Highland Blvd. became a showcase in the late 1890s with many mansions built by Milwaukee’s German American elite. This 1898 Elizabethan Revival / German Renaissance Revival mansion was designed by Ferry & Clas for Gustav Pabst, the eldest son of Captain Frederick Pabst. Ferry & Clas also designed the Milwaukee Public Library on Wisconsin Avenue, St. John’s Cathedral on Jackson Street and the Frederick Pabst Mansion at 20th & Wisconsin.
The home was reportedly a wedding present from Capt. Pabst. It was titled only in the name of Gustav’s new wife, Hilda – a very uncommon arrangement at the time. Gustav was elected President of the Pabst Brewing Company after his father died in 1904. The following year the family moved into a newly built mansion on Terrace Ave. on Milwaukee’s East Side.
In August 1905 the house was bought by Fred (“Fritz”) C. Pritzlaff, who was president of the John Pritzlaff Hardware Company. It was the largest hardware company in Milwaukee and eventually became one of the largest wholesale hardware dealers and iron supply houses in the Midwest.
Pritzlaff was the longest owner of the property, occupying it for 46 years (during which entire time, his loyal chauffeur lived and raised a family in the upstairs of the coach house). When Fritz Pritzlaff died in 1951, he willed the house to the Lutheran Welfare Society of Wisconsin. In 1953 the Volunteers of America of Wisconsin took over and ran it as a “day nursery” for the children of single working mothers. The original majestic front entrance was demolished in the early 1960s to accommodate a classroom addition facing Highland, which disguises the 121-year-old mansion behind it.
In 1978, the property was purchased by three Balistrieri brothers, who for the next 20 years operated it as “Willowglen” – a residential treatment facility for autistic and emotionally disturbed children. From 1998 to 2012, the property served as home to Highland Community School, which eventually outgrew the space and moved into a more traditional school building at 17th and Highland. The current owner bought the property in August 2013. It now houses a law office, a day-care center, and a yoga studio.
Historic photos courtesy of the Pabst Mansion.