Wednesday, December 13, 2017

One Hundred Years Ago

December 14, 2017 is the one hundredth anniversary of the passing of William Waters.  After a century, many of his buildings are no more but many remain as monuments to his ability.  His extant structures serve as touch-stones to our past, a reminder of what was and may server to inspire our future. William Water, like many early Wisconsinites had roots in the east.  He was born in 1843 to William and Elizabeth Waters in the village of Franklin in Delaware county New York, his father a successful man of business and civic leader could provide well for wife and three children.  Young William was educated in Franklin, then in 1863 attended Rensselaer Polytechnic School in Troy, New York but left to take a job on the Midland Railroad, after the Civil War he made his way west. What brought him to Oshkosh?  Surly Milwaukee or Chicago held great allure for young men wishing to start a life in the frontier where opportunity was abundant.  Having acquired sufficient knowledge of engineering and architecture the twenty-three-year-old William went to Oshkosh, arriving there in December of 1866 and married Catherina Follett.  Miss Follett’s family also originated in Franklin, New York, her father moved west to Oshkosh in 1849 with his family following in 1850.  Mr. Follett was very successful, even becoming the city’s second mayor and although he’d been killed in an accident his son, Catherine’s brother was a prominent citizen who’s name and position carried a great deal of weight in the city.
William Waters wasted little time in establishing himself as an architect and was soon receiving commissions from the city for schools and fire houses. He also took on supervision jobs, guiding the construction of other’s buildings.  The state of Wisconsin also noticed him and picked his plans for the new normal school to be built in Oshkosh as well as giving him the job as superintendent of construction of the Northern State Hospital for the Insane, just north of Oshkosh.  Mr. Waters’ amiable nature, attention to details and ambition soon garnered him commissions from parties in other cities such as Sheboygan Falls, Neenah-Menasha and Appleton making him one of the premier architects of fast growing central Wisconsin.  He and Catherine started a family and by 1872 had three children, first born was Elizabeth then Willie and finally Katie who lived but ten months.  William’s carrier continued to expand helped by a devastating fire in 1874 and another even more destructive conflagration in 1875.  James Peter Jensen Waters’ draftsman, quipped “Plans by the yard” were drawn up after the fire of ’75.  The office was busy but things at home took a terrible turn when Catherine suddenly died in October of 1875.  For fifty-one years William Waters made Oshkosh his home and worked for the improvement of the city and the state.  I know I drew inspiration from his life story, I hope others might as well. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Two more by Mr. Waters

There were two houses that I’d always suspected of being the work of William Waters but lacked proof of his authorship of the plans.  I was recently informed that other scholars had determined the two structures to have come from his drawing table, confirming my long-held suspicions. 

 The first of these houses was on the south side of Algoma Street just west the Trinity Episcopal Church and was probably built in 1898 for Dr. J.T. Ozanna.  The lot at #81 Algoma had long been occupied by a structure but the Sanborn maps from 1890 and 1903 show a change in what buildings were there. The city directories indicate that A.F. Plumer lived at that address until 1895 and in 1898 lists Dr. Ozanna as dwelling at #81 Algoma Boulevard.
The house was interesting as it showed elements of the American Four-Square Style which would become the predominate house style of the early twentieth century.  Some feature that marked it as such were the hip roof and central dormer.  The house was demolished so that the church next door could expand.
 The next house I’d suspected as the work of Mr. Waters was that of W. W. Waterhouse, a large house on the corner of East Irving Avenue and Boyd Street.  Mr. Waterhouse was an attorney who dealt in real estate.  It is hard to say with certitude what year the house was built, although I believe it was around 1890.  As with many large houses the Waterhouse place did not remain a single-family dwelling but was converted to multifamily use, a move which brought about a deterioration in the property.  The porch which once covered the front and a side was removed and different siding applied which detracted from the homes charm and beauty.       

