33 pm
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Mike Eitel's East Side Idyll. Photo by Michael Horne.

Mike Eitel’s East Side Idyll. Photo by Michael Horne.

In 1902 William C. Vandenberg, an executive with the Milwaukee Street Railway Company, hired the architectural firm of Leenhouts & Guthrie to design a $7,000 Tudor Revival home at what was then 717-Marietta Ave. on the Upper East Side. The 11-room home has nearly 4,000 square feet of finished living area. The original water meter bore the serial number of 21361, and was one of the nearest to the massive Linnwood Water Treatment Plant, a marvel of engineering located just a block and a bluff to the east, on the shore of Lake Park.

The home’s prominent brick and split granite foundation is 20 inches thick, and was the work of Richard Hoeppner, the mason. The stonework includes a massive porch, its supporting columns, and a good portion of the first floor walls. Joe Leenhouts served as the carpenter for the home, with its Fachwerk exterior dressed in stucco. His crews hammered a diamond pattern onto the south dormer of the home, while its adjoining protuberance was clad in rectangles. Wooden trim is everywhere used with abandon, including on a little porch that looks off to the side from a room within, one of four bedrooms on the second floor. Bay windows address the street, set in leaded glass, and are rather simply articulated.

If Vandenberg liked the house, he must have loved the architects, since just five years later he hired the same firm to build a home for him on a prime lot at the northwest corner of N. Marietta and E. Linnwood avenues. That residence shares a number of features with this, including the stonework, the wood trim, and the cute little second story porch.

Had Many Owners

In 1930, Clifton Williams lived here with his wife, Jessie. At that time he was the Dean of the Marquette University School of Law, and a former city attorney. In 1927, he wrote an article for the Marquette Law Review asking “Who Owns the Bed of Lake Michigan?” (Spoiler Alert: The State.)

Williams wasn’t the only lawyer on the street. Across the street at 730-Marietta was Rodger M. Trump, the Solicitor for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. Trump must have been quite full of himself, for he took out an advertisement in the City Directory listing his name in boldfaced type, the sort of ostentation shunned by other members of the Bar.

In 1935 Harvey J. Tidmarsh, the General Manager of the Yellow Transfer Company lived here, and would do so throughout the World War II years.

By 1950 it was the residence of Harold R. Miller, and his wife Lois. He was a chief chemist for an unknown company. Five years later, the home was occupied by William H. Hartz, Jr., a salesman. Then, in 1960, Dr. Sydney Johnson and his wife Grace moved into the home, for which they paid $25,000. They stayed through 1967 selling the home for $33,000 and decamping to a Whitefish Bay lakefront home that had either 17 or 18 rooms, “depending on if you count the ballroom,” as the doctor once told me.

By 1970, we find Charles F. Butterworth, an engineer at Curtiss-Wright, living here with his wife Rosemary, but not for long.

In 1975 the home was bought by Raymond J. Kocol, the engineer in charge of the City of Milwaukee Water Engineering Department, and the man responsible for the Linnwood Water Treatment Plant just down the bluff.

By the late 1980s David Guerrero and Rebecca Guerrero lived in the home, which they sought to operate as a day care. They received a Family Day Care in Home license on September 12th, 1988, with the stipulation of “Not more than 8 children. License holder must live on premises.”

It appears the owners or their predecessors had been active in the incipient “Do It Yourself” movement, since the inspector took disapproving note of their clandestine plumbing activities, which if not remedied, would void the Day Care license.

“Provide a plumbing permit and properly install the illegally installed two kitchen sinks, two garbage disposals and dishwasher laundry tray faucet and washer connections,” he ordered.

Even though there was a “play room” in the basement, its entertainments were denied to the children, possibly since it adjoined the boiler room. Also off-limits, according to the license restrictions, was the second floor and the attic — that place of enchantment and childhood wonder.

The poor kids and their activities were constrained to the “living room, music room, dining room, sun room, kitchen, and first floor bath.” Considering these privations, it any wonder that the Upper East Side environment has been a revolving door of juvenile delinquents for decades?

In 1990 the assessor took a look at the place, seeing at first hand what eight preschoolers can do to the interior of a home.

