Tag Archives: split level homes

Favorite Places in Madison: Radio Park

There’s this rather hidden neighborhood on the west side called “Radio Park.” I have no idea why it is named that…a web search brings up nothing about its history. But it has some of the coolest mid-century modern houses I’ve ever seen. Radio Park is entirely made up of Wright-inspired high-quality custom-built split-level types of houses. Each one is unique…no tract housing here. I would say they were built in the early 1960s. I would give anything to live in one of these homes…if I had half a million.

Click the map below for a larger view. The area is basically encompassed by Plymouth Circle with Larkin St. on the east. Priscilla Lane splits it down the middle. Take the little yellow Google Map Guy and plop him down for a street level view. Unfortunately, Google shot this during a typical lush summer, which makes the houses a little hard to see.

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The dog pooped on the landing.

The dog shat in the mezzanine.

I have a small mezzanine. It’s really just a landing, as it’s only about six square feet. But I’m pretending it’s a mezzanine. Jasper, like Lucifer Sam and Plato before him, would run up to the mezzanine level and make dumplings there, forgetting he’d been outside not just two minutes before. Puppies are that way, they forget things. So do humans.

If I were a very small human, about one foot tall, I could set up a habitable area…a little lounge, a reading room…it even has a little square window that’s down by knee level. This is probably one of the reasons this house was so attractive to me. Not only was it the original open wood staircase, but it was the fact the staircase came with a tiny, miniature, if you stretch your imagination–mezzanine.

I have no idea why that word suddenly popped into my brain, unannounced, the other day. I have been unable to shake it. I think my first encounter with the term might have been at an airport, where I believe mezzanine levels are fairly common. But I remember it strongest from when I first visited the Milwaukee Art Museum when I was about 14 or 15. I was most impressed by their modern art. But that is what I took with me on the exterior….my major in college and beyond. On the interior, the thing I forgot, was the architecture of the building itself. And it had a mezzanine.

The word “mezzanine” to me implies a mystery…an irrational number, something unobtainable. It’s not a whole number, it’s not a whole floor. It’s a floor between floors. It’s a threshold to a strange universe, like the 7 1/2 floor in “Being John Malkovich.

I’ve always loved multi-level homes. I don’t think I could ever live in a house with just one floor, unless that house was extremely complex. My favorite house was in a suburb called “Bayberry” outside of Liverpool, which was outside of Syracuse. It was a split-level rental. Counting the basement it had four levels in all. I had a friend whose house had an additional fifth level, which was the Master Suite. I’d stare up there, never allowed to climb that last half-set of stairs, wondering what was on that top level. I didn’t care about her parent’s belongings…even at nine years old I was interested in the architecture itself. Split level homes are sort of like homes with fully-actualized mezzanines…mezzanines that are given full floor privileges.

When we were looking to buy a house, split levels weren’t in our targeted area. We were being directed to older homes…fixer uppers, the bottom of the barrel. In 1990, split levels were still too new and pricey. Now, it seems it’s all been switched. 100-year old houses like ours are desired for their old charm, whereas mid-century modern Brady-Bunch style tract homes are now becoming the cheap ones that no one wants anymore.

I have been trying to find floor plans with true mezzanines on The Google…call it a search for the perfect “house porn.” So far not much luck. Mostly all I’m finding are businesses that supply roll-away mezzanines for convention centers (blow-up dolls). Or I find a floor plan with a balcony on the same level as the top floor, and they call it a mezzanine (transvestites). Wrong! I want the real thing.

I might just have to go to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the mezzanine again. This time, it will be with little interest in the art. I’m so burned out on art…not much impresses me at all anymore. Images certainly do not impress me. Meaning and content is so trite. The only thing I really relate to is the basic formal structures…color, texture and pattern. I’m so much more interested in what houses the art, the building, and the architecture of the building. That is so much more meaningful to me than an image pretending to represent something that it isn’t.

I hear that now MAM admission is free every first Thursday of the month. Hint-hint, Stan?