Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lakeside Sanitarium

As a kid I was told by a friend that the house on the corner of Washington and Hazel Street was the original Mercy Hospital, I was skeptical.  As it turned out my friend was right, and wrong.  The history of medicine and hospitals in Oshkosh is interesting from an architectural point of view.  Perhaps the first general hospital was Alexian Brother founded in 1880 and housed in the former J. J. Moore residence on the corner of Jackson and New York Avenue.  Later the brothers built a large brick structure with grounds that occupied the entire block.  In 1891 the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother established St. Mary Hospital in an erstwhile store on the corner of Boyd and Merritt Street, which was replaced by a handsome brick structure designed by E.E. Stevens in 1894. 
 By 1903 the good Sisters had ambitious plans for explanation and hired E. Breilmaler and Sons, architect of Milwaukee to plan an addition, which if built as drawn would have tripled the size of the hospital.  That was not to be and only a small portion was constructed and served as a hospital until 1934 when it became a home for the aged.                                      
 In 1889 a young doctor named Michael E. Corbett MD arrived in Oshkosh, his office was in the Beckwith Block on Main St. and his residence on Waugoo Avenue.  In 1892 Dr. Corbett chose William Waters to design his house on Washington Avenue.  Dr. Corbett seems to have been an ambitious person and soon made a name for himself such that by 1902 he purchased the lot behind his house and commissioned William Klapproth to design a modern new office. The office was something of a new departure for a doctor’s office.  Physicians might have an office in their home or on the second floor of a business block, Dr. Corbett’s office looked like a home.  
In 1905 Corbett bought the former residence of Congressman Richard Guenther on the Washington Avenue, the same house my friend claimed was the original Mercy Hospital.  Dr. Corbett transformed the house, designed by William Waters into the Lakeside Sanitarium. 

It remained that until 1912 when he and eighteen other doctors formed the Lakeside Sanitarium Company and hired architect Waters to plan a modern new hospital.  New facility was equipped with the most up-to-date innovations, such as an Otis automatic elevator, one merely had to push a number button and the car would stop at that floor. The new building occupied the block from Hazel to Oak and from Park to Cleveland and was four full stories with the fifth floor as a dormitory.  
For a while, the city was blessed with two general hospitals, St. Mary's and Lakeside. The Alexian Brothers had long since taken up working with addiction and mental patients only.  In 1918 the Sister of the Sorrowful Mother purchased the Lakeside Sanitarium, renaming it Mercy Hospital.  The sisters maintained both St. Mary's and Mercy, even expanding Mercy in 1922 with a lager wing at the north side of the building, in 1938 there was another addition to the south end, witch completely obscured all vestiges of the original building. 

 For many decades Mercy Medical Center as it became known, was fixture on Hazel Street.  As the city grew so did the hospital, its expansion had an adverse effect on the surrounding residential neighborhood.  Finally, in 2000 a new medical center was erected on the city's far west side and what had been the hospital became care and housing for the elderly.                 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Schlitz In Oshkosh

In an earlier post the subject of Oshkosh beer distribution and the Pabst brewing company was covered but many other out of town breweries set up shop in the city, chief among them was Schlitz. August Uihlein of the Schlitz Brewery was selling beer in Oshkosh as early as the 1880's and in 1891 the Uihlein Block was completed, which housed Schlitz Hall a magnificent drinking place. ( See, “More Oshkosh Buildings, Part Five.” May 28, 2015)
Something was afoot, in February of 1891, William Dichmann an Oshkosh business man purchased a lot on Division Street. Dichmann has purchased the lot at Washington and State St. some years earlier and in turn sold it to Mr. Uihlein so that the Uihlein Block could be built. In mid-year, 1891 came the announcement of the brewery's intention to build a storage house with a bottling facility and stable, this according to the Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of July 8, 1891. The article stated that the structure was to 36 x 62 and was to be located on Division St., between the Milwaukee Road and Central Wisconsin Central tracks, the same lot acquired by Mr. Dichmann some months earlier. There was also published in that same edition a notice to contractors for sealed bids for the construction of the edifice, plans for which could be viewed and bids accepted at the office of William Waters, architect. The Oshkosh Times of October 29,1891 printed an article on the just completed Schlitz warehouse, describing it's modern attributes and praising it as “...quite an addition to the city's semi-public buildings.” Just what the building looked like is a bit of a mystery as there are no extant images of the place.
The building did appear on the 1903 Sanborn Map of Oshkosh, labeled as Louis Plate Beer Bottling and shows several structures, some of wood and some with a brick veneer but not much more than that. The Oshkosh Beer Blog of April 4, 2016 covers the Schlitz in Oshkosh subject more extensively and I commend those pages to you as a good and interesting read.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pabst Brewing, Oshkosh