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Big Three on Church Avenue

Years ago, when I started to research William Waters I drove about Oshkosh taking pictures of buildings I thought might be the work of Mr. Waters.  There were three large home at the west end of Church Avenue I photographed and thought I would one day get around to studying but I never did.  Recently, I’ve had correspondence with David Groth a fellow Waters devotee with a vast knowledge of the man and has a good eye for spotting his work.  He asked me what I thought of the houses and I said they were most likely the work of architect Waters, although I’ve not been able to find written documentation to prove that.
Church Street as it was known in the nineteenth century was a fashionable street with large ornate homes and many churches.  The street maintained its’ prestige well into the twentieth century but with the construction of the new county courthouse the complexion of the thoroughfare began to change.  With the onset of the great depression many of the large one family dwellings became a financial burden and so, some were converted to multifamily homes.  Also with the expansion of the nearby university these building became prime student housing.  Over the years absentee landlords and careless tenants caused the building to deteriorate and fall into disrepair, there size and location were their undoing. 
The first of these three big houses to be built was the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Davis the widow Joseph B. Davis the proprietor of the Oshkosh Gas Works.  The family had lived on Algoma Boulevard but Mrs. Davis had a new house built in 1889, the home was 3,044 square feet and had eleven rooms.  Mrs. Davis lived in the house until about 1909 and was joined by Mrs. Nora Lemley.  Over the years many changes have been made, the most egregious was the replacement of a large double window at the center of the second floor with a small octagon light, other windows were boarded over.

Next to the house of widow Davis was the home of another widow, Caroline Jackman.  Her husband Cyrus Jackman was half the partnership, Prince and Jackman, manufacturers of washing machines.  The shop was on Pearl Street and the Jackman’s lived on the same street.  Sometime between 1891 and 1895, Mrs. Jackman had a large house built, consisting of ten rooms and 2,651 square feet of space.  In the 1895 city directory Mr. Robert Fair is also list as a resident at that address but his name disappears from the record after that time.  The house underwent few changes over the years, the front porch was rebuilt and expanded and that’s about all.  Over the last forty years however, the house has suffered much neglect and abuse.
The last of the big three was the residence built in 1893 for Samuel H. Gullford the secretary of the Hay Hardware Company.  Mr. Gullford managed the fit a 2,853-square foot house of ten rooms on a 6,654-square foot lot.  The years have been kind to the old house, with but a few changes; the front porch once wrapped around the side but was truncated sometime after 1903 and a small porch and side door were added under the stairway bay.     

Monday, October 30, 2017

Out on Jackson Dr.

Two more houses I believe to be the work of William Waters were built on Jackson Drive north of New York Avenue.  The first one was constructed in 1890 for Mr. Gustav Grunske, a grocer turned teamster.  The city directory of 1889 lists Mr Grunske as a grocer at 217 Pearl St. and living at the same address, the directory of 1891 lists him as a teamster living on Jackson Dr. 
The house was extensively remodeled, perhaps in the 1960's or 70's and altered so much as to be nearly unrecognizable as a Queen Anne style much less a job by William Waters.  I was unable to find a photograph of the building before modernization but I feel given what other Waters' designed houses of the time looked like it probably appeared much like the drawing.
The next possible Waters' job is just across the street from the Grunske place but dates from 1908.  The land west of Jackson Dr. and north of New York Avenue had been occupied for many years the the fair grounds, a large exhibition building and race course.  About 1900 the grounds were moved north of Murdock Ave. between Jackson and Main Street.  Soon many fine new house were being built along the west side of Jackson Drive one of them was for T. B. Waters the treasurer of the Foster Lothman Mill.  Mr. Thomas B. Waters was not related to William Waters but Thomas had a fine house built and may have chosen William Waters, for the house featured many details often used by architect Waters.    


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Circumstantial Case

I’ll be honest and say I’ve got some misgivings about declaring these next two houses as the work of William Waters but one could make a strong circumstantial case for that thesis.  Not too long ago I noticed a similarity between two houses in Oshkosh, one on High Avenue and the other on Scott Avenue.  They shared many of the same features but were mirror images of one another.  Both dwelling had large front porches covered by a long sloping roofs and in the center of that roof was a dormer with a door which opened on to a balcony with a railing, to one side rose a tower with a steep conical roof. 
 The house on Scott Avenue appears much as it did when built in 1898 for Robert Grandy a foreman with the Morgan Company. The gable ends were covered with shingles, the second story was a combination of clapboard and shingles, while the first floor was clad with clapboard.  The roof was dominated by a dormer at center with a gabled roof and door flanked windows.  I had seen dormers like that on homes designed by Mr. Waters, notably the A. B. Ideson residence in Oshkosh, built 1898 and the C. W. Howard house in Neenah
The house on High Avenue was also constructed in 1898 but may have been altered from the original.  It would be likely that this house too had a cone shaped roof that was may have been removed for a verity of reasons.  It may have been a coincidence that William Waters played the base drum for the renowned Arions Band and that the High Avenue house was built for Professor A. D. Amsden the director of the Arions Band
That is as compelling a case as I can make for the assertion that the homes of Robert Grandy and Professor Amsden were from and drafting table of William Waters.       

