Brumder Mansion ... Featured on the Cover of When
I arrive the massive front door is open and propped invitingly ajar. The gentle
murmur of conversation and musical clinking of dishes draws me into the vestibule
and through to the grand foyer as I enter a turn-of-the-century jewel & dash;
a magnificent brick estate facing what used to be Milwaukee's historic Grand Avenue.
Richly colored walls, plush, patterned rugs, and a grand gothic staircase that
winds its way up to the second floor transport me back to the lavish luxuries
of a bygone era, when the art of presentation ruled the day, and homes such as
this were opulent symbols of a prospering society.
"Milwaukee Home and Fine
by Sharon Miller Cindrich
Brumder Mansion is one of a handful of stately residences still anchoring the
sidewalks along Wisconsin Avenue in the city's storied Grand Avenue neighborhood.
Located just down the road from the Pabst Mansion, plans for the home were drawn
up in 1902 and the lofty structure was built in 1910 by George Brumder, a successful
Milwaukee businessman who owned a publishing company, for his son, George Jr.
Over the next century, the Brumder family left the Mansion, and the house served
as a boarding house, then a parsonage, and finally an activity center for the
time took its toll on the historic home, and when Carol Hirschi first set her
sights on the residence in 1997, the Mansion was far removed from its original
splendor and decorum. Bedrooms had been converted to offices, the lower level
billiard room was now a theater, and a small chapel had been added to the second
"Pipes were frozen and there was no working plumbing or heat. Out
of 17 radiators, I had to replace 15," says Hirschi, adding that the toilets and
sinks didn't work, and the wood floors in the theater were buckling. Worse, the
antique lighting was gone, there was indoor/outdoor carpeting throughout, and
the walls were all painted an antiseptic white. "It was like a gigantic white
The potential was there, however, and Hirschi could see the
faint glimmer of this diamond in the rough. Oak woodwork and leaded glass, a grand
staircase, and a tile fireplace designed by Neideken, an interior designer who
worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, all held tantalizing signs of promise. With naοve
enthusiasm, Hirschi closed on the property in August, and in April of the following
year opened the Brumder Mansion Bed and Breakfast with two rooms.
a background in theater, Hirschi has a flair for setting a stage that brilliantly
compliments the Victorian, Arts & Crafts, and Gothic attributes of the home. The
wood floors are adorned with soft oriental rugs, billowing window dressings drape
the high windows, and period lighting illuminates antique furniture. Vintage photographs
and heirloom trinkets add a charming air of authenticity to the home.
lady's plumed hat propped in the vestibule, a silver mesh clutch draped over the
arm of a chair, and well-loved books on the tables make it seem as if the original
inhabitants had merely stepped away for a moment. Yet Brumder is no dusty museum
reconstruction. The free-flowing floor plan, the warmth of the hostess, and the
comfortably plump chairs in the parlor contradict stereotypes of stuffy Victorian
styles or cold, intimidating Gothic trends, and remind you that an exuberant life
is lived here. The Mansion welcomes you in, and makes you feel right at home.
While the dιcor celebrates the past, the accommodations are anything but passe.
All guest rooms have a private bath, and the majority feature a Jacuzzi, whirlpool
or imported marble shower. The Mansion also offers guests modern conveniences
such as wireless Internet, cable television, DVD/CD players and air conditioning.
the melange of design elements, the rooms in the Mansion range in size and personality
– each with unique antique accents, backdrops and ambiance. George's Suite,
named for the former master of the house, contains three rooms and is the largest
of the accommodations. Furnished almost entirely with antiques, the suite has
two ornamental fireplaces, a sitting room and a queen-size bed.
Suite, showcasing an ornamental oak fireplace with fluted columns, is named for
its sunny yellow decor, while Marion's Suite features soft blues, grays, pinks
and blacks. The walls in Gynth's Suite are faux painted in reds and yellows, and
the room features a king-size bed, a gas fireplace with a 19th-century slate mantel,
and a luxurious double whirlpool.
Beyond the guest rooms, visitors can
peruse collections of books and magazines in the library, or play one of the many
board games available in the roomy parlor. Guests of the Brumder also enjoy complimentary
wine and soft drinks, along with Swiss chocolates and the Mansions' signature
chocolate chip cookies.
theatrical interests make the Brumder Mansion an exceptional place for events.
The Mansion has played host to weddings, receptions, corporate meetings and teas
with the Queen, complete with her Majesty's presence & dash; or at least a convincing
likeness. During the winter holidays, the Brumder has offered A Christmas Carol
dinner show – a reading of A Christmas Carol in its entirety with full traditional
English Christmas-goose dinner, hot wassail, tea and sweets. The reader? Charles
Dickens himself – as portrayed by accomplished actor Stephen Parr.
Rumor has it that the Mansion may have a few ghostly occupants, so Halloween offers
yet another opportunity for Hirschi to showcase both the house and her own theatricality.
The wonderfully spooky house has played host to past performances of The Dracula
Papers: Van Helsing and Haunted History, where scenes took place throughout the
mansion by candlelight. "They were done deadly serious, but that's part of the
fun," explains Hirschi, describing the playfully eerie events created for grown-up
fans of the holiday. "It was more cerebral than your typical Halloween experience."
September, Ghost Hunter University will visit the Brumder. During the event, which
is affiliated with Haunted Times Magazine, guests can learn about ghost hunting
and join in paranormal investigations. Unexplained noises, bad dreams and moved
objects have given the Mansion a reputation for being haunted. Though the events
have been noted in Weird Wisconsin and listed among other haunted bed and breakfasts
in the state, Hirschi assures guests that any paranormal visitors are friendly.
"I think the ghosts are all theater groupies, that's my hunch," says Hirschi,
who recently purchased the property next door and is working on an expansion of
her Wisconsin Avenue offerings.
Owning a bed and breakfast can be exhausting,
especially one requiring the extensive renovations needed to create the Brumder's
luxurious appeal. However, Hirschi says despite its labor intensive nature, there
are definite perks. "I figured if I lived where I worked, I would never be late
for work," she jokes. Another bright spot is working with her fellow hosts –
her faithful dogs – who follow her around everyday, greet guests and selflessly
assist with the clean up of any tasty morsel that might drop to the floor. "They
are one of the amenities," says Hirschi. As guests of the Brumder Mansion can
attest, this grand old home has amenities to spare.