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“It ought to be saved” Potential demolition of historic Whitefish Bay home has some community members upset

WHITEFISH BAY, Wis. -- (CBS 58) A homeowner in Whitefish Bay is looking to demolish one of his own properties, but not everyone in the community is happy about it.

“I see a house that needs to be saved,” said Jeff Aikin, chair of the Whitefish Bay Historical Preservation Commission. “It ought to be saved.”

The house at 4640 N. Lake Drive is on the Whitefish Bay Historical Landmark Registry and Aikin said that means something.

“This is one of those homes that helps make the village what it is today,” he said.

Aikin said he first heard the home’s owner wanted to demolish it about a couple of weeks ago and he wasn’t happy.

“When you begin to cherry pick and one by one demolish a property here and there and elsewhere, the village begins to lose its charm,” Aikin said.

Built in 1926, the house is affectionately known as the ‘Herman Reel House’ named after the prominent Milwaukee businessman.

It was also designed by Richard Philipp who was also one of the architects for Holy Hill Basilica, the St. Joseph Sanctuary and Kohler village.

The current owner of the home didn’t want to talk to CBS 58 on camera but we did obtain the documents he submitted in order to get a permit to demolish the house. It lists page after page of problems - from mold to old mechanics.

“The chandeliers have been removed so there are wires sticking out,” Aikin said as he was reading from the document. “More mold.”

Aikin said he doesn’t think these problems were there in 2016 when the owner bought the house for $1.65 million.

“This is what the house looked like in 2016,” Aikin said pointing to pictures included in the house’s sale listing. “You can see the woodwork, the beam ceiling (and) the stained glass.”

There is a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 1. The owner of the property is expected to be there to make his case.

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