A Milwaukee McMansion featuring Prairie Style, Las Vegas, and Palm Beach influences

News of foreclosure proceedings on NBA player O.J. Mayo’s house in the Milwuakee suburbs includes a description of his large home:

Built in 1995, the “contemporary” dwelling includes some ceilings as high as 20 feet. That’s tall enough to stack three O. J. Mayos on top of each other! The first floor has 4,298 square feet while the comparatively diminutive second floor has just 1,652 square feet. The 3,929 square foot basement has 2,250 finished square feet of floor space — plenty of room for a home theater (to watch those game highlights), a pool table, a bar, and all sorts of other jock stuff. There are two fireplace openings in the roof, and plenty of mantel space to display trophies and the other ephemera of a sporting life.

Four bathrooms offer ample space to shower or bathe after a game, with glass-fronted shower stalls and all sorts of custom fixtures. There are also two half-baths in the home, which has 5 bedrooms. The home sits on a 5 acre lot — the River Hills minimum — and has an attached 1,248 square foot garage. With 13 rooms, this is some house.

Architectural historians will place this structure in the era of the early McMansion. Although the real estate listing mentioned “Prairie School” influences in the architecture, the whole conveys the sense of a Las Vegas mansion colliding with a Palm Beach villa and settling to earth in the green landscape of the North Shore of Milwaukee.

See much better pictures of the home here. On one hand, this seems like a fairly typical big house: lots of space, lots of features, a big lot. On the other hand, the description of the home above is interesting. It is a home outside Milwaukee so the Prairie Style influences a la Frank Lloyd Wright make sense but the other comparisons are out of place. Las Vegas and Palm Beach just north of Milwaukee? This hints at one of the major complaints about McMansions: they tend to borrow and mix a variety of architectural styles that have very little connection to native architecture. A number of critics and architects argue that new buildings should blend in with existing styles. Architectural styles should be somewhat consistent. This, of course, does limit change but tends to preserve the existing character of places.

It’s too bad this article doesn’t go on to explore native Milwaukee architecture. Just how much does Mayo’s home differ from the typical Milwaukee suburban home?

Quick Review: Da Bears!

Partly to commemorate the Chicago Bears’ lone Super Bowl title and also to help mourn the recent loss to the Green Bay Packers, I read Da Bears!: How the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Became the Greatest Team in NFL History. A few thoughts about this book, one of many products commemorating this 25th anniversary:

1. A main theme of the book is the ongoing battle between Head Coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. How exactly the team kept moving forward with this kind of tension is interesting.

2. There are claims that the Bears were the team that really helped push the NFL to the top. With their winning plus the actions and charm of their players, the Bears were a kind of media circus in an era where this didn’t happen often.

2a. The problem with a claim like this is that little evidence is presented that might conflict with this narrative. At one point, the book mentions that several teams had recorded songs as teams before the “Super Bowl Shuffle” but it was this 1985 song that really took off. Another (implicit?) claim is that the Bears really pushed athlete endorsements forward. Were other star athletes not doing commercials? In the end, how exactly do we know the Bears were something different in the eyes of the media compared to any other team of the time? I would have liked to have read more perspectives from outside of Chicago – were people across the country as intrigued with the Bears as Chicagoans were?

3. Some things never seem to change with the Bears: defense over offense, inconsistent quarterback play, complaints about the McCaskeys, an inability to follow up on success (with the 1985 Super Bowl team never getting back to another title game), fickle fans who suddenly were worried at the end of the 1985 season with less than perfect play, and more. How long can a team have the same basic identity?

4. As a cultural phenomenon, it would be interesting to track other teams that have captured the heart of a city in the same way as the Bears. While the list of endorsements and radio shows during the 1985 season was impressive, many of those guys are still around in the Chicago media. Will there be a point where the 1985 team is eclipsed by another team or was their combination of dominance and style too much to overcome?

5. It was unclear to me how much of this book was original research versus drawing from existing sources.

Overall, I’m not sure how much new material this book presents: many of the themes are widely known. There are a wide range of perspectives in this book but I think you also find this information elsewhere. I was looking for a new take on a famous team and yet you will hear the same things on local sports talk stations and other media.