Michael Horne
House Confidential

David Clarke’s Wetland Wonder

The Sheriff's home sits on a low marsh, hidden by trees, at the very edge of the county, protected by Honeywell Security.

By - Apr 26th, 2013 03:13 pm
Sheriff David Clarke's home.

Sheriff David Clarke’s home.

When David A. Clarke, Jr. and his wife Julie A. Campshure-Clarke scouted for a homesite in 1993, he was still a Milwaukee police officer, so the couple had to look within the city limits. You can be certain the search did not begin downtown. The future sheriff wanted to sink his spurs into the soft (if moist) virgin earth, out on the frontier, where the only law-abiding citizens are gun-slinging, law-abiding citizens.

The Clarkes found a lot on the edge of the city on a dead-end segment of W. Calumet Road, out in the freeway-ringed five-digit address district, where they paid $27,500 for a 30,495 square foot lot in a remote, desolate, and yet-unimproved corner of the city.  [Of the lot, 8,716 sq. ft. is listed as “excess land.”]

As a previous owner, Francis J. Schroedel, told a city building inspector in 1960, “this particular location was a low, marshy area, and it accumulated all the surface water from the surrounding high lands. … Mr. Schroedel also stated that this low area has existed as long as he can remember, and may also be recorded as a drainoff area on the geodetic maps of the area.”

In fact, the Clarke’s master plumber had to file a document to “exonerate the City of Milwaukee … from all liabilities” for “installing a building drain in and about the premises before the main sewer is available.” This, in a city where the first sewer was laid in 1835.

The pencil-pushers down at City Hall also made Clarke take out a $70 permit to “install and maintain erosion control measures” as specified by the Wisconsin Administrative Code. More paperwork!

The development that grew to surround the home in the two decades since may be the most suburban-like area in the entire city, (no sidewalk for the Clarkes!) eventually dominated by the Park Place office wasteland immediately to the north. But 20 years later, the Clarkes are sticking it out in the city in their 2,441 square foot 2-story home with 2 full and one half-baths, 3 bedrooms, and a family room with a built-in fireplace. There is a “marble foyer open to 2nd floor,” according to the notes of the City Assessor, who added, “‘B’ Grade [basement] is OK. Many quality amenities.” The home is shrouded by trees, effectively hiding the dwelling even in the bare months of winter. Although the sheriff famously asserts that good law-abiding citizens should arm themselves for their safety, he relies on a Honeywell Security Systems sign in his driveway to deter home invaders at his own premises. An attached 494 sq. ft. garage provides as much security and seclusion for the Sheriff’s SUV as might the jail’s sallyport.

Paying Taxes in “this frickin city.”

“I live in this frickin’ city, I’ve seen it go downhill … I’m still paying property taxes in this city – a lot of them.” — David Clarke, quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 2nd, 2013.

The Sheriff, as an elected official, is the only member of his department who must live in Milwaukee County (all others must reside in the State of Wisconsin), so there is nothing keeping him in the city proper. Even so, heeding his instincts for meddling in others’ business,  he issued an opinion that the City should get rid of its residency requirements, and sent a letter to the governor to that effect.

Clarke’s property is assessed at $32,600 and its improvements at $226,800, for a total of $269,900. Taxes, (“A lot of them,” as Clarke says), in the sum of $7,891.71 are paid in full, including $6,275.81 that went to the frickin’ city.

It took the assessor quite a few attempts to find the initial value of the Clarke homestead. There was “no response to letters [sent to Clarke] … no ‘returned undeliverable’ were received,” the assessor lamented in 1994. It took a 1995 assessor’s office call to Lemel Homes, Inc., builders of the dwelling, to learn that Clarke had spent $183,000 on its construction. Those wily bureaucrats have their tricks to dig up information, just like cops!

Fun Fact: Francis J. Schroedel, developer of Rainbow Springs resort (and “Schroedel’s Cradles,” which brought multi-family housing to Whitefish Bay to that community’s horror), had planned to build a hotel on the northwest side in 1960, but it was not until 2000 that the 184-room Hilton Garden Inn Park Place was constructed, right across the street from the Clarke residence, yet with no access to W. Calumet Road, just as the Sheriff would like it. … The hotel also has frontage on W. Liberty Drive, which is the kind of street name a guy like Clarke can identify with.


  • Style: “Colonial style”
  • Neighborhood: Park Place
  • Walkscore: 42 out of 100, “Car-Dependent.” A few amenities are within walking distance, including “Allgauer’s in the Park,” located in the Hilton Garden Inn, a tenth-mile slog away through the parking lot.
  • Transit Score: 29 out of 100, “Some Transit.” Clarke can wade through the hotel property and catch the MCTS Route 223 Park Place – Bradley Woods Shuttle right there on W. Liberty Drive.
  • Commute: It’s about 16 miles from the courthouse via freeway; but only 11 miles away by foot. “No bicycle route was found,” but Clarke could saddle up his horse and get to the jail by high noon on a good day.
  • Street Smart Walkscore: 11 out of 100, “Car-Dependent.” There are no coffee shops in walking distance, and the nearest place the Clarkes can put up for provisions is the Woodman’s Market, 1.4 miles away, across the county line, out in Menomonee Falls.
  • Size: 2441 square feet
  • Year Built: 2004
  • Assessed Value: $259.400
  • Property Taxes: $7,891.74

How Milwaukee Is It? It’s about 17 Sheriff Department-patrolled highway miles to City Hall.

Categories: House Confidential

10 thoughts on “House Confidential: David Clarke’s Wetland Wonder”

  1. JoeW says:

    This article is really frickin’ well-written.

    No surprises here. His house says “go away” just as his everyday demeanor says “go away.” With all that land, he should have plenty of room to set up a shack in which to write his manifesto.

  2. Tyrell Track Master says:

    Awesome. This is the best home review you guys have written. Crazy clarke!

  3. Jim says:

    Oh please Mr.Sheriff, give us one of your legendary temper tantrums.

  4. blurondo says:

    “Each year since 1989, the Wauwatosa Historical Society has been making history intriguing as well as educational through its annual Tour of Homes.
    The one-day event celebrates the preservation of Wauwatosa
    homes in neighborhoods that illustrate the rich history and significant architecture of Wauwatosa. Volunteer docents lead visitors through the homes. ”

    Now if a local NW Milwaukee charitable organization wanted to raise some funds, they could replicate the Tosa Tour of Homes. Just think what money they might generate if Clarke’s abode was included in the tour.

  5. sharon litvin says:

    What is the point of this article? To position a controversial public figure on the liberal political correctness spectrum? I read The Atlantic, the New Yorker, Granta, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal occasionally, as well as some culture blogs (Head Butler, Tablet, etc). When I subscribed to Urban Milwaukee I expected more thoughtfulness, more insight, not an online version of The (scuzzy, reflexive) Shepard. I’m disappointed.

  6. Andy says:

    When do we stop pretending these blog entries are about homes, architecture, neighborhoods, or anything other then attacking or lauding individuals that Mr. Horne has any sort of emotional attachment to?

  7. #6 Andy: House Confidential honorees are selected by an Urban Milwaukee proprietary algorithm that takes in many factors. My “emotional attachment” is not one of them.

  8. Kyle says:

    “Urban Milwaukee proprietary algorithm”? You developed an algorithm to identify prominent and wealthy people who live in Milwaukee? I have trouble believing that. And it’s about homes and architecture, but you list the rankings by owners, with no mention of location? I don’t buy that either. I would believe you have an algorithm to determine the “Street Smart” score of the people you profile (one where brewing your own coffee is explicitly discouraged), but that score just seems to be a way to shame people for not living where and how you think they should.

  9. #8 Kyle — Let’s see, you don’t believe we have a proprietary algorithm? The Urban Milwaukee Supreme Council of Elders meets in secret session to determine the House Confidential honorees. You are welcome to nominate any recipient of your choosing, whether human or building. We will enter the data into the Urbanivac 2013 and see if your candidate makes it through these wrenching equations to determine whether they live where and how we think they should. Then, we calls ’em as we sees ’em.
    But you do not need the magnificent organizational apparatus of the Urban Milwaukee Supreme Council of Elders to find a Street Smart Walk Score. For that simply follow this link: http://www.walkscore.com/

  10. Kyle says:

    #9 Michael – Take a took back at how much time you spent on the house itself in the piece on Marina. There at least you characterize the house. With your piece on Clarke, it’s hard to find information about the house scattered between the remarks on his politics. Given how little you have to say, there’s no way this house came out of your algorithm, which means you’re just picking local politicians and celebrities and then decide to either describe their house or not, as you sees ’em. Whether your counsel of elders or an unpaid intern or the who’s trending page on Yahoo makes your decisions matters less to me than the fact that you’re wasting an opportunity to highlight the positives of Milwaukee’s diverse architecture to take potshots at people you dislike.

    Marina’s spokesperson said it very accurately when she called this series “tawdry and voyeuristic.”

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