Michael Horne
House Confidential

Frederick Vogel IV’s Historic East Side Mansion

The MIAD instructor and Vogel heir continues his old Milwaukee family's tradition of owning mansions in the neighborhood.

By - Jan 20th, 2014 04:10 pm

This 1904 home on Wyoming Place with a view of the Water Tower and Lake Michigan is an Eschweiller, designed by the famed architect, which is to say it is a Cadillac among homes, back when saying that was saying something.

It is the home of Frederick “Eric” Vogel IV and his wife, Megan Holbrook. The Northpoint neighborhood has been home to many, many Vogels over the years, including, August H. Vogel,  Charles P. Vogel, Theodore F. Vogel, Guido Vogel and William D. Vogel. The latter two are Eric’s great-grandfather and grandfather, respectively, and they lived in the home now occupied by House Confidential Honoree Andy Nunemaker.

Vogel Residence

Vogel Residence

The current Vogel home was built for Frank Ward Smith, who was associated with the Milwaukee Dry Dock Company, located on Vogel’s Island, wouldn’t you know, down in the Menomonee Valley, near the current Harley-Davidson museum. (The company’s 1895 telephone number was simply “3”). Smith paid $9,000 to build the substantial home, on its 60 ft. by 150 ft. corner lot, hiring Charles Grunewald as his mason and John Debbink as carpenter.

The crews built the home of solid masonry construction (no brick veneer here) and outfitted its 7,071 square feet of living space with 7 bedrooms, 3 full baths and 2 half-baths, along with 7 fireplaces to augment the central heating plant. An “elaborate zinc glass window” is on the first floor of the dwelling. The mildly asymmetric home, with a generous front porch, has been variously described as “Jacobean,” “Tudor Revival,” or “Late Stuart Period,” the latter designation coming from Milwaukee architectural historian Richard W. E. Perrin.

By 1920 the home was in the hands of Robert Hackney, who made his fortune compressing air for streetcar brakes, and whose Pressed Steel Tank Co. is still in business these days, but making cylinders for natural gas, not streetcar air. Hackney called on Eschweiller in 1920 to add a 28 ft. by 30 ft. garage to the property. In 1939 the home was bought by Michael Francis Cudahy for $16,185, and there things apparently remained until 1972 when it was bought for $49,000 by engineer A. Peter McArthur, whose wife Shirley duFresne McArthur wrote several books about the neighborhood and its houses and was instrumental in founding the Water Tower Historic District.

The District and the neighborhood associations helped keep this home and those near it as centerpieces of one of the nation’s most intact and architecturally diverse of upper-class single family residences, and spared it the fate of being torn up and reduced to boarding houses and cheap apartments. This fate was much likelier in the late 1960s and 1970s than would be apparent now. Many homes were defacto rooming houses, and things were generally falling to pieces. Water Tower Square “Northpoint Park,” across the street, was a center for counter-cultural activity. Can you imagine — hippies smoking pot in the fountain!

One mechanism for preserving the neighborhood from such depradations was a rigorous review process for proposed construction and alterations in the area. Vogel, an architect who heads the 3-D department at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, knows about the process, since he received a Certificate of Appropriateness in 2013 for the construction of a period-appropriate $389,000 addition that will give him and his wife a family room off the kitchen along with the home’s 8th fireplace. The addition is underway, and great pains have been taken to match the stone and brick of the original. The neighbors vetoed a proposed bay window as being inappropriate. Vogel substituted a box window in its stead.

Vogel and Holbrook bought the home in 2000 for $592,000 and in 2002 turned it over to a crew of interior designers who fixed it up to serve as the 2002 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra League Showhouse, where it attracted thousands of visitors during Ms. Holbrook’s term on the orchestra’s board.

The home is assessed at $104,000 for the lot, and $562,000 for the improvements for a total of $666,100. Taxes are $20,178.80.

About the Owners

Megan Holbrook, like her husband a Harvard University graduate, is the CEO of Digitalese, a digital strategy consultant in Milwaukee. Eric Vogel spends his days at MIAD running its 3-D Design Department.  He was the architect of  Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, Wisconsin, where the Dalai Lama hangs out on his frequent visits to this state, most recently in 2013. Eric’s sister, the former Alicia Vogel, is Ani Lhundub Jampa, Buddhist nun. Vogel is most recently the author, with John Eastberg of the Pabst Mansion, of “Layton’s Legacy,” a magisterial volume focusing on Frederick Layton, the founder of what is now the Milwaukee Art Museum. The museum still contains much of the original Layton collection, which retains its own endowment and board, headed for many years by Eric Vogel’s father, Frederick Vogel III.

