Clio Logo

Built for the family of Milwaukee Tank Works District Manager Edmund B. Gustorf in 1922, this iconic home was constructed by carpenters in the shape of a boat and included an adjacent lighthouse. The seventy foot-long and two-bedroom yacht faces the Milwaukee River and has been a local landmark for decades. It currently operates as an AirBnB.


  • The Boat House today. Photo credit: Airbnb, Nola Hitchcock Cross
  • The interior of the boat house today. Photo credit: Airbnb, Nola Hitchcock Cross
  • The boat house in 1964 with former owner Samuel Burns. Photo credit: Milwaukee Public Library

In 1922 Edmund Gustorf decided to build his home in the style of yacht. According to a local writer, Gustof wanted something unique and possibly saw his nautical themed home as a potential tourist attraction. The 72-foot house is designed to look like a motor yacht complete with portholes, aluminum siding on the hull, and wood paneling on the interior "cabin." The inside also sports a "bridge" family room complete with a ship's wheel, a "galley" kitchen, and a dining cabin. A boatyard in Green Bay supplied the materials for the boat-shaped house, which Gustorf assembled atop a basement. When finished the house was christened "Landlubber." A small lighthouse was added to the side of the house to round out the effect.

When Gustorf died in 1940, the house was sold to numerous owners before being bought by its next long-term tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Burns, in 1950. They lived in the house for the next 35 years, when in 1985 it was sold to William Kortsch. Kortsch loved the house and restored it to its former glory after years of dilapidation but retaining its original floors and paneling. As living in the 550-square foot home would not fit for Kortsch's family of six children, they lived next door and leased the home to several tenants, including local musician Paul Finger.

In 2017, the 90-year-old Kortsch decided to sell the boat house, and passed away soon after. The buyers were actually dental patients of his- Nola Hitchcock Cross and her husband Steve, who live down the street. They turned the beloved Milwaukee historic landmark into an Airbnb, so even more people can experience this work of "exotic architectural fantasy."1

1 3138 N CAMBRIDGE AVE. Wisconsin Historical Society. . Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Property/HI78892.

Files, Emily. Milwaukee 'Boat House' Has Been A Symbol Of Nonconformity For 100 Years. WuWM 89.7. July 19, 2019. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.wuwm.com/post/milwaukee-boat-house-has-been-symbol-nonconformity-100-years?fbclid=IwAR3RAZKvnSJkAuD5LhOEJ6f8wjFIVBlfA1xxQK0iXc09hYYpZVG7jhHhe_Y#stream/0.

Home, Michael. The Town’s Most Ship-Shape Home. Urban Milwaukee. April 21, 2016. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2016/04/21/house-confidential-the-towns-most-ship-shape-home/.

Mitchell, Rikki. East side Milwaukee's iconic 'Boat House' for sale. TMJ4.com. June 05, 2017. Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.tmj4.com/news/local-news/iconic-milwaukee-eastside-boathouse-for-sale.