Preserving Our Past
A regular feature about the historically significant buildings in Whitefish Bay
The Russell Barr Williamson Residence
4860 North Oakland Avenue, Whitefish Bay, WI 53217
A brick Prairie School Style residence, this house was designed by Russell Barr Williamson as his own residence. It was constructed in 1921. The design reportedly is based on Frank Lloyd Wright's Henry Allen House in Wichita, KS. Russell Barr Williamson (1893-1962) was the supervising architect for that house while working for Frank Lloyd Wright and apparently adapted that design for his own home in Whitefish Bay. Williamson designed his own furniture for the living room, dining room and sunroom which are separated only by low planters. Williamson and his wife lived here for thirty years and then moved to Oostburg, Wisconsin where he continued his practice until his death at the age of 71.
Williamson worked for several years as supervisor of architectural planning in the office of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was the supervising architect for two of Wright's Prairie style projects - the Bogk House and the American System Build prefab houses built by the Milwaukee developer Arthur L. Richard. For a time, Barr also designed houses as a member of the American Builders Service.
He came to Milwaukee in 1918 and, working on his own, created smaller homes with an emphasis on economy. Williamson returned however to the long, low "prairie" profile in 1921 for his own home which has a cross axial plan with the wings protecting a private garden area. Its similarity to a house designed by Wright in Kansas City has been noted.
He designed several Whitefish Bay homes. His best known work in Milwaukee is the Eagle's Club, built in 1925 at 2401 West Wisconsin Avenue. Williamson's career spanned more than forty decades.
The residence was identified by the Wisconsin State Historical Society in a 1980 survey. It was declared a Milwaukee County Landmark Designation in 1977.
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.
- Archive: Read about the village's other historic buildings
- From the commission:
About our inventory and a request for help
- More more information: Historic designation application and procedures online
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