George Murray House – 1874
This lovely Italianate house was built in 1874 for George Murray and Mary (Slauson) Murray. It was designed by a Cleveland architect, Walter Blythe of Heard and Blythe, supervised by local architect Lucas Bradley, and built by the contractors Corse, Moon and Davis. Just two years previously, the whole team had completed the Taylor Orphan Asylum in Racine, where Mary Murray was a Trustee.
Why a prominent Cleveland architect would be interested in two Racine commissions becomes clear when we find that George Murray had been in partnership with Isaac Taylor as well as Daniel Slauson, and Isaac Taylor had lived for fourteen years in Cleveland, where he made his fortune, met his wife Emmerline, and built houses on one of the best streets.
George Murray married his partner’s daughter Mary in 1855. She inherited the land and the family frame house in 1865, where they lived (having moved it across the road) until they built the mansion in 1874. The house was evidently built without the flanking wing, as an unobtrusive break in brickwork and style separates it and the cellar below it from the main block. Possibly built as servants’ quarters, it would have given easier kitchen access to the dining room than must previously have been the case from the cellar.
When built, the main block was one of largest Italianate houses in Wisconsin and the most expensive residence in Racine at $30,000. The housewarming party in 1875 was reported in the Racine Advocate, which described house as a “no. 1 granger home” (an A1 farmhouse) and the “pride of the area”.
After George Murray died, Mary remained in the mansion with her daughter Ada, who married the newspaper editor Hamilton Utley in 1893. All three lived together in the mansion until Mary died in 1895. The Utleys continued there until 1902, when they sold the house to the attorney Thomas Kearney and built a new house for themselves next door at 2109 Washington Avenue.
Thomas Kearney owned the neighboring land and, when Kearney Avenue was cut through in 1903, he changed his formal address to the southeast corner of Kearney and Washington Avenues. For that purpose, he would have needed an entrance facing Kearney Avenue, and there was indeed one at the west end of the servants’ wing. This seems to have stimulated another remodeling, as windows were added to the back extension and others were changed or moved.
In 2015, the property was acquired by its present owners, who have lovingly brought it into fabulous condition. Even without its original Eastlake furniture, it is obvious why the house was described as “the pride of the area”. The plasterwork, fireplaces (in red granite, crimson onyx, and white marble), carved mahogany staircase, and the paneled doors are all Eastlake. It is rare and wonderful to see all this together and we sincerely thank Kathy and Keith Meyer, and their daughter, Hanni Gould, for their devotion to this wonderful building.