Story Hill neighborhood was built primarily by the firm of
George Schey & Sons. Son Perce was the primary architect.
architectural historian Chris Szczesny-Adams and her husband were
buying an 1899 home on Milwaukee’s East Side, she called her
dissertation adviser to see if he knew of its architect, Elmer Grey.
"‘You mean Elmer Grey of Pasadena?’" Szczesny-Adams
recalls him saying. "From then on, I knew I had found something
that was going to be very interesting."
One fact she
quickly learned: Before being known as Elmer Grey of Pasadena, he was
Elmer Grey of Milwaukee.
recalled in Milwaukee today, Grey has long been regarded as a star
architect in California. Starting in the early 1900s, he designed
important Southern California landmarks and English Tudor, Beaux Arts
and Craftsman Spanish Colonial homes for starlets and businessmen in
that state. His California homes are highly prized today and sell for
Max Fernekes worked in a variety of styles on Milwaukee’s East
Side, including this home in the North Point Historic District.
Born in 1872 in
Chicago, Grey moved to Milwaukee, attended public schools here and
worked for nine years as a young apprentice at the local Alfred C.
Clas and Ferry and Clas architectural firms. During that time, he
helped design the Milwaukee Public Library and the Wisconsin State
Historical Society Library in Madison.
Grey started his
own practice in 1898 in Milwaukee. One of his first works was his own
Newport Shingle-style summer home in Fox Point overlooking Lake
Michigan. The highly praised design resulted in his becoming, at a
very young age, an American Institute of Architects fellow.
moving to Pasedena, Calif., where he went on to become a
renowned architect, Elmer Grey designed numerous buildings in
Milwaukee, including this East Side home.
Grey moved to
Pasadena in 1904, initially forming a firm with Myron Hunt and then
starting a long-enduring solo practice in 1910. Grey, singly or with
Hunt, designed many notable southern California landmarks, including
the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Huntington Art Gallery (originally the
home of Henry E. Huntington) and the Pasadena Playhouse. During his
career, Grey designed about 150 prominent homes, churches, hotels and
other buildings in California and elsewhere. He died in 1963 at age 91
in the Pasadena mansion he designed for himself.
Milwaukee gems are his Fox Bay home (now on East Thorne Lane),
Milwaukee’s Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist, on North Van Buren
Street and several noteworthy large East Side houses. These include
his first solo commission — Szczesny-Adams’ 4,100-square-foot
home on East Kenwood Boulevard near UW-Milwaukee, which was featured
in a 1901 issue of House Beautiful.
anonymity in Milwaukee may not last long. Szczesny-Adams has been
researching Grey and plans to publish her results online and in other
owns the public relations firm Bentoff Communications. He is the
author of "Just The Facts: The 100-Year History of Milwaukee’s
Public Policy Forum." He writes about East Side history on the
Historic Water Tower Neighborhood website. He and his wife have lived
in a Schley home since 1998.
designed the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel in the Mediterranean
Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist, 1036 N. Van Buren St., built
in 1902, is among Grey’s works.