building of the week: senator william blair house
Key Project Information
Address: 434 Madison Street, Waukesha WI
Year Built: 1877
National Register of Historic Places Designation: 1983
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Samuel Dodd (local builder and architect)
Square Footage: 4,353 square feet
Historical Use: Private Residence (House)
Current Use: Transitioning to a Bed & Breakfast
Built atop a prominent hill, the Blair house is a visual landmark of Waukesha. The masonry home showcases Italianate style elements, including decorative cusped bargeboards along its gable roofs, arched brick frames over its windows, stone sills, and patterned keystones.
The building gets its name from William E. Blair, one of early Waukesha’s most important businessmen, who had the home built. An emigrated industrialist, Blair arrived in 1845 and trained as a machinist. In 1851 he opened The Blair Foundry, which was the largest industry in the Village of Waukesha at the time. In 1855 he was one of the founders of the Waukesha County Bank, and later became its president. He founded the Waukesha County Manufacturing Company mill in 1866. Blair was also politically active, serving multiple terms as Village Trustee, Village President, and State Senator.
Recently the Blair House has garnered some attention in the media. After a multiple-year legal battle, the city is rezoning the property to allow the new owners to convert the property into a bed and breakfast. Previously occupied by the Family Practice Clinic, the Blair house has been remodeled with new windows, enclosed porches, and a 1977 single story addition.
Lisa and Bob Salb, the new owners, offered to purchase the building and turn it into a bed and breakfast in response to the city of Waukesha’s 2014 request for development proposals. Over the next 5 years they plan to renovate the building, keeping their regular jobs and completing the work themselves on nights and weekends. The building will be named the Spring City Bed and Breakfast, in honor of Waukesha’s historic mineral water springs.
There is a long list of improvements needed for the conversion, including “remodeling three bedrooms and adding four more bedrooms; creating a new kitchen; removing drop ceilings and fluorescent lights; updating the heating equipment; reglazing the windows; repairing plaster ceilings and walls; repairing damaged baseboards and crown molding; removing an office from the house’s front porch; refinishing the hardwood floors; painting; and landscaping.”* but the Salbs are excited to take on the project.
*“Waukesha’s historic Blair House to be restored as bed and breakfast” by Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Feb 27, 2016
Wisconsin Historical Society Information: