Michael Horne
House Confidential

Blustery Bob Donovan’s Bungalow

The cranky South Side alderman has a modest, pleasant little home.

By - Jun 14th, 2013 03:11 pm
Ald. Bob Donovan's home.

Ald. Bob Donovan’s home.

This 1909 Burnham Park neighborhood bungalow near the busy intersection of Layton Boulevard and W. Mitchell streets is the residence of 8th District Alderman Robert G. “Bob” Donovan. Like its owner, the home is modest and unassuming. But you get a sense that, like its owner, the gas furnace inside may have a tendency to get overheated at times.

The first floor of the home has 780 square feet, while a half-story above contains 622 square feet. Yet within these meager confines, the dwelling contains 3 bedrooms and two full baths. No waiting in line for Bob and Kathleen Donovan! Well, not since their five children left the nest.

In 1967 Alma Maier, the then-owner, received a permit to “apply aluminum siding to the entire house,” which has doubtless saved Donovan needless hours ladder-bound, paintbrush in hand.

Donovan, 56, bought the home for $42,000 on September 30, 1985, fifteen years before he was elected to the office he has now held for four terms. Yet it was not until January 20, 2006, that his wife was added to the title, via a quit claim deed.

The 30 ft. x 120 ft. lot is valued at $7,200, and the aforementioned improvements at $76,300 for a total assessment of $83,500, down from its all-time high of $110,000 during the palmy days of 2006-2008. Taxes are $2,346.85 and are paid in full.

In 1972, the city assessor said the interior of the home was in good condition. “Major Additions” to the building include a 4 ft. x 4 ft. entry shed valued then at $180 and a 12 ft. x 5 ft. porch that commanded a 1972 value of $330.

But when the assessor sent a letter to new owner Donovan on February 10, 1986 asking to have a look around as part of a routine “sale review,” there was, alas, “no response.”

Previous owners of the building include F. J. Meyer, L. van Aachen, Thomas Palkowski and John Talsky.


  • Style: Bungalow
  • Neighborhood: Burnham Park
  • Subdivision: Amann’s #2 Subdivision
  • Walkscore: 65 out of 100 “Somewhat Walkable.” Some errands, like running around the corner to grab a pack of smokes, can be accomplished on foot. Schulist’s Bar is just .12 miles away. .
  • Transit Score: 50 out of 100, “Good Transit.” The #10 bus runs plenty close to City Hall.
  • Street Smart Score: 70 out of 100.
  • Size: 1,402 square feet.
  • Year Built: 1909, with entry shed and porch additions.
  • Assessed Value: $83,500
  • Property Taxes: $2,346.85 paid in full

About Bob Donovan

Milwaukee would not be Milwaukee without at least one cranky South Side alderman, and Bob Donovan is this century’s gift to the genre. Donovan is a native son of his district, and a graduate of Thomas More High School. He was active in neighborhood organizations prior to his election, playing the same role as he does today — that of a regular guy watching the world around him going to hell, and by God he’s going to do something about it.

Donovan’s bluster seemingly knows no bounds. He decries crime, graffiti, loud noises, the way young people behave these days and the decline of certain moral standards. He has been a frequent critic of the mayor and the city’s streetcar project, and a frequent proponent of more spending on public safety. He is a champion at grabbing headlines, whether defending police or slapping at Police Chief Ed Flynn, “debating” Alderman Bob Bauman over streetcars or complaining about a parody of him on Twitter. In 2011 he and colleague Ald. Joe Dudzik issued a joint communique decrying “senseless violence” that year at State Fair. “We are reaping the harvest we have sown,” they announced with biblical flair.

More recently, Dudzik hit his breaking point with Donovan responding to his bluster over a business leaving his district.  Dudzik wrote in a press release, “The bottom line is that my colleague is a hypocrite – he speaks fluently (BS) out of both sides of his mouth. He repeatedly sticks his nose into other colleagues’ districts and issues, and does so behind everyone’s back. And some wonder why he’s a lone wolf who almost never works cooperatively with his colleagues (even when a few of those colleagues are like-minded on an issue of interest).”

For more on Donovan check Urban Milwaukee’s biography of him.

How Milwaukee is it? At just 3.9 miles to City Hall, it is old school Milwaukee.

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Categories: House Confidential

7 thoughts on “House Confidential: Blustery Bob Donovan’s Bungalow”

  1. Dan Adams says:

    FYI – 27th Street in the Burnham Park neighborhood is known as Layton Boulevard.

  2. Quite so, Mr. Adams. And 27th Street is called Range Line Road where I come from originally.

  3. Lisa M says:

    What is the point of this column? Seriously, I want to understand. I’m usually pretty quick on the uptake, so to speak.
    After reading this one, I looked at past profiles/articles and don’t see the point of any of them. Can’t I just look up this info on line?

  4. Bill Sell says:

    Mr. Horne: The Route #10 bus runs east and west considerably further north from Mr. Donovan’s home. If Mr. Donovan were to use the #10 to get to work, he would probably opt for Route 27 for the first couple of miles. Then the 10. But at that point he’s a walk – yes a short walk – to his office. Better if he took the 54 eastbound to KK Avenue, then the GreenLine directly to City Hall. Simple living quarters, I believe, are interesting. It’s comforting to know that many people who serve us live nearby.

  5. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Bill Sell – You are most certainly right. That should read 10 bus routes run nearby.

  6. GT says:

    “Some errands, like running around the corner to grab a pack of smokes, can be accomplished on foot. Schulist’s Bar is just .12 miles away.”


  7. Bill Sell says:

    Should the need arise (and it should arise often), here’s a link to Milwaukee County’s bus routes.



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