- Social media has gone wild over a mid-century modern home in Allouez that’s up for sale right now.
- The house at 3200 Waubenoor Drive, with its angled roof and unique style, has attracted the attention of Green Bay area residents since the 1960s.
ALLOUEZ – Since the 1960s, the Ottum House has been turning heads in the Green Bay area. In November, the internet found out why.
You understand why when you see it for the first time. An angled parabolic roof juts from one side of the 4,300-square-foot home, nearly requiring a double-take. Then there are the “Fond du Lac shore stone” exterior walls that provide a hint of what awaits inside the nearly 60-year-old five-bedroom, four-bathroom home that exemplifies mid-century modern style. There’s shag carpeting, stonework, a sunken living room, the dining table with built-in lazy Susan, and original fixtures and wood paneling throughout.
The custom home a 3200 Waubenoor Drive It has been attracting Green Bay area residents to the East Side neighborhood for a low-speed look since it was first built. A worldwide audience got the chance to bask in all its unique glory when Crazy Zillow – a social media brand curated by BuzzFeed’s Sameer Mezrahi who highlights attractive homes for sale on real estate website Zillow – shared the property listing with his 1.2 million Facebook followers on Nov. 23.
Starting December 2nd, the mail garnered more than 8,400 reactions, 3,200 comments and 2,100 shares. The comments, as you’d expect on Facebook, cover a range of opinions and include a myriad of tips on what should and shouldn’t be done to the house. Some missed the “nautical theme” in the design of the facility, others argued about how mid-century modern it was, many got a “The Brady Bunch” vibe from the pictures. Some gave a hard pass; others thought it perfect.
Commentators debated whether the character and style were worth a move to the Green Bay area, although winter was an oft-cited obstacle. Local residents, some of whom have visited the house, have been sharing more photos and snippets of the house’s history with its new audience. In general, however, many people have found at least something to enjoy in the “time capsule” of a mid-century modern home.
Mary Sandoval, Realtor with Shorewest which listed the property, said social media interest has led to many emails and more requests to tour the home. She said the current owner reduced the sale price by $10,000 to $365,000 to capitalize on the attention.
“We always say there are cut-out houses and then there’s this. This one totally has some character,” said Sandoval.
But Sandoval also said the online attention has added to an ever-growing pool of memories and stories about the Ottum house. Neighbors stopped by during open houses to tell Sandoval their memories of the house. Research and information from commentators has provided more accurate information about the history of the house, such as when it was built (not in 1958, but in 1964).
The more he listened, the more special the already unique property became. So Sandoval and Carri Busse, another Shorewest real estate agent and fan of mid-century modern style, went looking for any stories they could find about the house, digging up details in the Green Bay Press-Gazette archives to supplement local stories and online comments. It all feels like it has the makings of a book, Sandoval said.
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A ‘boldly different’ contemporary design
Dr John and Margaret Ottum created a stir at the corner of Waubenoor Drive and Auburn Street as the 28-foot steel trusses were erected for the triangular, slightly sail-shaped roof.
The Ottums broke ground for their custom-designed home in April 1963, and work was finished in 1964. John, an ophthalmologist in Green Bay, and Margaret commissioned Shiocton Learned architect M. McCreedy to design the exterior. The Ottums helped design the interiors to meet their family’s needs: one wing on the first floor housed rooms and spaces for their children, another wing was for common areas like the kitchen and living room, and the second floor is described as an owners suite .
The Ottum family and their unique home were featured in a profile of Ginnie Erdmann in the “Female Phenomena” section of the September 27, 1964 edition of the Press-Gazette, some five months after the family moved.
In May 1966, the house would feature in the Service League of Green Bay’s Parade of Homes II, organized to support children’s programs in Brown County. A photo of the Ottums’ children in the living room and dining room ran with the Parade of Homes announcement and today survives in the photo archives of the Neville Public Museum.
The Ottums seemed to enjoy the theories that neighbors and passers-by came up with to explain the design, saying that “people seem to like something boldly different.” They also factored in the extra attention that came with turning heads at home. Friends would show up with a housewarming gift in hopes of getting a ride as a steady stream of pedestrians and motorists made their way down Waubenoor Drive. Some of the attention today sounds more than cringe-worthy: They mentioned strangers knocking on the front door asking for a tour.
The Ottums also provided answers to some common questions and observations from local residents and social media commentators.
The parabolic roof was born out of function more than anything else. The roof design prevented Green Bay snow from accumulating on the lower flat roof. A street-level look at the house shows the roof channeling rain and snow directly into a flower bed. The shape also created a shaded porch or perch, according to the Ottums, which proved a popular party spot that stayed cool on hot summer days.
The funky dome above the main entrance is just one design element, though the Ottums told the Press-Gazette that neighbors speculated it was a birdhouse or bell tower.
As for the home’s design, the Ottums don’t mention ship design inspiration or a desire for a nautical theme. Archives coverage indicates that they asked McCreedy to create for them “a contemporary wood and stone home that was different.”
But even then, well before social media, Ottum’s house drew a crowd.
“There is hardly a soul in town who hasn’t jumped on the family wagon and passed very slowly at least once … and in some curious cases, at least once a week,” wrote Erdmann in 1964. A neighbor he told Erdmann that he ordered his children not to ride their bikes on weekends because of distracted drivers; another noted that a parade of cars began at 8 a.m. and continued past sunset.
More unique, more of a challenge
The more unique a home is, the smaller the potential pool of buyers tends to be, which can make it more difficult to sell when it comes on the market.
Such was the case when the Ottum home was listed for sale in November 1985 for $149,500 in an ad highlighting the sunken living room, Fond du Lac stone and some decorating bucks, according to the Press-Gazette archives. By March of 1986, the price had dropped to $120,000.
Its current price, $365,000, is in line with current home values near Allouez and with properties of comparable size, Sandoval said. He also places it in a segment of the housing market—existing homes priced between $350,000 and $500,000—where demand is high and available inventory remains low. Inventory of homes for sale in that price range could meet statewide market demand for 3.1 months in October, well below the six months of inventory representing a market, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association. balanced or healthy real estate.
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Interest has increased with the new wave of social media attention, but the property has received few offers. Sandoval, the home’s listing agent, said he understood the home would not appeal to every house hunter out there. Also, he said it’s a large house that will likely need some updates and modernization.
“It’s a great project for anyone moving in if they want to update that home because of the square footage,” Sandoval said. “It won’t be for everyone.”
Still, she said after learning so much about the property’s history and design, it’s hard not to hope the property maintains its mid-century modern design elements inside and out.
“I hope it stays the same style,” Sandoval said. “I hope whoever comes in doesn’t change it much.”