“A good house of a good period for a good client.” This is what Frank Lloyd Wright wrote to Barbara and Robert Elsner in 1955 of their new home. The pair had recently purchased a 1917 property the architect designed, known as the F.G. Bogk House, and were curious if the visionary had come up with any landscaping for the home. Though he had no garden plans to offer, he maintained that the house was, in every way, “good.” Ever since, the home has remained with the Elsner family, who were loyal stewards to the home: preserving the interiors, restoring the paint to its original colors, and buying back original furniture that Wright had designed for the home. Now, for the first time in nearly 70 years, the family is ready to pass the property on to its next caretaker, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Listed through Melissa LeGrand of @Properties – Christie’s International Real Estate, the home is hitting the market with a $1.5 million asking price. Currently, the Elsners’ daughter, Margaret Howland, lives in the 6,700-square-foot home and said her favorite part of residing there is “how the light moves throughout the day through the house.”
Originally built in 1916, the Bogk house shows Wright’s undoubtable inspiration and appreciation for Japanese design. “The decorative elements of the Bogk House façade, the broad overhang of its green-tiled hip roof, the substantial lintel over the windows, and the concrete urns impressed with geometricized organic forms reveal his Japanese mindset,” the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation writes of the home. Not coincidentally, the home features many similarities to Wright’s Imperial Hotel—which he was preparing to oversee the construction of when he designed the Bogk House—as well as motifs from some of his other designs, including the use of sculpture (reminiscent of Midway Gardens) and its use of a monolithic façade (similar to Unity Temple).
Milwaukee city alderman Frederick C. Bogk and his wife, Katherine Bogk were the home’s original commissioners and owners and spent around $15,000 to build the property. According to the WSJ, the home was among the most expensive residences ever built in Milwaukee at the time of its construction. Frederick lived in it until his death in 1936 and Katherine until hers in 1953. The home briefly had another owner before the Elsners stepped in.
Throughout their stewardship of the home, the Elsners took great care in keeping the home as true to Wright’s vision as possible. Barbara bought back many of the home’s original furniture from the Bogk’s daughter. The family also shopped from a Wright-designed furniture line and commissioned new pieces from Taliesin Associated Architects, which also consulted on a kitchen renovation in 1960 after Wright’s death. According to Howland, a previous owner added a first-floor half bathroom, which was not part of the original design.
The Bogk House is the only single-family Wright residence in Milwaukee and was built during a contentious point in the architect’s career. It was only a few years after a Taliesin employee had set fire to Wright’s famed compound and murdered seven people inside, including Wright’s mistress Mamah Borthwick. During these years, the architect struggled to find commissions due to scandals surrounding his personal life, though over time his reputation was restored.
According to the WSJ, the furniture as well as Wright’s letter to the Elsners can be purchased with the home for $900,000 until mid-October. Then, they will be put up for auction by Christie’s.