Friday, January 13, 2017

Have a Cigar!

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century any Wisconsin city of size and wealth would have had one or more cigar manufactures. Many farmers in the southern quarter of the state grew tobacco to supply the thriving cigar industry. In 1898 Oshkosh had seventeen such manufacturers and in 1900 Neenah could boast of four cigar makers, one of which was Charles Schultz and Son. Business must have been good for Mr. Schultz as he rose to prominence. In addition to cigars he had an interest in politics and was elected mayor of Neenah and also to the State Assembly.
By 1911 Charles felt the need for a new building of his own and commissioned William Waters to plan a suitable structure. The architect design a building of the latest style, using a light colored brick, accented with limestone lintels, trim and cap stones. Mr. Waters also employed a template used successfully years before; two store fronts on either side of a stairway to a second floor. A fire insurance company map of 1913 indicates that a pool hall occupied one ground floor space, the gas company office the other and the cigar factory was on the second floor. The building outlasted the cigar business as the popularity of cigarettes eclipsed cigars and the second floor was given over to other uses. By the late twentieth century the building had outlived its usefulness altogether and was demolished.   

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Christmas Sprite

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”, so says Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas morning after his night of haunting.  A lesson learned by Scrooge late in life but better late than never.  There are those who learn the lesson well and early, William Water was one such person.   
                               The Waters' house on Elm Street, Oshkosh
This December will mark the ninety ninth anniversary of William Waters' passing.  Through my research on Mr. Waters I've learned much about his work and something of the man himself.  One of the first documents I read about Mr. Waters was his obituary, where in it is stated, “For many years he had done act of kindness for people less fortunate than himself, but it was always done so unostentatiously it was known to but a few people. It is said that one the last things he did before his final seizure was to walk laboriously down to his office to make a liberal donation to charity.  Upon more than one occasion poor families had loads of coal or wood sent to them without learning who the donor was.  A number of young men who have entered the architect's profession had received not only their inspiration but financial aid from Mr. Waters.  Several families have lived for month, rent free in houses that he owned, and no payment was ever demanded.  It is said by those knew best that it would be impossible to even estimate the amount of money contributed in such ways.”  
                    William Waters seated to the right of the drum.
William Waters was reported to be of a “retiring personality”, amicable and easy to work with.  He was a devotee of William M. Thackeray and played the base drum for renown Arion Band.  His picture with that band is as far as I know the only photograph of him.  He was passionate about his work and the city and state he made his home.  We may all benefit from like attitudes towards work and the needs of others.    

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Kellett Block

William Waters received yet another commission in Neenah, the Neenah Times of March 8, 1893 published a brief notice that the architect had been in town in order to discuss plans for a new building to be erected near the Post Office for Mr. William Kellett.   Mr. William Kellett in addition to real estate dealings was a merchant of dry goods, along with his partner Edward Jandrey.  The Wm. Kellett and Company store was just across the street from Kellett's proposed new building.  A few weeks later the “Times” reported that the contractors for the new building would be Louis Weber and D.W. Barnes and that the building would be in a similar style  to that of the George Danielson Block, built of red brick with stone trim and would eclipse in beauty all other building along the street.  The first floor was reportedly leased to the American Express company as their Neenah office.   
The new Kellett Block was not all that like the Danielson building, it was not as wide as Danielson's but was built of red brick with stone trim of brown stone, instead of limestone, it also had courses of dark brick for visual interest.  The first floor store front had a door at the center and display windows on either side.  The second floor was defined by three windows in a row and above that in a peaked pediment was a casement window.  The peaked pediment seemed to be the only stylistic similarity to the a fore mentioned Danielson Block.  The Kellett building did indeed add the grace and dignity of West Wisconsin Av., however sometime long after it was built the peak of the pediment was removed, perhaps for maintenance reasons.  The truncated facade gave the structure an odd and unfinished look.      

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mr. Danielson's Block

Architect William Waters found many commercial building design opportunities in Neenah, one such structure was a business block for contractor George Danielson.  The preliminary announcement of Mr. Danielson's intention to build was an article in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of August 8, 1892 which stated that William Waters would draw the plans for the new block.  In November of 1892 the Neenah Times reported that Charles Paul, a grocer and dry goods purveyor would soon occupy the new store.  The building was described as being built of St. Louis Red Pressed brick and cut stone, large and commodious, finished inside in fine style.  The edifice was said to have cost $8,000, a great improvement to Wisconsin Avenue.  The second floor was finished as a residence for Mr. William T. Ward, proprietor of the Russel House sample rooms, the bar in Neenah's largest hotel, 
The building was representative of architect Waters' work for that time.  The use of red pressed brick and limestone for lentils and trim were favored by Mr. Waters.  The building features a design element found on several other of his hand; at the top of the front elevation on either side of a gabled pediment the brick work had square indentations in even rows, a motif found on the Athearn Hotel and several bank buildings.  Mr. Danielson was a contractor and builder and doubtless built the structure which might account for the speed with which it was completed. The building added to the grace and dignity of the business district.   

