Preserving our Past: The B.F. Saltzstein House

May 16, 2014

By Tom Fehring:

This Lannon Stone and brick Tudor Revival residence was constructed in 1928 for Benjamin F. and Edna D. Saltzstein.  The design features stucco and 1/2 timbering on the second floor and a turret tower facing toward the street entrance.  It was constructed by Velgreth & Papenthein for an estimated $45,000.  The building sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan

Benjamin Franklin Saltzstein was born 4 November 1884.  A family record lists him as follows[1]:

Benjamin was a lawyer, having graduated from the University of Michigan. He was a skilled businessman and entrepreneur. He is recalled as being a straight-shooter, honest, and respected. He could be intimidating and opinionated, but was a very caring person at heart. He was a big cigar smoker who would “hold court” in a tower room in his Lake Drive house. He hosted bridge games once or twice weekly. He was a big Milwaukee Braves fan.

He was devoted to his extended family, who often solicited his advice. He took over the mantle of “head of the clan” after his older brother passed away and was always ready to help a family member. Benjamin was President of Temple Emanuel B’ne Jeshurn, active in the Bar Association and the Jewish Federation. He owned a lot of real estate. To his uncle’s recollection, he was the first of the family to own an automobile, a Franklin with a front end like a Mack truck. A quote Uncle Buster remembered from his time working in Ben’s office (right after law school): “I never wrote a contract I couldn’t break.” Benjamin, along with his brothers, made annual pilgrimages to Detroit to visit his parents’ gravesites. 

The residence was identified by the Wisconsin State Historical Society in a 1980 survey.  An intensive survey of Whitefish Bay, conducted in 2010-2011, determined that the residence is “immediately eligible for listing on the National Record of Historic Places.”

A swimming pool was added to the site in recent years, surrounded by a brick wall. A story is told that the owner of the house at the time was denied permission to build a high fence in front of the property to block on-coming headlights from Lexington Boulevard. In order to get around the issue the owner had the pool built in the front yard, which required a high surrounding fence. The editor has been unable to verify this story.

[1] Saltzstein family tree, edited by Peggy Saltzsein and her cousins in 2003.


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