By DUKE BEHNKE
NEENAH, Wis. (AP) — The last of the great homes built during the boom years of Neenah’s paper industry has hit the market.
And it can be yours for a cool $1.25 million, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported.
That’s the asking price for the J. Leslie Sensenbrenner mansion. With a $250,000 down payment, the monthly installments on a 30-year mortgage with a 4 percent interest rate would be $4,774.
Oh, but what you get for your money! The waterfront property offers prime views of the Fox River and Doty Park on the west and Lake Winnebago and Kimberly Point Park on the east. It boasts an in-ground swimming pool, a private lagoon with a two-slip dock, a boathouse and a three-car attached garage.
The house itself is magnificent. Built in the 1930s, it is a notable example of Period Colonial Revival architecture and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has 7,625 square feet of space, including eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a powder room and a library, plus several hidden rooms and compartments.
An online listing by the real-estate agent Mary Bosio says the home “has been meticulously maintained with the charm of its era.”
“Upon entering, you will feel the exquisite luxury,” the listing says. “Gracing your entrance is a crystal chandelier in the foyer and polished marble floors, leading into the grand living room with hand-painted, glazed plaster walls, a carved frieze, a fireplace and large windows allowing for views of the expansive back yard and river.”
Sensenbrenner’s wife, Ina, called it View Pointe House.
Thomas and Suzanne O’Regan are the current owners of the house. They purchased it in 1975 from John and Dianne Bergstrom, who bought it in 1973 from Sensenbrenner.
The O’Regans raised their family in the house. At this point in their lives, though, it offers far more than they need.
“Once your children and grandchildren have gone on, probably 10 bathrooms is too many,” Suzanne O’Regan told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin during a tour of the home.
O’Regan said she was enchanted by the house the moment she saw it. More than 40 years later, she still marvels at its spiral staircase, tiger-stripe woodwork and hand-painted, silver-leaf wall panels.
“It’s a house that you can easily love,” she said. “It’s been a treasure.”
The O’Regans came to Neenah when Thomas was employed as an anesthesiologist at Theda Clark Medical Center. He previously served eight years in the Army, and they had lived in Germany and various cities in the U.S.
Suzanne O’Regan said the Sensenbrenner house is a far cry from Army housing.
“Our house in Fort Knox, Kentucky, was the same size as the living room here,” she said.
According to a report prepared by the local historian Peter Adams and released in 2002, the core of the house was built as a summer home in 1932 by George Gaylord, an industrialist out of Chicago.
It was expanded to its present size in 1941 by Sensenbrenner, the son of F. J. Sensenbrenner, who was the president of Kimberly-Clark Corp. The elder Sensenbrenner had tried to build a great estate across the street from where Kimberly Point Park is today but was thwarted by Clara Shattuck.
Leslie Sensenbrenner began his career with Kimberly-Clark in 1910. He became the manager of the company’s operations at Niagara Falls, New York, before returning to Neenah in 1937. He gradually rose through the ranks of management, becoming corporate secretary in 1952.
Sensenbrenner hired the architect Thomas S. Van Alyea to carry out his and Ina’s vision for the house. Adams said in his report that the front of the house was kept relatively modest to reflect “the declining acceptability of ostentation following the Great Depression.”
For the inside and back side of the house, though, Adams said “the Sensenbrenners’ whims were given full reign.”
“It certainly reveals its size more from this side than the front,” Suzanne O’Regan said. “When people have come to see it, they’ve been surprised how big it is.”
O’Regan became friends with Sensenbrenner after buying the property and learned firsthand how he required the house to be built to suit his and Ina’s preferences. O’Regan said he demanded and got a deep, dry basement, even though the builder advised against that choice because of the property’s proximity to the Fox River.
“He didn’t ever say, ‘Well, let’s not spend that money,'” she said. “He was always willing to let it rip.”
Adams said the Sensenbrenner house is distinguished “as the last of a long line of lavish Period Revival-style homes” built in Neenah and Menasha during the early 20th century.
“It’s a real demarcation, as nothing comparable in either city was built after that time,” Adams said.