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Henry Sherry's Buildings

William Waters was very busy in the early 1880's drawing plans for the home, office and business block of Henry Sherry.  Mr. Sherry was born in 1837, a native East Menden, New York.  He came west to Wisconsin, started out in business with great success and married Abbie Paddock in 1865 at Ripon.  He resided in Neenah but his holding and enterprises were statewide. He had lumber mills in Neenah and Oshkosh as well as Wood County, he invested in boot manufactures, paper mills, real estate and banks, a true empire builder.  The near west side neighborhood in Neenah bore the moniker “Sherrytown”, Sherry Wisconsin in Wood county and Sherry Junction in Langlade County also derived their names from Henry Sherry.  The city of Park Falls owes its' being to Mr. Sherry as he built a paper mill there.  No biography of the man would be complete without mentioning his bankruptcy in the early 1890's, no doubt brought about by the panic of 1893.  His loses amounted to well over one million dollars, a sum he and his son managed to repay. 
 Mr. Sherry's building spree started in 1882 with a large and ornate mansion on East Wisconsin Avenue, the house was in the Esthetic Style and was an elegant addition to the mansions on that street.  The next year Mr. Waters was drawing plans for a business block and an office building.  The business block became known as the Post Office Block, because the post office occupied the first floor corner.   There were three other retail spaces on the first floor and according to fire insurance maps of the day one side of the second floor was the Masonic Hall and the other was City Council meeting room.  The building was of a cream colored brick with an asymmetrical layout.  Just past the Post Office portion was a stairway leading to the second floor above which was a window with a Gothic Arch and beyond that rose a diminutive tower holding a set of double windows on the front elevation.  The tower was capped by a short hipped roof and flag staff. 

The building featured some patterned tiles above the second floor windows, for greater visual interest.  Along the top of the building the line was broken by three gable peeks in the parapet which corresponded to large sets of windows below them.  The building was designed in the Esthetic Style, same style as Mr. Sherry's house.
At about the same time William Waters designed an office building for Henry Sherry.  It was just across the street from the Post Office and was the hub for all of Mr. Sherry's business dealings, on the second floor was a public library, according to insurance maps.  The two story brick structure was a classic Waters' design for that time.  It was built of cream colored brick with courses of dark brick as accents.  The chamfered corner held the front door which was flanked by columns holding up a pediment.  Above the front door and pediment was a large window and above that was a set of small triplet window just below the ultimate pediment.  At first there was just the building on the corner but by 1887 the fire insurance maps indicate a sizable addition to the west side of the building.  The structure had many uses including Neenahs' first YMCA.  By the 1970's its was no longer useful and was razed. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Winnebago Paper Company

John R. Davis immigrated from Wales to North America and landed in Quebec in 1840.  Six years later Mr. Davis was in Milwaukee and meet Jane Jones also a Welch immigrant.  The two were married in 1848, later that year John visited Neenah and purchased some real estate and moved there the next year.  Mr. Davis was a great entrepreneur and engaged in wagon building, a trade he had plied before arriving in Milwaukee.  In 1852 he acquired the old Government Mill and went into the flour milling business until the mill burned in 1874.  He then organized the Winnebago Paper Company and built a new mill near where Main St. bends to become West Wisconsin Ave.  The paper company was very successful which helped support his family of six and the families of many workers.  Shortly before his death in 1885 Mr. Davis commissioned William Waters to design his home on East Wisconsin Ave.
The passing of John Davis Sr. didn't stop the company from growing, his son John Jr. took over and expanded the company to Eau Claire.  In 1893 the younger Mr. Davis asked William Waters to plan an office building for the mill.  Architect Waters produced plans for a Romanesque Style building with arched window openings on the first floor, a chamfered corner entry and living quarter on the second floor.  The structure was built of red pressed brick with roughhewn limestone arches, sills and lintel.  The corner entrance featured a door flanked by two diminutive columns on tall plinths supporting a lintel and pediment of intricate stone work.  Above the door was recessed bay window with limestone bartizans on either side, which rose to top of the parapet.  Just below the gable was a set of arched triplet windows, a favorite component of Mr. Waters.   

In 1904 the mill was purchased by the Bergstrom Paper Company and not long after the office was expanded to double its original size.  Waters was called upon to draw the plans as he had drawn the originals and had designed Mr. Bergstrom's house.  The addition was sympathetic and seamless; one would have been hard pressed to discern the alteration.  The building served the company for many years but when the business was sold and the mill closed the structure was razed and replaced by a monument made up of bits and pieces of the building. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Kimberly Clark Office

In 1872 four enterprising individuals, namely; John Kimberly, Havilha Babcock, Charles Clark and Frank Shattuck all of Neenah, Wisconsin, formed a partnership for the purpose of making paper.  The company was very aggressive and soon was the largest paper manufacturer in the mid west with mills not only in Neenah but Appleton too.  It was only right and proper that the company have a suitable office from which to conduct it's affairs.  So it was that in 1880 Kimberly  Clark sought the services of William Waters.  Mr. Waters was the preeminent architect in the area and had by that time designed identical dwellings for Messrs. Clark and Shattuck and would eventually plan the home of Havilha Babcock.
The company had a parcel of land fronting on Ceder St. along side a canal, a fine place to build an office.  In March of 1880 the construction contract was let to Watkins Gittens of Neenah and work started shortly after that.  The Oshkosh Times, in an article about Kimberly Clark, published on November 27th 1880 mentioned that the firm had just moved in to it's fine new office building which had been designed by William Waters.  The notice also stated that the two story brick building measured 28 x 60 with heating apparatus in the basement and offices on the first and second floors.  It was indeed a handsome structure of cream colored brick with dark courses and lintel accents.  The building was capped by a steep hipped roof with a Gothic arched window occupying a dormer, front and center.  The fenestration was regular and symmetrical with rosettes  carved into the keystones and springers of the lintels.  
Sometime around 1906 an addition was erected on the west and south sides of the building.  There is no written account of the addition or its planning, just fire insurance maps showing an expanded structure about that time. Surely the addition was penned by Mr. Waters as it was sympathetic to the original facade.  The addition however had no hipped roof or dormer to match the original, this gave the building a somewhat unbalanced look.  Kimberly Clark built a new office in 1956 but the old building on Ceder, cum Commercial Street still served the company.  With the demolition of Neenahs' city hall in the early 1970's the old office building became the temporary city hall from 1972 to 78 and was razed when the city moved in to a new building.