A Timeless Victorian Nestled in the Heart of the Village
The Wauwatosa Historical Society owns and operates the Kneeland-Walker Museum and Preservation Center at 7406 Hillcrest Drive in Wauwatosa.
The Queen Anne house was built in 1890 and sits on 1.5 acres of land, the largest remaining residential lot in Wauwatosa. The society purchased the buildings and grounds from the estate of Constance Walker in 1987. The property is a designated landmark of Wauwatosa and Milwaukee County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The house was built for Norman and Carrie Baker Kneeland. The Kneelands lived here with four of their seven children.
Mr. Kneeland was a manufacturer in New York before moving to Wisconsin and purchasing a farm in what is now the Washington Park area. They sold the farm and moved here in 1890, just before Wauwatosa was incorporated (1892). The well-to-do Kneelands were active locally in both civic and social affairs.
Mr. Kneeland died in 1900, but the house remained in his family until 1917. The house next door to the west was built for one of their daughters.
Emery and Mabelle Scott Walker purchased the house in 1917. Mr. Walker was vice president of Kieckhefer Box Company. The Walkers raised their three daughters in this house. A creative man with an engineering degree from Cornell University, Mr. Walker was also an inventor. He enjoyed maintaining and improving the home, adding bathrooms, remodeling the kitchen area, and installing other conveniences. The Walkers kept several horses in the Coach House and paddock.
Mr. Walker remarried several years after Mrs. Mabelle Walker’s death, and remained in the house until his death in 1965. Mrs. Constance Walker lived here until her death in 1985.
Current Owners: Wauwatosa Historical Society
In 1987 the Wauwatosa Historical Society purchased the property for $225,000 for use as its headquarters. The house is now a model for historic preservation and a center for society and community events.
The 1.5 acres of gardens and grounds on the Kneeland-Walker property are suitable for strolling or holding special events. The grounds contain many plants that are characteristic of a midwestern Victorian-era garden, such as flowering quince and climbing rose, and old-fashioned favorites like hollyhocks. Mass plantings of annuals in combination with perennials produce the profusion of color so popular at the turn of the 20th century.
Lee Somerville, author of Vintage Wisconsin Gardens, includes several photographs of the gardens at the Kneeland-Walker House, which Somerville lists among her favorite gardens in the state.
Volunteers, including SouthEast Wisconsin Master Gardener volunteers, are the heart and soul of our gardens. Volunteers plant, prune, weed, and maintain the grounds. There are scheduled work days, but volunteers are also able to work at their own convenience.
Contact us to volunteer in the gardens, or visit the UW Extension's Master Gardener program to learn more.
The Walker Family kept several horses in the Coach House until the last was sold in the 1940s. There were bridle paths throughout the property. Mr. Walker and neighborhood teens exercised the horses regularly, both on the property and on trips to Waukesha County.
The Chicken Coop is a small building just behind the Coach House. It is now used for storage. It also contains a bathroom, one of seven on the property.
In 1995, the 19th Century Schoolhouse was constructed in the former hayloft on the second floor of the Coach House. It is used as part of the Wauwatosa School District's second grade history curriculum.
Within its 5,763 square feet, the house contains three floors and 14 rooms (including eight bedrooms). In keeping with the home's late-1880s architecture, the WHS continues to refurbish the house to evoke a Victorian style of interior decorating, while allowing the rooms to be used for modern-day purposes. The majority of the house reflects the style of the Kneeland years, but various "modernizations" (such as the kitchen and elevator) represent changing technology and style during the Walker years.
The elegant front doors are original, as are three sets of oak pocket doors on the first floor. The house contains all of the original woodwork (although it was dark until the 1950s) and brass hardware.
Chandeliers & Sconces
Most of the chandeliers and sconces in the house were designed and created specifically for these spaces by Brass Light Gallery.
The designs in the Music Room, Board Room, and ceilings of Grand Hallway and second floor hallway are reproductions of papers from the Brillion collection, a treasure trove of antique wall and ceiling coverings discovered in an abandoned Brillion (WI) drugstore 40 years ago.
The layered look of many papers, friezes, and borders is typical of elegant homes of the late 1800s. The papers are not actually layered, but were carefully charted and cut for the space.
Wall coverings and window treatments on first floor were carefully chosen by a committee of dedicated volunteers, who faithfully researched the era.
The border at the top of the Parlor wall and the bottom of the Dining Room wall is anaglypta; this is a neutral molded paper that can be painted as desired.
In the Dining Room, the Kirman rug by Karastan was specially tea-washed to obtain the heirloom hue. The parlor carpet is an Axminster carpet, from Devon, England, specially chosen not only for its appropriate look, but also for its prolonged life and resistance to wear. The bordered stairway runner uses two Axminster carpets.
Located in the corner of the dining room, the elevator services three of the four floors in the house--the basement, first floor, and second floor. It was installed in 1943 when Mr. Walker’s first wife, Mabelle, was ill.
In 1947, the Walkers remodeled the kitchen into the state-of-the-art "St. Charles" kitchen. Conveniences such as the built-in dishwasher, were quite modern then. Red and yellow was a popular color scheme in post-World War II. Window blinds and curtains, table, and the Farbo Marmoleum flooring, also reflect the era.
There are seven bathrooms on the property. Six are in the house (basement, first floor, third floor, and three on second floor) and one is in the chicken coop.
Exterior Paint Colors
White when the WHS purchased the house in 1987, the exterior was repainted in the original jewel-tone colors in 1994, 2009 and 2019. The WHS undertook an extensive paint analysis to determine the original colors. Community Development Block Grants and donations from private individuals financed the work.