WAUKESHA — Lisa Salb
said she broke into tears in the courtroom after the
judge made her decision Tuesday.
Today marks exactly 22
months to the date since she and her husband, Bob, made a $1,000
offer to the city of Waukesha to purchase the nearly
century-and-a-half-year-old Blair House, with plans of turning
it into a bed-and-breakfast.
That process had been
delayed for more than a year by a lawsuit brought forth by
Waukesha Masonic Lodge No. 37, whose members sued the city last
September, claiming they were the rightful owners of the Madison
But following a trial
Tuesday, Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Kathryn Foster tossed the
suit, saying the Masons had failed to prove the city had put the
house to impermissible uses.
“We were elated,” Salb
said. “I started crying because it had been so long, so so
The Masons filed the suit
against last year, claiming the city had violated the last will
and testament of Henry E. Blair, who was mayor of Waukesha in
Blair passed away in 1957
and left the 138-year-old Italianate- style brick home to the
city, saying in his will that the city couldn’t use it for
commercial purposes, storage, a tool shed or warehouse. He also
said in the will that the city could sell the property, but it
had to use the proceeds for a “civic purpose such as
playgrounds, schools, parks or hospital work,” according to
6,000square-foot building has housed various nonprofits
including Safe Babies Healthy Families, and also has been
affiliated with Pro-Health Care.
“We agreed that the lawsuit
was frivolous from the start,” Salb said, “so for it to have
taken so much time ... and the judge made it clear that the city
had not violated the will.”
Following Foster’s ruling,
the Masons have 30 days to file an appeal, otherwise the Salbs
can once against move forward with their plans to renovate the
Eugene Johnson, who
represented the Masons during the trial, could not be reached
for comment Wednesday afternoon.
A member of the
Waukesha Preservation Alliance, Salb said she got a
firsthand look at the historic home while serving as a
docent during one of the organization’s “Preservation
Days” events in May 2013.
“It’s the perfect
location,” she said, “and the way it is now, with the beautiful
dining room and the solarium off the back ... I had just seen
that it had possibilities.”
Salb, who is an
architectural designer with Bielinski Homes in Pewaukee, could
immediately see how she and her husband’s plans to renovate the
house could work.
She said they have a
five-year plan to make the house guest-ready, which includes
some work on the inside.
In March, the Common
Council unanimously rejected another offer — this one for
$110,000 from Taylor’s Rental Property LLC — that would have
seen the Blair House torn down and replaced with rental
During that meeting, Salb
told the council that the house’s condition did not warrant
demolition, and she and her husband planned to preserve it and
all its historic details.
“We had told (Waukesha City
Attorney) Brian Running that we were in it for the long run,”
she said Wednesday. “We can’t wait to get started.”