Ferdinand Schlesinger was one of the wealthiest men in Milwaukee. There is a story that on a trip to Paris he purchased a beautiful crystal chandelier for a new home he had recently built. He carried it back to Milwaukee in his suitcase.
This chandelier ended up in his daughter, Gertrude’s home. Gertrude had been married to Osker Roller, an officer in the Austrian army but returned to Milwaukee in 1915 and filed for divorce. Osker died before the divorce was final making her a widow.
Gertrude married Myron MacLaren in 1918, also a wealthy Milwaukee socialite. As a wedding present he built a Tudor Revival house for his new bride and construction began in 1920. Gertrude’s father died on his way to California in 1921. The house was completed in 1923 and the chandelier still hangs there today.
Gertrude herself has an interesting history. She divorced Myron in 1927. She stayed in the house and he moved out. She then married Clifford McMillen in 1928. They left the house in charge of a caretaker while they traveled and moved around. In the 1930’s they divorced.
At this time both Myron and Gertrude were single at the same time and re-married in 1936. They moved back into the Turdor home with all their children from the various marriages. Myron died in 1941 at the age of 54.
Gertrude continued to live in the house until 1947 when she married Theron MacLeod. In 1949 she sold the house to the University of Wisconsin for $80,000.
In 1950 Gertrude divorced Theron and married Douglas Parmentier in Los Angeles, California. It was her sixth marriage.
For a while the house served as a woman’s dormitory. Today it is known as Alumni House and serves as a center for university alumni. It sits on 3.2 acres on a bluff above Lake Michigan.
Wow – lots of divorce back then! I have been in that house, it is beautiful.
Because you are an alumni?
Such a great building; I’ve never been to Milwaukee, but I’ll make sure to put this landmark on my list of places to visit.
Yes and try to get inside as well!
Will do – thanks.
I never knew Milwaukee had so many wonderful landmarks!
I may be able to provide you with some additional details about this house and the family who built it. I worked in UWM’s Alumni House for four years and sort of became its self-appointed historian, compiling all the facts I could about the house. I’ve recently written a brief history narrative, but did not know about Gertrude’s sixth marriage to Douglas Parmentier. Can you tell me your source? And let me know if you’re interested in reading my history narrative?
By the way, to your other commenters, Milwaukee has LOTS of incredibly beautiful and historically significant buildings downtown and homes on the upper east side near Alumni House. There’s a great event each September called Doors Open Milwaukee when you can get inside places not normally open to the public. Just Google Doors Open Milwaukee 2015 for details.
The source for Gertrude’s sixth marriage is the Milwaukee Sentinel, March 9, 1950.