“All woodwork painted incl. beams — would require considerable effort to restore. Fireplace stone painted white also. All carpet and linoleum needs replacing. Plaster cracks, interior very filthy, needs cleaning, painting, etc.

“Ext — Steel beam jerry rigged to hold up back porch. Extensive tuckpointing done. All mismatched different colors of mortar, etc. Stairs rotten. Needs attention.”

The horrors these honorable civil servants of the assessor’s office must endure in the pursuit of their duties is sobering to the thoughtful taxpayer.

The House Today

Since 2014, this has been the home of Mike Eitel and his wife Kristyn St. Denis. Both Eitel and St. Denis have been active in the hospitality industry, to say the least. St. Denis is a partner in the expanding Bel Air Cantina operation, while Eitel is the owner of the Nomad World Pub, which he opened on Brady Street in 1995. He has recently divested himself from active interest in the Lowlands Group, which he also founded. The Nomad brand has expanded to Madison, and Eitel recently purchased a property in Walker’s Point through a Nomad holding company. There is speculation that he has other plans in the works for Milwaukee and elsewhere. A detached garage was added to this home in 2005, conforming to the style and dignity expected in a historic district. Pavement and landscaping of the conventional hosta-yew-pachysandra sort is recent; the home looks in fine shape and is an ornament to one of Milwaukee’s most attractive blocks. The home is not far from the residence of House Confidential honoree Lincoln Fowler, a founder and owner of Colectivo Coffee, another home-grown retailer that revolutionized its category. Lilith Fowler, his wife, is the head of the Harbor District.

Photo Gallery

The Rundown

  • Owner: Michael J. Eitel, Kristyn St. Denis
  • Location: City of Milwaukee
  • Neighborhood: Upper East Side
  • Subdivision: Prospect Hill
  • Year Built: 1902
  • Architect: Leenhouts and Guthrie
  • Style: Tudor
  • Size: 3,937 sq.ft. of finished living area. Lot size: 55.00 X 120.00
  • Fireplaces: 2
  • Bedrooms: 5
  • Bathrooms: 3 full, 1 powder room
  • Rec Room: No
  • Assessment: Land: 6,600 square foot lot is valued at $90,700 ($13.75/sq. ft.). Improvements: $502,000. Total assessed valuation: $592,700.
  • Taxes: $16,482.29. Paid on the installment plan.
  • Garbage Collection Route and Schedule: Blue Schedule, CG1-1B (Pink), next pickup date Monday
  • Polling Location: St Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2618 N Hackett Av.
  • Aldermanic District: 3rd Nik Kovac
  • County Supervisory District: District 3rd Sheldon Wasserman
  • Walk Score: 61 out of 100. “Somewhat Walkable” Some errands can be accomplished on foot. City Average: 62 out of 100.
  • Transit Score: 53 out of 100. “Good Transit” Many nearby public transportation options. City average: 49 out of 100.

How Milwaukee Is It? The residence is 3.2 miles northeast of City Hall.

One thought on “House Confidential: Mike Eitel’s East Side Idyll”

  1. Ray says:

    I have always really liked this design. There were at least two newspaper articles written about this housed when it was new and they provide a lot of interesting info. Buried under layers of suffocating, misplaced paint are premium hardwoods dreaming of seeing the light of day once again, both inside and out. The Sentinel from August 1902 calls this an “English residence” and says “the first story will be of variegated split field stone and above that point the exterior will be rough cast cement work. The exposed woodwork will be stained dark brown; the roof will be of terra cotta, colored. The entire grouping will be effective, producing an attractive looking home.” There is a conservatory off the dining room and woodwork on the first floor is “rubbed down to a dull finish.” The Evening Wisconsin from September 1904 says “local materials have been incorporated” and in the living room there is “a fireplace of the same material as the exterior walls, on either side of which are book cases.” There should be “art glass windows” over the book cases. The main rooms were “finished in black ash, stained to resemble weathered oak.” The estimated cost started at $7,000, then $8,000, and when finished it was “about $10,000.” If the owners wish, I will happily donate the first 3 gallons of paint stripper. The architects drawing shows the railing design to be a diamond pattern, and looks a lot better. A photo shows no shrubs in the front, so the stone can be fully appreciated. The second story bay window also had a diamond pattern. Very nice house.

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