Tuesday, June 12, 2018

R. J. Weisbrod’s Home

Rudolph J. Weisbrod was a prominent citizen in the early days of the city of Oshkosh.  He was born at Summers, Prussia in August of 1839 and moved to Oshkosh with his parents in 1853, at age fourteen.  After his service in the Civil War he returned to Oshkosh and opened shop as furniture builder and undertaker.  In 1873 he had a three-story building erected in the first block of Main Street on the west side of the street.  Business must have been good because in 1876 Mr. Weisbrod was able to build a stylish house on Washington Street just beyond Bowen Street.  Rudolph also became interested in politics, serving first as alderman when as Chief Fire Engineer and from 1885 until his death in 1901, Chief of Police. 
His house was said to have been the work of William Waters, a claim I didn’t fully embrace at first but soon I recognized the Waters’ “stamp”.  The building was typical of many of his houses from the mid to late 1870’s with low pitched roofs and small but ornate front porches.  One feature that was of great interest was trim around the first-floor windows and the small roof over the double window second floor.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Medberry and Bemis

Algoma Boulevard was always a major through fair, lined with businesses, schools, churches and homes. In the early 1890’s, commercial building and churches occupied each side of the street from Main Street to Light Street, there were very few houses.  There was one however at number 58 Algoma, the residence of Samuel Sutton, and machinist.  By 1898 the Sutton residence was gone, replaced by beautiful brick and stone business block for Medberry and Bemis, wholesalers of paper and wooden ware.  The building may have been the work of William Waters for it bore many details used by architect Waters. 

The structure was three stories high with an intricate brick work cornice and pediment.  Six windows ran the width of second and third floors and there were two storefronts on the ground floor.  The windows of the upper floors featured indented corners of the openings, giving the apertures a wider appearance.  Limestone bands and lintels added color and surface texture variety.  The building proved inadequate to the company’s purpose and it was replaced in 1927 with a larger structure.                

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Tenth Avenue Challenge

Early in my study of William Waters I tried to locate as many of his buildings as I could.  Most of his residential work was confined to the north side of Oshkosh with but a few south of the river.  One house on west Tenth Avenue however bore some features which made me think it was the work of architect Waters.  It was a large dwelling with a front gable which held a set of triplet windows.  Below that, on the second floor was a large set of double windows to the left and to the right of those were two small windows.   The first-floor front was covered by an enclosed porch which ran the width of the house and round the left end of the house.  
The house was built in 1885 for Hans J. Christenson, an employee of the Central Wisconsin Railroad.  The front porch which dominated the front of the house was not original to the building as shown in a fire insurance map from 1903.  What was there seems to have been a porch at the right front corner of the house and another smaller porch on the east side of the building.   Obscured by the enclosed front, I was unable to discern the fenestration beyond but based on other residences by Mr. Waters I could imagen the unaltered front elevation.    

Friday, April 27, 2018

A Change of Plans

The end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century was a golden age of progress and wealth.  The city of Oshkosh and the whole of Fox River valley, from Green Bay, Appleton to Neenah, Menasha were enjoying unheard of prosperity. 

In the early years of the twentieth century Oshkosh in particular was eager to cast off the vestiges of the old and project a new and modern city.  The First Congregational Church had out grown it’s 1873 edifice and engaged architect William Waters to design a new house of worship.  As early as 1908 plans were reviled for the project which left the old church in tact but added a new structure to the west.  Time pasted and the plans evolved and by 1910 the vision was to remodel the old church, remove the spire and link two the new building with cloisters, front and back.  There was also to be a parsonage on the corner of Algoma and Light Streets

The project as committed to paper was not realized, there was no remake of the old church and the parsonage never came to fruition.  The parsonage as seen in the architect’s rendering was in the same style as Edgar Sawyer’s residence and the house would likely been constructed of the same limestone and brick as the church and would have made an impressive addition to the intersection.

Please see other posts: Churches of Oshkosh, Part 1,3/16/2012 and Oshkosh Churches, Part 3 6/1/2012, for information on the First Congregational churches.  Also for information on the Sawyer Residence see Oshkosh Residences, Part 5, 11/25/2011. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Otter Avenue Mystery

Months ago, I was prepared to write an article about the house at 524 Otter Avenue.  I had always suspected it to be the work of William Waters but an old Oshkosh building survey recognized Joseph Weber as the architect, so I abandoned my planed missive.  A few weeks past David Groth, an architectural historical and fellow Waters aficionado asked me about the house.  He said he and others believed it was indeed a “Waters’ job”.  I told him I agreed with him and would consider the matter further.  

I researched city directories and my notes and found that the house was built in 1886 for W. H. Crawford, a plumber, steam and gas fitter.  The directories of 1886 and 1889 list Joseph Weber as being a carpenter but not an architect.  Those same volumes list only A. E. Bell and Wm. Waters as architects.  The house displays many features favored by architect Waters and would have been a fine example of his Queen Anne Style of the time.  I then recalled other instances of erroneous architectural attribution in the Oshkosh building survey.  It’s likely the researchers for the building survey found Mr. Weber’s name as the builder and concluded that he was also the architect.  Perhaps David Groth, the others and I are correct and the house is truly from William Waters’ drawing board.      

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Another Jackson Street Possibility

The house at 1018 Jackson Street in Oshkosh was possibly the work of William Waters.  Although over the years many alterations were made there were still some remaining elements which marked it as Mr. Waters’ design.  The long narrow triplet windows in the front gable were certainly a feature used by Waters as well as the front porch set within the footprint of the structure. 

The house was built circa 1894, because the city directories of 1891 and 1893 list nothing at the address, whereas the 1895 directory lists an address and two occupants: Mr. Frank Larish, a railroad postal clerk and L. T. Larson a telegraph operator.  By 1898 the house was the residence of insurance agent, John Bylman and his family, who lived there for many years.  It likely became a multifamily dwelling with the on set of the great depression, when many large houses became too costly to maintain as single family homes.    

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Great Remodel

In my youth I would occasionally walk home from school, a stroll that took me nearly the entire length of Washington Avenue.  The best part of the walk was from Bowen Street to my house. It was pleasant because the street was lined with large graceful trees and elegant well-maintained homes.  One of my favorites was the house at 1022 Washington Avenue, a larger white house  on the north side of the street, of a simple design, a porch which stretched across its front and sat on manicured grounds.  When I became aware of William Waters I thought it was perhaps one of his works.
I was never able to link Mr. Waters to the house but I did learn some interesting facts about the residence.  One of the first things learned was that it did not always look as it does now and it was much older than I thought.  The house was built 1865 by Colonel John Hancock, a lawyer who served in the Civil War.  The Hancock’s lived there until 1871, then moved closer to the lake on Merritt Avenue.  Attorney Hancock sold the place in 1871 to another lawyer, Charles Felker who’s family resided there until 1919.  In 1894 or so Mr. Felker had the house remodeled and expanded, a large portion was added to the west side of the house and gabled roofs topped off the structure.  There were two elements present which led me to conclude the addition was designed by architect Waters; the graceful brackets supporting the gable ends and the set of four window in the front gable with an arched light above the center two.

Parenthetically, Mr. Felker was an avid yachtsman and one-time commodore of the Oshkosh Yacht Club, in 1885 he instituted the race for the trophy which bore his name and has been contested each year since.