As the city of Oshkosh became better connected by rail with Chicago, Milwaukee and north, goods were able to come and go at a lower coast, it was a boon to industry. It was soon discovered by many brewing companies that Oshkosh made an excellent distribution point for northern Wisconsin. The Oshkosh Times of March 29,1891 noted this fact in an article under the headline “A Center for Beer”, brewers from Cincinnati, St. Louis as well as Milwaukee's Schlitz and Pabst all had a presents in the city with some bottling plants, warehouse and beer halls. As early as 1876, Pabst had an agent in town to distribute their product. Captain Pabst was shrewd businessman and had turned his father-in-law's failing enterprise into the county's largest brewery. The company built numerous taverns in Milwaukee, surrounding cities and beyond. Early in 1896 the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported another purchase of land by the Pabst agent Lawrence Thence. The Light Street property, occupied by the Columbia Hotel was acquired from Mr. Charles Schriber for the sum of $8,500 and the stated intent was to erect a large three store brick storage and bottling plant. The day following that announcement came clarification from Mr. Thence who stated that work would start in the next week at an accelerate pace from plans that called for a two story building 40 x 120. More reports were published outlining Pabst's plans to acquire the entire block bordered by Jackson, Light and Pearl Streets. Mention was also made of a rumor that the brewer was interested the Methodist church property at the corner of Main and Merritt which was denied by a company attorney.
Perhaps the timetable put forth by Mr. Thence was overly ambitious because it wasn't until March 16,1896 that the announcement for sealed bids was publish. Interested parties could view the plans at the office of William Waters. Work on the building was underway by May with precaution taken dew to the wet ground. After excavating to a depth of four feet eight foot piles were driven in and covered with gravel for a solid foundation. Contrary to earlier report the building was to be two stories high and measure 30 x 78 with an office, bottling room and refrigerator on the first floor, living rooms and storage were on the second floor. It was customary for building of the Pabst Brewing Company to have certain look about them and a circular Pabst logo in the brickwork. Parapets and towers were part of the design by architect Waters, giving the building the look of a diminutive Rhine castle which was consistent with Pabst architecture. With the rise and dominance of local breweries the Pabst market share fell off and prohibition was the death knell for the breweries' presents in Oshkosh. The building was sold in 1925. Remodeling work removed the parapets and a general renovation many years ago made the building a show piece.

P.S. For a more comprehensive article on the Pabst Brewing company in Oshkosh, please visit, Oshkosh Beer Blog of May 9, 2016. It's a good read.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stroud's Warehouse