The senior Vogel’s mother, Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel, endowed the Milwaukee Art Museum with a $1 million acquisition fund in the 1970s which has been used for such things as the museum’s purchase of a Copley portrait. She augmented that with another million bucks at the Milwaukee Foundation for the same purpose. Her father, Ralph Herman Booth, was a co-founder of Booth Newspapers, now ML Live Media Group of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was instrumental in the founding of the Detroit Institute of the Arts, which has been much in the news lately as its owner, the city of Detroit, faces bankruptcy and heroic efforts are being made to preserve the collection from the auction block.

Ms. Booth married William Dickerman Vogel in Copenhagen in 1931 where her father was serving as ambassador. The family eventually settled in the Northpoint neighborhood, where it remains a presence, thanks to this week’s House Confidential honoree.

Photo Gallery

The Rundown

  • Neighborhood: Northpoint
  • Subdivision: Glidden & Lockwood’s Addition
  • Year Built: 1904
  • Style: 2-story Mansion, variously “Late Stuart Period,” “Tudor Revival,” “Jacobean.” Take your pick
  • Architect: Alexander Eschweiler
  • Size: 7,071 square feet, with 7 bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half-baths
  • Fireplaces: 7 — very, very cozy
  • Taxes: $20,178.80
  • Assessment: Land $104,100, Improvements $562,000; Total: $666,100
  • Walk Score: 94 out of 100, “Walker’s Paradise” (Street Smart – 95)
  • Transit Score: 50 out of 100, “Good Transit”

How Milwaukee is it? The Vogel residence is about 2.5 miles from City Hall.

Categories: House Confidential

4 thoughts on “House Confidential: Frederick Vogel IV’s Historic East Side Mansion”

  1. East Slider says:

    Since you aren’t a “car person”, maybe you don’t know this but Cadillac is on a definite upswing and I’d be more than happy to own the “Cadillac” of anything, or even a new Cadillac! They’ve come out with several great new models and in one of my recent issues of Car and Driver (where they LOVE German cars, especially Bimmers!) they tested a new Cadillac CTS vs BMW 5 series, Mercedes E Class and Audi A6 and the Caddy bested the Merc and the Bimmer and barely lost to the Audi, which is an exceptional car itself. Beyond that, according to several sources, Cadillac’s quality ratings have well surpassed the Germans and are nearing those of the Japanese, who of course have been #1 for many years. So, I’d say that owning a “Cadillac” of a house is quite nice, indeed!

  2. Dear East Slider:
    It is nice to know that Cadillac is back on top. In 1979 the company had to remind readers that it was still the “Cadillac of automobiles.” The SUVs are hideous — the Cadillacs of tasteless ostentation.
    Things generally went to hell when the company stopped making the Fleetwood 75 limousine in 1986 and owners started driving themselves, rather than hiring others to do so. I miss the window in the seating area separating driver from The Driven.


  3. Andy says:

    If one holds an opinion of Cadillac based on vehicles they made 30, or even 15 years ago… I can see why they’d think the way you do Michael. Same if you base it on one particular model…

    For others, they’ll judge individual models, or at least a nameplate as a whole… otherwise I’d have a very interesting view of Mercedes based upon the production of the G63 AMG… Let alone my eco-friendly image of Toyota completely blown out of the water thanks to the Sequoia or Land Cruisers.

  4. East Slider says:

    You’re certainly correct Andy, Cadillac did have some pretty dreadful years for a while there, especially in the 1980’s when they were producing vehicles that were simply re-badged Buicks or Oldsmobiles with a little extra “glitz”! The cars were woefully underpowered, especially one Cadillac-only engine in particular that was very lucky to reach 100,000 miles without a full rebuild of the internals. They’ve definitely turned things around though and their latest models are really knockouts and that’s coming from someone who has much preferred foreign cars for years.

    When you look also at the reliability data compiled by companies like JD Power or Consumer Reports (which does incredibly detailed and extensive research of each and every make and model) all GM products and especially Cadillac have been making major strides forward in long-term reliability, even approaching Toyota and Honda, which for years have been far ahead of everyone else. Especially interesting is that the three top rung German brands, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz aren’t very good at all when it comes to reliability and are darned expensive to fix when something does go wrong, which apparently (and from personal experience!) can be often!

    Finally, we have to look where everyone is looking these days, to the Chinese. In China, GM is doing exceptionally well, both Buick and Cadillac are very sought after brands. Cadillac, just because its Cadillac and apparently a lot of Chinese hold Buick in very high esteem because the last emperor owned several Buicks, so if its suitable for the emperor, it must be quite a car! Interesting as well, many Chinese consider Mercedes to be the domain of the retiree, something many Americans think of Buicks!

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