Michael Horne
House Confidential

The 27 Bedrooms of Chris Abele

New Shorewood manse gives him three places worth $8.2 million, though one may be sold.

By - Dec 20th, 2018 12:50 pm
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Chris Abele's Shorewood mansion. Photo by Michael Horne.

Chris Abele’s Shorewood mansion. Photo by Michael Horne.

With his November purchase of a lakefront Shorewood mansion for $2,600,000, County Executive Chris Abele has expanded his home inventory to three. Abele’s domains include some 27 bedrooms, although to be sure some of them are located up in the rafters off of the servants’ steep, narrow and creaky stairway, not the wide, languorous and marble, main stairs. Likewise, his 20 bathrooms range from luxe to serviceable.

The Abele residences are assessed, in aggregate, at $8,251,000. The property tax bills should be in Abele’s mailboxes by now; they total $218,961.44, with the first payment due January 31st, should he elect to pay in installments. Now where did I leave the checkbook? I know it was in the library, but in which home?

Sweeping staircases with broad treads and low risers were a trademark of Alexander Chadbourne Eschweiler (1865-1940), a Milwaukee architect who constructed some of the finest homes in this city in the first third of the 20th century, including Abele’s new digs, which date to 1927. One did not climb an Eschweiler grand staircase; one ascended by floating up the stairs, while one’s descent was gradual — stately and grand — should guests be awaiting below, and an entrance must be made.

This home, which was featured in the 2012 Historic Milwaukee Inc. “Spaces and Traces” tour, was built for Dr. Charles E. Albright and his wife Laura Uihlein Albright (1877-1967), an heiress to the Schlitz Brewing Co. fortune. Although trained as a medical doctor, Albright worked for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. as its assistant Medical Director and as a salesman.

His success was remarkable. For thirty years, from 1906-1935, when he took himself out of competition, Doc Albright was the national sales leader of the Milwaukee-based financial colossus. Albright also served on many boards of directors, including the First Wisconsin National Bank and the First Wisconsin Trust Co. He died, at 79, in 1946. The Albright family knew tragedy. A son walked in front of a train in Oconomowoc, causing his death. A daughter, Lorraine Albright Flint was mentally unstable, and often institutionalized; her son Charles Flint grew up here with his grandparents, later buying the house across the street, where his widow lives today. (See House Confidential: “Shorewood’s Mystery Mansion” by Michael Horne, August 2013.) Another daughter, Marion Albright Tallmadge died in a 1958 house fire in Oconomowoc, under mysterious circumstances. Some believe it was set by her son, Walter David Tallmadge, who died in his eighties on October 20th 2017 after decades spent in prison in California for sexually abusing his minor daughter and her friends. He was buried this April next to his mother.

So, there may be a few ghosts lurking in the halls of the new Abele mansion, imbuing Lake Drive with a touch of the drama of Sunset Boulevard. Never mind, just head to one of the three fireplaces and warm up in the glow. An open hearth might indeed be the best way to warm this 9,762-square-foot monster, since according to the records of the Village of Shorewood Assessor, the home is heated by oil! This anachronism, which requires a truck to deliver fuel — and you better have your cash in hand when it gets there — has largely been supplanted by natural gas elsewhere.

This is illustrative of a problem with old mansions built at a time when there was a servant class to keep them running. Although the grand rooms are very grand indeed, the behind-the-scenes stuff can be the most troublesome. Plaster might crack, plumbing might leak, fuses might blow and any manner of 90-year-old mechanical equipment might go on the fritz at any time. In fact, it is guaranteed. If the windows are original, they are inefficient. If new, they will be tight, yet likely unattractive. The guest house above the garage, with its separate address and driveway, could probably use a fixing. The iron fence that separates the home from the street could certainly use a paint job.

With all of these vexatious projects likely ahead, Abele should consider himself lucky to have a getaway or two for when the sawdust flies.

Fun Fact

Abele’s other Lake Drive mansion, just blocks to the south, although in the City of Milwaukee and not on the lakefront, was also built for an Uihlein family member. According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the home is listed for sale, but it does not appear in the usual real estate sources as being so. Abele also owns a downtown condo.

The Full File on Chris Abele’s Residences

Rundown

  • Owner: Christopher Seton Abele
  • Location: Village of Shorewood
  • Neighborhood: The Village of Shorewood , at just under 2 square miles, is about the size of the Menomonee Valley neighborhood in Milwaukee, and is the most densely populated community in the state of Wisconsin. This home is in the Lakefront District, (to give it a name) and is in the extreme southeast corner of the community.
  • Subdivision: Lake Dells Park. Platted c.1922
  • Year Built: 1927; Addition 1932
  • Architect: Eschweiler & Eschweiler; Designed original and addition
  • Style: Mediterranean Revival
  • Description: A substantial and imposing mansion with countless quality elements inside and out, this lakefront home would be an ornament to any community
  • Size: Big enough to have an apartment above the garage, this home has a partial basement of 2,052 s.f.; the first floor has 4,998 s.f., and the second has 4,764 s.f. for a total of 9,762 s.f. of finished living area
  • Fireplaces: Three
  • Bedrooms: According to the assessor: 8.
  • Bathrooms: 5 Full, 2 Half Baths.
  • Rec Room: None noted, but with 21 rooms there may be a little getaway, such as a servants’ dining room that might do the trick
  • Assessment: Land: The 110,148-s.f. lot is assessed at $601,600 [$5.46/s.f.]. The improvement is assessed at $1,747,900  for a total assessed valuation of $2,349,500. Previous assessment: Could not be readily determined. Current owner bought property in November, 2018 for $2,600,000
  • Taxes: $66,463.13. Paid in Full by previous owner. County tax portion: $14,766.17
  • Garbage Collection Route and Schedule: Yellow (Mondays)
  • Polling Location: Ward 5 votes at the Shorewood High School, Voting Room: Gymnasium 1701 E Capitol Dr, Shorewood, WI.
  • Aldermanic District: The Shorewood Village Board of Trustees is comprised of 6 trustees and a president, all elected at large on a non-partisan ballot to three-year terms.
  • County Supervisor District: 3 Sheldon Wasserman
  • Walk Score: 25 out of 100 “Car-Dependent” Most Daily Errands require a car. City of Milwaukee Average: 62 out of 100.
  • Transit Score: None Found. It is a good hike to N. Oakland Ave., on bus lines. The #14 bus in Shorewood is threatened by plans under consideration.
  • How Milwaukee is it? The residence is approximately 4 miles north-northeast of Milwaukee City Hall by vehicle.

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