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

All Around the Town

 Four more houses I believed to be the work of Mr. Waters were two on the east side and the others near the Normal School, all around the town if you will.  The first one was the residence of Marrian Ebernau a painter and wallpaper hanger.  Mr. Ebernau had for many years lived on Ceape Street but at a verity of addresses and in 1891 his dwelling was listed as 269 Ceape Street.  The 1898 directory lists the same address for Marrian and other occupants as well, Albert, Bertha and Ida but doesn’t reveal the relationship to Marrian.  Perhaps they were wife, son and daughter or all siblings.  The house at 269 Ceape Street (That’s the old number.) was a large home with plenty of room and could easily accommodate a lager family.  It displayed the hallmarks of a Waters’ Queen Anne Cottage; a front facing gable portion at a right-angle to the main body of the house with a long slopping roof which covered the front porch.  On the left side of the house was an elegant curved bracket which supported one end of the side gable.

The residence of Frank Favour on Bowen Street was a few blocks to the north of the Ebernau place.  Frank was half of the partnership, Welch and Favour, proprietors of the sample room at the Tremont Hotel.  Mr. Favour’s house was likely built in 1896 or 97 and exhibits feature shared with other Waters’ dwellings but with a twist.  The long slopping roof which usually came off the main portion of the house in this case came off the front gable and covered the front porch.
In 1891 Rush Brown had a fine home built on the corner of W. New York Avenue and Western Street.  Rush was of the Brown family of Cook and Brown Lime Company but worked for the McMillen Company.  Mr. Brown’s house, like the John Washburn residence on Mt Vernon Street had a front gable nearly as wide as the main body of the house but in this permutation, there was an open porch or balcony above the front porch.  Along the Western Street side was an elegant bracket supporting one end of the gable and a bay which went from the foundation to the roof line.
Another dwelling built in 1891 and surly the work of William Waters was on Scott Street, the home of George Johnson a scaler for the Conlee Lumber Company. A scaler would measure the cut trees to determine the volume and quality of wood, scalers were better educated and made more money than the lumber-jacks. Mr. Johnson’s house was very much like the J. A. Nemitz place on Jefferson Street but was a mirror image and not as ornate.  As with other buildings of this style there was the front gable and main body of the house with a portion of the roof covering the front porch, a dormer with a bay window like front perched above the porch.   

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Moven’ On Up to the East-side

As stated in other posts, the near east-side neighborhoods of Oshkosh were very popular with doctors, lawyers, professionals and business owners and William Waters was often the choice of architect of those who built there.  Jefferson and Mt Vernon Street were favored for their proximity to the business district and government buildings.  One such business professional was Maurice O’Brien a life insurance salesperson, who in 1890 had a Queen Anne cottage built on the west-side of Jefferson Street just south of what is now Parkway Avenue.  It was a simple design with a few architectural ornaments and was a pretty house.  The structure’s main portion ran parallel to the street. On the left end of the house at a right angle to main portion was a gable and to the right of that a long slopping roof with a dormer   As the years went on other families moved in and the house deteriorated, many ill-conceived and poorly executed “improvement” were made, robbing building of all grace and charm.  It stands today almost unrecognizable from what it had been.
Just north of the O’Brien house was another dwelling surly from the drafting table of Mr. Waters, it was the residence of J. A. Nemitz and it was constructed in 1892.  Mr. Nemitz was a merchant tailor and dealt in clothing, furnishings, caps, hats, trunks and valises.  He and his business partner, C. R. Boardman maintained an establishment at number 44 Main Street and in 1891 Mr. Nemitz was living at 196 Tenth Street, south of the river.  His new house, north of the river was a tour de force of Queen Anne design and ornamentation. The building shared much the same layout as the smaller O’Brien place next door but with an ostentation of decoration; there were rosettes at the corners of the window frames, art glass window panels and a dormer above the front porch with a balcony and towering spindle on the roof, a truly handsome dwelling.  Alas as the businesses along Main Street expanded it was demolished to make room.  
There was on Mt. Vernon Street another house I consider to be the work of William Waters.  The home was constructed in 1895 for John R. Washburn, a lumberman in the partnership of
Washburn and Wagstaff.  Mr. Washburn had resided at 22 Jefferson Street so he had not far to move when his new abode was finished.  The house was big and something of a departure from the usual layout.  There was of course the main portion of the house but instead of a smaller transverse section to one side, the front gable ran nearly the width of the building and what might have been a dormer above the front porch was part of the front gable.  The second floor was clade in shingles with tall narrow windows in the peaks.  There was a long slopping roof which covered the porch and the first floor was sided with clapboard.  Alteration were made over the decades; the front porch pillars replaced by wrought iron standards and railings and the second-floor shingles were removed but the fenestration remained the same.