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Outrage grows over Milwaukee Co. Executive Chris Abele's plan to demolish historic Shorewood mansion

Posted at 6:27 PM, May 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-31 19:27:46-04

SHOREWOOD — Outrage has grown over news that Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele wants to demolish a historic Lake Drive mansion.

Sarah Hambrook's family lived at the home for more than three decades. A few months ago Abele bought the home for $2.6 million.

The 1920s mansion was designed by Alexander Eschweiler, who designed several buildings and mansions in Milwaukee. It was built for Dr. Charles Albright, who served as an assistant medical director for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

"We were excited. We thought great, there will be a good steward of this historic home," said Robert Dean, President of the Shorewood Historical Society.

"We understood the significance to the City of Milwaukee as a whole and wanted to make sure everybody got to feel that piece of history," said Hambrook. "We never imagined that this home could be up for destruction."

Hambrook's family learned about Abele's intentions after Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity ReStore made a Facebook post. In it they announced they were invited to salvage the mansion.

"Total shock, and I could easily cry. I mean that because it's a loss of a masterpiece by an extraordinary architect," said Win Thrall, an architecture expert who has researched Eschweiler's work extensively.

Abele released a statement in response to the outcry saying:

"My fiancée, Jennifer and I love the neighborhood and that's why we are committed to a design that respects and honors it. We brought in Habitat because we love the work they do and wanted to make sure that they could get as much out of the deconstruction process to help their work as possible."

Hambrook said she understands Abele owns the home, but hopes he will change his mind.

"He paid the money for it, and people are saying it’s his right to tear it down. It’s his property. I’m not contesting that. I’m contesting what is the correct thing to do? What is the thing that respects our heritage, respects the other citizens of Milwaukee? I would like the public to be able to voice their opinion on that," said Hambrook.

Shorewood's Village Manager said Abele's application is under review.