George F. Stroud was a paint and oil merchant in the early days of Oshkosh. He was well established by the early 1870's. There is pictured in the 1886 city directory his retail store and his warehouse, side by side. The store was on the east side of Main Street's second block in a building erected by C. Griffin after the great fire of 1875 and his warehouse was on Otter Street. It was not uncommon for enterprises to picture their building in fictitious settings.
In 1884 there was and curious news item in the Daily Northwestern of March 7th. The Stroud warehouse had been located near Pearl and Market Streets and the Wisconsin Central freight depot. The article reported that Mr. Stroud was dismantling his warehouse and moving the stones to his lot near Otter and State Streets and that when, weather permitting he would erect a new factory and warehouse. The write up stated the building would be 44 x 100 with two stories and a basement.
The March 27th the Daily Northwestern published a notice for sealed bids to be received for the construction of George Stroud's new building, the plans for which could be seen at the office of William Waters. Mr. Waters planed a building that was of no great beauty as its' utilitarian nature didn't call for it. The structure was of plain limestone block, a material the architect was familiar with. There was but one truly decorative feature, a cornice of protruding blocks spaced about twelve inches apart. There was another announcement in late April that work had started on the foundation of the Stroud warehouse. 
The Stroud Company occupied the building for many years, for a time as Stroud and Thomson. In 1914 the building had two tenants: H. M. Wellman and C. O. Sweet followed by the Heco Envelope Company in 1920. The final company to inhabit the place before its' demolition was Mondl Manufacturing, a shoemaker. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oshkosh Public Library

A great part of what makes a community vital and attractive is a good public library and Oshkosh can boast of one of the finest.  It was not however always so, in the early days of the city, like minded people formed private literary associations where for a nominal fee they could access books. 
These private libraries were some times housed in stores, restaurants or the YMCA.  The Oshkosh Library Association and the YMCA both maintained reading rooms but merged in 1869. This was a fine arrangement until the great fire of 1875 destroyed the reading room and its' contents but the library association rebuilt.  By 1889 the public library movement was gaining popularity, fueled by the generous gifts of Andrew Carnegie and a state law which provided that municipalities could levy a mill tax for establishment and maintenance of libraries.  In April of 1890, pushed by the Oshkosh Library Association the city council voted to hold a referendum on a city funded public library and the measure failed.  The Oshkosh Library Association closed but was replaced in 1894 by another group which too faltered.  That same year the city council appointed a library committee to make proposals.  
 Yet another referendum was held in 1895 but it too was defeated, the Library Committee discerned the failure was due to lack of information on the part of the laboring population.  The committee persisted in its' efforts to establish a public library when came the news of the death of Abbie Harris the widow of Marshall Harris a promoter of the public library movement.  In her will Mrs. Harris bequeathed $75,000 and the Harris property on the corner of Washington and Jefferson for a public library.  On the recommendation of the Library Committee the City Council appropriated $1,900 for the establishment of a library in a basement room of city hall, which opened in April of 1896.  In 1897 former Senator Pliletus Sawyer made a generous largess of $25,000 toward the library, the Library Committee recommended a bond issue of $50,000 and the City Council approved it 

With financing in place the project moved forward, there were many details to be worked out but the Library Committee asked for and got proposals  for the new building from three local architects; William Waters, E. E. Stevens and William C. Klapproth. There were also plans drawn by an east coast architect at the behest of Senator Sawyer which never gained much favor.  The contest came down to the three most prominent Oshkosh architects of their day.  Throughout the month of August 1898 the Oshkosh Northwestern published sketches and plans along with the architects' description of their proposals.  From the out set the Library Committee seemed to favor the Waters plan.  George Paine, a member of the school board was a proponent of the plans submitted by Senator Sawyer and seemed to be of the opinion that Oshkosh deserved the best and that local architects weren't up to the task. When all was said and done the plans of William Waters were selected and the corner stone was laid in 1899.                        

