Sixteen Russell Barr Williamson designs less than one mile from FLW’s Murphy House

We had the privilege of visiting with Dorothy Hoffman again, the lifelong friend of Teddy Kibbie, who grew up in our Elizabeth Murphy House. Dorothy visited a little over a year ago with Kathy Kean, from the Shorewood Historical Society.

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With this visit, we hoped to explore other relationships in the neighborhood when the Elizabeth Murphy House was new.

For example, Dorothy’s parents, who lived on the 4200 block of Ardmore, were friends with Russell Barr Williamson, the noted architect who had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright and Arthur L Richards on the construction of the Bogk House and the Munkwitz Apartments before going into business for himself. Russell Barr (as he was fondly called by family and friends) didn’t work on the Elizabeth Murphy house, since it was built after he left Wright’s employment and moved temporarily to Kansas City in 1917 to 1918*. A year later, Williamson returned to the neighborhood to build his own home and studio about 10 blocks from here, earned his Wisconsin architect’s license, and then designed the 1921 Eggers Cottage and the 1922 Richards Bungalow, both within a few hundred feet of here.

Importantly, Wright’s former assistant Williamson would play a large role in shaping the aesthetic of Village of Shorewood.

In total, Russell Barr Williamson designed 16 homes within the 1 square mile that is Shorewood Wisconsin. As of today, just one has been dismantled and the rest are private residences. Here they are, organize by year constructed and proximity to this Elizabeth Murphy House, which is designated with a white star and the year 1918 in the southeast quadrant.

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Dorothy recalls Mr. Williamson visiting her family home when she was a child. She said he was a big, friendly man who consumed large quantities of her father’s sandwiches and beer and who had a “lot of money” — not surprising given his booming local business.

Every morning we wake to this view of Williamson’s lovely Egger’s Cottage, a cinder-bock Prairie Design. This photo was taken from our front window. and are reminded that it is a small neighborhood with a big history.

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* Barr Williamson Jr., Russell, Russell Barr Williamson Architect – A Collection, 2000, The Barr Brand.

4 thoughts on “Sixteen Russell Barr Williamson designs less than one mile from FLW’s Murphy House

  1. Good morning,
    We own the Russell Barr Williamson designed house on Beverly Rd in Shorewood, shown with the year “1922” on your map.
    This home was actually completed and advertised as an “American Rennissance” system built home, in 1919. The Oct 19, 1919 Milwaukee Journal display advertisement includes a pencil sketch of the house as well as a design layout. Williamson’s work with Wright on the ASBH project is easily seen in the design and construction details of this property.

    1. Thanks for the comment Helmut. We’ve seen that advertisement and date. For this map, we included the dates listed in Russell Barr Williamson’s unofficial biography. BTW: we’ll be featuring your home in an upcoming talk and publication and would love to meet and share notes.

      1. ‘Afternoon Nick,

        I’ve come across the 1922 date previously; Shirley duFresne-McArthur got it wrong in her seminal book, “Frank Lloyd Wright- American System Built Homes in Milwaukee”. I’m just trying to get the record straight, as it illustrates the link between this design and the original ASBH project, especially as this is the 100 year anniversary of our house.

        The design pedigree of our property has been a topic of discussion among some. William Allin Storrer, noted Wright scholar and originator of the ‘S’ numbering system of Wright works, considers our property to be a Wright ASBH design, Russell Barr Williamson’s contribution notwithstanding. Mike Lilek of the local Wright ASBH museum would likely disagree. Storrer has featured our property on a few occasions in his “FLLW Update” newsletter.

        We’ve been offering accommodations in our property via Airbnb. I have been pleased at the reception we have received for our American Renaissance System Built Home, conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright, executed by Russell Barr Williamson and ASBH builder Arthur Richards.

        Shorewood is a special place, isn’t it?

        Best Regards,

        Helmut Geissler

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