Preserving Our Past

A regular feature about the historically significant buildings in Whitefish Bay

Nov. 9, 2008


The Frederick Sperling House


1016 East Lexington Blvd., Whitefish Bay, WI 53217

1016 East Lexington Blvd.

One of the Ernest Flagg Stone Masonry Houses of Milwaukee County, this residence was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 12, 1985. This two-story Flagg System house faces south. The exterior walls are Tennessee quartzite. There is a steep gable roof. There is a square tower which has stairs to the second floor inside. A one-story section links the house with the original garage. The service entrance is in this section. There are four gable dormers and two chimneys with distinctive round openings. The plan of the house is irregular and window and door openings are symmetrical. There is a beam-and-girder ceiling throughout the first floor. There is a fireplace in the living room and casement windows which open inward. A family room was added on the first floor with bedrooms above. The laundry room on the first floor was converted to a bathroom. There is a partial basement. The upstairs bathroom was one step above the level of the floor hallway but a former owner removed the plumbing and lowered the floor. Access to the attic is through an opening in the bathroom ceiling. There is a sunken garbage can in the yard and northwest from it is a well which had water pure enough to drink in the 1930s.

The house is architecturally significant because it is one of a group of stone masonry houses built designed by renowned architect Ernest Flagg and built in accordance with his unique methods of construction by local builder Arnold F. Meyer & Company Inc. It is also significant because it closely resembles the house illustrated on plate 15 of Flagg's book on small houses.

Ernest Flagg (1857-1947) obtained his architectural education at the Atelier Paul Blondel, Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1897, he won the competition for the Singer Building in that city, and in 1907, completed the tower, all in Beaux Arts eclectic style. At the time, the Singer Tower with its forty-five stories and 612 feet of elevation was the tallest office building in the world. Among his many commissions include the United States Naval Academy buildings at Annapolis, the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., and St. Luke's Hospital in New York City.

He devoted the end of his career to designing affordable, yet aesthetic housing. In 1922, at the age of 65, he wrote a definitive work on the subject entitled: "Small Houses: Their Economic Design and Construction (Essays on the Fundamental Principles of Design and Descriptive Articles on Construction)." The essays describe a system for building houses that employ "mosaic rubble" outside walls constructed using a slip-form technique, solid plaster interior walls, and extensive use of ridge-dormers or ridge skylights, to use the space under sloping roof rafters.

This residence was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 12, 1985.


Note: Please respect the rights of private property owners when viewing this or any of properties listed in this column.



About "Preserving Our Past"

The Village of Whitefish Bay is a community of residential neighborhoods, punctuated with an attractive walking district of fine stores, excellent schools and vibrant houses of worship. It is filled with homes and other buildings that are architecturally rich, well-designed and maintained, and diverse in character.

Its residents have contributed much to the broad cultural, political, economic and social history of the area. And its residents are interested in maintaining their connections with an historic past.

To help maintain these connections, the Historic Preservation Commission is in the process of identifying buildings and historic sites that it believes may be architecturally significant or historic. On a weekly basis we will feature a building or site from our inventory.



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