As the city grew greater demands were placed on the aging building such that by the mid 1960's it was apparent more space was needed. The firm of Irion and Reinke was engaged to design the addition the plans for which called for expansion along the west and north sides of the original building. Because of limited space and resources a less than harmonious structure was erected. As more time past the inadequacies of the whole library were reviled and in 1992 the city made plans for a complete renovation that in the end would amount to $10.9 million. With a generous gift from an anonymous donor the city realize the financing needed. Architectural firms from Milwaukee and Chicago were selected for the monumental undertaking. Architects Lonn Frye and Barbara Arendt acted as design architects and devised a sensitive addition to the original Waters building. For the duration of the construction the library was moved to the former Radford factory on Wisconsin Ave. In October of 1994 the newly expanded library opened.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The State Street Station

In 1890, not long after the completion of City Hall the city council was considering the construction of a new Fire Department “Truck House” for State Street, even though Company No.1 was housed just three blocks to the north at the Phoenix Fire House.  The process moved quickly with the purchase of a vacant lot just north of City Hall.  William Waters drew the plans and a construction contract was let to Louis Houle with work started on the twenty first of July.  Waters specified the same types of building materials as used in the City Hall. 
The foundation and trim was of Oshkosh Blue Limestone and the brick was red pressed brick.  There were many terracotta plaques decorating the exterior walls.  The original building was a display of symmetry; with a lime stone foundation there were two large limestone arched door at the center flanked by entry door.  Above the entry doors were decorative rectangular terracotta plaques and between the equipment door was a circular plaque.  A course of limestone formed the lentils of the entry doors and more limestone delineated the first and second floors.  At the center of the second floor front elevation was a large terracotta plaque inscribed with O. F. D. surrounded by floral flourishes, either side of which were large windows.  Above the entry doors were narrow window capped the lentils of limestone and across the whole of the building was decorative brick work like a window pane lattices, divided by pilasters at either end and to the inside of the narrow windows.  The front of the structure was topped off by two more courses of limestone.           
It's unclear when, but not long after the fire house was finished an addition was proposed.  It is clear that William Waters was the architect because the extension was a seamless match to the original building.  About a third more was added to the south side of the structure using the same building materials and deign motifs.  On the first floor there was a limestone arched equipment door and to the left an entry door above which was a decorative terracotta plaque.  On the second floor was a single large window centered over the arch below it.  To either side of the widow, like book ends were inscribed terracotta plaques.  At some point the arched equipment door were altered to accommodate larger apparatus and the building continued to serve until 1970 when it razed and replaced by a parking lot. 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Job Well Done

On April 14, 2015 I authored a post on this blog entitled “A Call to Action”.  The news came out that the Paine Art Center wished to expand its' parking to the lot next door which was occupied by the one hundred four year old Louis Schriber house.  The art center offered the house for the price of one dollar to anyone who would move it.  In that post I urged the art center and the citizens of Oshkosh to find a way to make the relocation happen and I take no credit what transpired over the next year.  That honer goes to the many creative and patient people how worked long and hard for a solution.  This is not news to some but to some it may be, the move is a fait accompli, and the house should survive for another one hundred years.
When first announced, the magazine "This Old House" highlighted the availability of the building, generating nation wide interest and many inquiries.  At last a deal was worked out between the Paine Art Center, David and Jason DeVooght and their sister Tammie DeVooght-Blaney the latter being on the staff of The University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley and the brothers operators of DeVooght House and Building Movers.  The company was started by their father Don and although headquartered in New Jersey, DeVooght has moved other Oshkosh houses.  Of note was the 1985 relocation of another brick house from Oshkosh to Menasha via Lake Winnebago.  The plan for the Schriber home didn't call for placing the house on a barge and float it twenty miles north, merely turning it around and moving it a block down the street.  A near by vacant lot was available and the planning began; first the 200 ton building would need to be jacked up and 65 tons of steel beams placed under it. Fourteen, remote controlled eight wheel dollies were attached to the beams.  One hundred twelve wheels rolled the house from it's old foundation and turned it, moved it to the street, then down the block and on to it's new foundation.  
There was prep work of a somewhat disappointing nature; two fine old oak tree had to be cut down, one in order to get the house on to the street and the other stood where the house was to be placed.  The entire move took several days and was cover in the social media.  There will be more work as the new occupants make the place livable once again.  I tip my hat to all those who made this possible, it was truly a job well done.