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Owners seek input on Mary Nohl House

Neighbors wary of museum use

Sculptures by late Fox Point artist Mary Nohl still stand in the yard. The sculptures draw viewers from outside the neighborhood. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center owns the property and representatives are meeting with neighbors this week.

Sculptures by late Fox Point artist Mary Nohl still stand in the yard. The sculptures draw viewers from outside the neighborhood. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center owns the property and representatives are meeting with neighbors this week. Photo By Michael Meidenbauer

Oct. 16, 2013

Fox Point — Neighbors of the Mary Nohl House will have a chance to weigh in on the future of the property Thursday.

Representatives from the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, a not-for-profit art museum in Sheboygan that took ownership of the property in 2012, will meet with neighbors 5 p.m. Thursday at the Fox Point Police Station, 7300 N Santa Monica Blvd.

"The intent is to get neighbor feedback and ideas and comments," said Lynn Lucius, a KAC representative. "There are many neighbors who treasure the property, and are eager to find out the future of the property."

Historic landmark

The Mary Nohl House, named after its late owner, is a state and national historic landmark. Famous for its lookout over Lake Michigan and the collection of eye-popping concrete statues throughout the yard, the Mary Nohl House gained a reputation as the "Witch House" as a number of (false) urban legends sprang up around the statues and their owner, a kindly artist and teacher who lived by herself. Mary Nohl transferred the property to the Kohler Foundation in 1996 and left $11.3 million with the Milwaukee Foundation when she died in 2001.

The Village of Fox Point took the Kohler Foundation to court in 2005 after the organization held fundraisers, tours, bus tours and operated the house like a museum. The village won on the grounds that a museum does not comply with the residential zoning of the area. In 2005, 85 percent of households on the same street as the Mary Nohl House signed a statement in opposition to a museum. The property has been vacant since the basement flooded in 2010, resulting in the removal of the furnace and disconnection of water.

While Lucius declined to offer specifics about what KAC has planned for the property, she said there will be "absolutely no buses" and the property will not be made public.

No parking on street

Neighbors are wary that KAC plans to again open the property as a museum in some capacity, said village trustee Eric Fonstad, who lives across the street from the house. He said sightseers are a nuisance, oftentimes driving on yards or through private driveway turnarounds to head back up the street after viewing the house.

"This is a winding, one way, dead end street down here," Fonstad said. "There's no place to turn around, and there's no parking."

Every time the Mary Nohl House makes the news, Fonstad said, an influx of sightseers again disturb the neighborhood.

"It's too bad that they're going to put the neighbors through all this angst again," Fonstad said. "If they want people to come see it, they need to consider moving it to someplace more suitable."

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