Built in 1876, the house was
designed by E. Townsend Mix. He was the foremost architect of
the time, but he usually designed churches and public buildings
like Milwaukees Grain Exchange, Faith said. He only did
six or seven homes and those were favors for close friends.
Chandler, a successful Realtor and
lumberman, was one of those friends, Faith explained. The piece of
land he purchased presented, at the time, an unobscured view all
the way to the Fox River. The home was situated to take advantage
of that view. Since it was originally a summer home, the house
never took on the size or trappings of a full-fledged mansion. But
every inch, from the gold leaf ornamentation on the front door to
the built-in wooden benches on the side porch, is marked with
absolute attention to detail.
The vestibule, for example, is
finished with hand-painted wallpaper above leather wainscoting,
intricately embossed. The patterned floor features a complex
arrangement of tiles imported from England. A window that extends
nearly floor to ceiling fills space that once served as the door
to the adjacent porch and gazebo. Wide woodwork throughout the
home has been hand-grained, a process in which a base coat is
covered by a glaze, then finished with a graining tool.
The entry opens to the central
receiving hall with leather wainscoting embossed in an even more
intricate design. The hall originally extended the length of the
house with rooms opening out on either side.
The same center hall theme is
repeated throughout the house, Faith said. You can even see
how rooms seem to open off of it in the basement.
and Faith Schlieter stand on the porch of their Victorian
The halls most unusual feature
is its ceiling with 135 plaster ornaments lined up in perfect
rows. Faith believes them to be pineapples, the symbol of
hospitality. Today the hall is filled with a mysterious mix of
limited edition pianos, organs, victrolas and the first of Ernsts
many toy collections.
My husband used to be a singer
and our two sons were very musical, Faith said. We have kind
of a musical museum here.
On the right, a curtained arch
leads to a comfortable parlor decorated with wallpaper in
dramatically patterned shades of deep mauve. The paper is new, but
looks as if it has been in place since the home was built. An
artist, Faith has an eye for choosing products currently available
that will help tell the story of the homes past. For clues, she
refers to a thick album filled with photos gathered from former
The house tells us what to do,
Once converted to be the main room
of a separate apartment, the parlor still has a screen door that
opens to the porch. At the time though, no one would ever have
entered directly into the parlor, Faith said.
As in many Eastlake-style
Victorians, the rooms ceiling is painted sky-blue and a pretty
sitting bay overlooks the side yard. During much of the year, a
century-old German feather tree, a family heirloom, stands in the
large front window. School children who tour the home love to see
its period ornaments and the Schlieters enjoy sharing it, as well
as the rest of their home, with young visitors.
We planned to do that from the
beginning, Faith said. We always wanted it to be a place
where kids could touch things and enjoy them.
Initially, the cottage featured a
library and billiard room behind the parlor. During the first
conversion, those rooms were replaced with a small kitchen and
To the left of the main hall, the
first archway opens to a second sitting room. Done in lighter
shades of mauve and blue, the airy room feels both bright and
soothing. A large pump organ with wooden pipes dominates the west
wall of the room and was the main reason why the Schlieters
started looking for a big old house in the first place. Finding a
home that could house such a large instrument was important to the
couple, Ernst said.
kitchen features a large pantry cabinet built in 1876 which
the couple purchased through the Channel 10 Auction.
Comfortable chairs also invite
listening to one of the many lively tunes collected on rolls for
the child-size player piano, one of
the homes many interesting player pieces. A Steinway
reproducing piano on the east wall uses a special roll. Its
digital coding records not only the notes, but the expressions of
famous musicians as they played, re-creating the actual sound of a
concert grand performance. A second sitting room, filled with
music boxes, Faiths original art and wonderful pieces by other
artists that the couple started collecting in the 1950s, opens to
the dining room.
This was the original reception
hall, Ernst said. When you had guests, they arrived by horse
and carriage. The porch outside this room is built at the level of
the carriage step.
Today the dining rooms surfaces
feature three patterns of paper cleverly assigned to highlight
architectural features. In one corner, a colorful jukebox is set
to play dance music from the big band era. A small alcove that
provided a place for ladies to sit while they waited for the
carriage to arrive from the quarters at the rear of the property
still feels welcoming today.
The kitchen features a large pantry
cabinet built in 1876. Newer cupboards mirror the style of the old
pieces and a marble backsplash flanks the sink. The original front
doorbell hangs from a hook on the wall. Ernst pointed out that the
house had indoor plumbing from the beginning, rare for the period.
Above the kitchen, the cistern that stored household water still
Just about everything that was
here when the house was built is still here, Ernst said.
The original floors, he said, were
pine planks. Hardwood floors were installed over them in 1909
during the homes first restoration. A furnace was also added at
that time and heated the home for nearly 80 years.
The architects attention to
detail extended to the very core of the building, creating a sense
of solidity and warmth more than 125 years later. Door frames are
formed using five separate pieces of wood. Exterior and interior
walls are constructed with 2-by-6 boards. Double-plastering
approximately three inches apart created two dead air spaces
between walls, the equivalent of insulation in 1876.
What was most amazing is that,
when hangers hung the wallpaper everything matched perfectly,
Faith said. The house hadnt shifted at all.
Upstairs the center hallway is
filled with old, well-played-with dollhouses, games and toys from
the 20th century. One end of the play area forms the second level
of the homes three-story tower. At the homes front, the
charming master bedroom is papered in a soft tone-on-tone rose
pattern. Its windows are curtained in lace.
Behind the master bedroom, the
original nursery has been converted to a full bath. Painted in
biscuit tones drawn from the blue striped wallpaper purchased
during the most recent restoration, the modernized room still
feels as if it was never touched since the turn of the last
The room was one that did not
evolve from a plan. One thing led to another, Faith said.
First we found the paper, then we had to paint because the
existing white walls and woodwork just didnt look right. Then
we found just the right curtains.
Schlieters love to collect musical pieces including this
jukebox that sits in the corner of the dining room. The
jukebox still plays dance music from the big band era.
Unable to find a border that went
well with the paper they chose, the Schlieters painstakingly cut
borders from wallpaper rolls to mimic crown molding and plate
rails. The choice also allowed the Schlieters to maximize their
financial resources while maintaining a sense of the homes
Most visitors cant wait to climb
all the way to the top of the tower. The way up the wooden attic
stairs is marked by amazingly extensive stacks of books and games.
Blackie the cat basks comfortably in sunlight streaming through
windows on all four sides of the roomy tower. The room is
unfinished though the Schlieters have had to install new balcony
railings and replace wood thats been damaged by time and
People used to watch the races
at the Fountain Springs Hotel from here, Ernst said. Today
its a great place to read and we can see fireworks from seven
or eight places up here.
Like many old houses, the
Schlieters ownership almost seemed to come about by destiny.
Keeping their eyes open for an old place big enough to store the
pipe organ, they came into a very small inheritance which allowed
them to buy the house in 1979.
We didnt even see the whole
house, Faith said. A friend called me the day it went on the
market. We arrived just as the first viewers were leaving to think
about it. We called our sons and bought the place by 6 oclock.
Someone had to save the place.
In addition to its connection to
one of Waukeshas historic families, the backyard is home to the
Eocede Spring, limestone-lined and covered with heavy rock. Named
for the goddess of dawn, its water was tested to be of the same
healing properties as that of Bethesda Spring. The original
carriage house has been left pretty much untouched. It still has
storage for carriages on one side and a tack room and stalls on
the other where wooden signs indicate that horses June Bug and
Dandy once made their home there.
Its a wonderful house,
Faith said. And its such a fun house to live in!