The Rae Duplex
The first Milwaukee duplex was built in the 1880’s, however it was between 1904 and 1916 that this building type came to prominence in the near-North side of the city. A duplex differs from an apartment because each unit has a private entrance, while in apartments the units have common hallways. The concentration of this building type is so high that it suggests that it may have had some cultural significance to new German upwardly mobile homeowners. The duplex was not just a place to live. It served as a rental unit too. Owners of the duplex lived on the first floor and rented out the second floor in order to generate more income.
With almost no modifications over the years, this 1909 duplex is a gable-roofed house, with wood-frame walls, and rectangular plan. The porches and balconies are important features that enable people to enjoy the outside of their houses. On the inside, the duplex shows a clear differentiation between public and private spaces via different levels of finishes and decorative trim. The front, and more formal, space has fancier wood trim, egg and dart molding in the dining room, wooden shelves with grooves for display purposes, and a built-in cabinet. The entrance to the living room once had two Ionic or Corinthian columns— today we can just see the remnants of it.
The dining room connects the social spaces to the private portion of the house, where we can see the trim differentiation. Bedroom and hallways have a molded trim while the bathroom has a slightly fancier one. The kitchen leads to stairs that access the basement and the second floor. The second floor is almost identical to the first floor plan.
Rosalind Cox, interview and documentation by George Ananchev, Paula Chinato, Bridgette Binczak, June 2014.
Shannon E. Honl, "Popular Houses of West Allis 1880-1980," Architecture Graduate Thesis, Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, <http://www.westalliswi.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/364> (Accessed July 7, 2014)
Thomas C. Hubka and Judith T. Kenny, "The Workers' Cottage in Milwaukee's Polish Community: Housing and the Process of Americanization, 1870-1920," Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture
Vol. 8, People, Power, Places (2000), pp. 33-52.
Owner Rosalind Cox explains the architecture of the house.
Above: Historian Kelly Jo Noack's paper on the vernacular architecture of Milwaukee's near north side describes the Milwaukee duplex building type in more details.