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When this article first ran on March 14, 2022, one of Milwaukee’s best-kept German Renaissance Revival jewels was for sale.
The George Schuster Mansion, which has been operating as a bed and breakfast under Laura Sue and Rick Mosier for about 20 years, and is colloquially known as The Red Castle, 3209 W. Wells St., was listed on the market for $2.2 million.
Now it will be auctioned with its furnishings and equipment by Beth Rose Real Estate and Auctions.
Online bidding – which starts at $500,000 – will close at noon CST on Saturday, Dec. 17. An open house is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 5, from noon until 3 p.m.
The 1891 brick and sand stone mansion was designed by Crane and Barkhausen for tobacco magnate George Schuster – not as some believe, for the department store owner Ed Schuster – and has eight bedrooms, seven and a half baths across 9,300 square feet on a third-of-an-acre lot in the Historic Concordia Neighborhood.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and to the state register three years later.
Schuster was born in Ohio in 1850 and arrived in Milwaukee in 1872 and in the following years, was a partner in Schuster & Fitts, a wholesale tobacco company. He married Nora Devendorf in 1878.
“Schuster’s fortunes were apparently riding high in 1891,” notes the Historic Designation Report prepared by the city when the house was being considered for landmark status. “Having lived on the west side where the preponderance of middle class, upper middle class and wealthy Germans resided, it was natural for him to have chosen a west side location for his permanent home.
“Wisconsin Avenue was already populated with numerous mansions going back to the city’s earliest years. ... Wells Street in comparison was relatively new and just coming into its own in the late 1880s.”
He purchased the site for his lavish mansion in August 1891 and bought adjoining plots soon after. In September, a construction permit for the house was pulled.
The house was estimated to cost $23,000 for construction alone.
A beautiful coach house designed by the same architects was built at the same time.
Crane and Barkhausen also designed this red gem facing Lake Park.
“The house must have raised a few eyebrows in its day,” the report continues. “There was nothing else like it on Wells Street that we know of. The bright red sandstone, bright red brick and red terra cotta are striking and the eclectic styling was definitely a concession to European castles with references to Romanesque, Gothic, Chateauesque, German Renaissance Revival and some Colonial Revival all on one building.”
There was the de rigueur tower and porch. But ...
“It bested its rivals, however, by adding another tower at the southeast corner and a bartizan at the northeast corner. There is a veritable riot of patterns and forms and shapes on the façade from fleur-de-lis to trefoils to rondels to pilasters to lions’ heads.
“Rather than dissolve in a mass of chaos, however, the use of a single color palette, the wrapping of the first story in sandstone blocks, the use of brick on the second story and the carrying through of shaped gables on three of the four elevations helps to unify the design. Credit has to be given to the builders and craftsmen who worked on the house as well. The complicated angles and transitions and layering of details took exceptional skill.”
George and Nora moved into the house, presumably, in 1892. Four years later, Nora sued her husband for divorce and took their two daughters. Two sons remained with him.
In 1901, George married Mary Bloodgood and the couple had two children. Five years later, Schuster again tapped Charles Crane (no longer in partnership with Carl Barkhausen, who had since left the city) to design an investment property next door at 3217 W. Wells St.
It seems that for a time the Schusters lived in Mukwonago – in a building that later was home to Heaven City restaurant – but returned by 1920 to the Wells Street home, where Schuster died in 1922.
Their stunning house then sat empty in 1923 before being sold in early 1924 to Jean B. Olinger, who converted it into six apartments. The designation report then lists a series of owners over the years, including L. T. Zimmermann, Edwin Larson, CGT Corporation, Verdelle Leistikow/Hillpointer, Randall Crocker, Michael Elconis, Jack Powell, Roy Nelson, and Arne and Eunice Vedum.
Over the years, the home – divided up – came to be known as the Redstone Apartments. In 1982, it was listed in a classified ad as an "eight-family."
Conversion from apartments back to a "mansion" and restoration work was undertaken in the Vedums and a previous owner, the late Terry Palzer.
Next, in 2008, came the Mosiers, who lived in Illinois. They came to Milwaukee for a stay at the nearby Brumder Mansion and soon found themselves running the Schuster Mansion as a bed and breakfast with seven guest rooms.
The Mosiers have said they've invested around $1 million in restoration work that has included creating a Victorian-themed garden, repairing vintage wallpaper and replacing more than 100 windows.
Now, the place, which appears to have been maintained in tip-tip condition could be yours.
As the original sale listing notes, “The Schuster Mansion is filled with hardwood floors, period woodwork, pocket doors, high ceilings and beautifully restored features of the era. Comfortable parlors, formal dining room, library, conservatory, and delightful kitchen grace the first floor.
"Four full bedrom suites, three single rooms, very spacious Innkeepers quarters complete the upper levels. Beautifully appointed surrounded by lovely landscaping, Victorian gardens and paver and stone patio.”
Find the original sale listing and many more photographs here. Further information on the auction and auctioneer can be found here.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.