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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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.