Villa Uhrig, located at 1727 North 34th Street (between Lisbon and West Walnut) is a historic landmark built in 1853-54. The house is a two-story structure which is rectangular in shape with a 360 sq.ft. single story wing on the northwest side and a 160 sq.ft. single story wing on the southeast. The building is crowned with a hip roof and a 96 sq. ft. bracketed, rectangular cupola.
Built in an Italianate style popular in the 1850s, the villa may well be the earliest existing example of this architectural style in Milwaukee, as well as an example of a suburban summer villa of the era. Compared to its neighbors the house sits diagonally on its lot facing northwest. This is because the Villa use to be part of the multi-acre summer estate which fronted the Lisbon Plank Road. The location which later came to be known as Walnut Hill was only considered a part of the city of Milwaukee in 1890s. Initially a vacation home, in the last decade of the nineteenth century, a few years after the death of Franz Joseph Uhrig in the summer of 1874, the Uhrig family moved into this villa to live here year round.
The villa's layout reflects social and usage heirarchy. The service part of the villa was sharply divided from the rest as were the working and living places of the servants. The kitchen, servants’ residences, storage and cellar, and a cistern was located in the lower level. Other daily living spaces were located at the first level and the bed rooms and more private spaces on the second level. Food was served in the dining room at the first floor and usually lifted up by a dumbwaiter (a small freight elevator). The attic led to a rectangular cupola with a viewing gallery. In the nineteenth century, the panoramic view of Milwaukee's countryside from this perch must have been a popular destination for the villa residents.
By 1943 when the then owners, the Lademans, left the villa, most aspects of the 20-acre estate had disappeared. Perhaps due to the economic, aesthetic, and urban forces at play-the lot was subdivided and sold, new streets were cut through the estate and the lattice garden house at the heart of the property was gone. Only the Vila building remained. After the departure of the Lademans, the new owners subdivided the spaces within the villa too and rented them out to different tenants. Remnants and marks of these divisions persist. Walls sub-dividing the second floor rooms, additional attached baths, and faucets in the rooms demonstrates how the upper floors were subdivided and rented out to boarders.
Nader Sayedi, UWM research paper, Spring 2014.
Historic Designation Study, 1997.
1894 and 1910 Sanborn (insurance) maps of the area show that the Uhrig property was sold and subdivided into city lots.
This is how a UWM research Paper describes the Vila construction:
On a slope at the southern end of the lot, Uhrig built his mansion high on the property facing north and parallel to the Lisbon plank-road. A columned porch was attached to the front of the house. At the heart of the property was a twenty-foot tall cast iron fountain (shipped in pieces from Philadelphia by Uhrig). A gravel driveway was cut south from the Lisbon Plank Road and it then split halfway up the hill to form a large circle which swept past the front of the villa. A section of the circle - directly in front of the house - was paved with brick. The circle surrounded the fountain. The wrought iron gates of the main entrance of the property were added later when they were shipped from Uhrig’s brewery in St. Louis with the iron fence and posts. Other parts of the property added to the estate later to build up an elite rural suburban mansion: a stable-barn at the far east, a brick gardener’s residence at the far west, a garden pavilion at the east front and an out-house (called the "eagle house") at the back of the villa, and later came a special building for pheasants, a chicken house and a spectacular three-story-high pump house with a windmill on top. Gardening and outdoor features of the property an important component, was influenced by Downing’s Idea of modern or natural style, instead of formal and geometric style of landscape design. A footpath bisected the central circle and went north from the front door, passing between two rows of lilacs, to the fountain surrounded by benches and “spreading away from this focal point were two apple orchards, numerous flower beds, gooseberries, currants and two rows of poplar trees which formed an "allee" through which Uhrig would later take his daily walks.” Uhrig’s intervention of the environment in this piece of land was actually his intentional motivation to shape the landscape as a suitable scene for his family’s performance as elites.