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.              

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Stylish Cottage

In the 1890’s the northern limit of Oshkosh was New York Avenue.  There was north of the avenue the Fair Grounds and Race Course on Jackson Street with a few houses along that thoroughfare.  The fairgrounds effectively blocked several streets from going much past New York Avenue and Wisconsin Street was one such roadway.  In 1895 Wisconsin Street went as far as the southern boundary of the fairgrounds and there were but a few houses along its course.  One on the west side of the street very near the terminus was the home of John Koehler, a body maker at the Clark Wagon Company. 
The dwelling was a fine and stylist structure suitable for a working man and his family.  It was one and half stories high with a small porch in the front corner.  There was on the front elevation a gable with a set of double windows and along the south side of the house was a large bay window.   

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bay Street Bungalow

The house at number 313 Bay Street in Oshkosh is not a real bungalow is the sense of the architectural vernacular but the alliteration made for a catchy title.  The diminutive dwelling was a Queen Anne Style cottage built circa 1885 and featured some details that marked it as the work of William Waters.  It was only one and a half stories but had a layout often used by architect Waters. A small porch at the left of the front elevation is covered by the roof of the front gable.  In that gable was a bay window just below the peak, an element seen in Mr. Waters' Queen Anne works.  Along the south side of the house, just past the porch was another larger bay window and above that a gable with a set of double windows.  Beyond the bay window was the back porch. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Two More Suspects

There were two other houses in Oshkosh I suspected of being the work of William Waters and I was not alone in my suspicions.  Both were not far from each other and very near the university campus. The first one was on Elwood Avenue near Scott Street.  It’s original house number was 188 Elm Street and was first listed in the city directory of 1891-93 as the residence of Orin H. Wetlaufer the shipping clerk at the McMillen Company.  
The house displayed several features often associated with the work of Mr. Waters, most notably the long narrow windows in the gables and a decorative apron beneath a small window near the front door.  There was a second-floor porch or balcony above the front porch and bay window along the south face.  The house was likely built in 1890 as Mr. Wetlaufer’s address in 1889 was number 44 Willow Street.
The other suspect was the home of Mr. Louis Rasmussen on Wisconsin Street near the intersection with Scott Street.  Louis was a mason and it was perhaps in 1894 that his house was erected as there was no listing in the directory of 1893 but the first list came in 1895.  This house also exhibited long narrow windows in the gables and a porch on the upper floor, elements common the both buildings.  At some point after 1903 the front porch of the Rasmussen house was enlarged, as the Sanborn Map from that year still showed the original footprint.  Both houses were resided which destroyed much of the authentic architectural detail.          

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mr. Repe’s House on Mt. Vernon

Years ago, I photographed many buildings I knew to be the work of William Waters, also those I suspected to be by him. One of the houses which attracted my attention was on the south-east corner of Mt. Vernon and Dale Street. in Oshkosh.  The house exhibited many of the signature elements that could mark it as the work of architect Waters; long narrow window in the gables and curved brackets.  To look at the house now, it is hard to imagine the beauty and grace that attended the dwelling when built in 1882. 
 The house was constructed for Charles Repe a stone cutter who’s name first appears in the city directory of 1876.  In those days, Mr. Repe lived at 64 Mt. Vernon Street and his stone cutting operation was on Marion Rd. by the river.  He advertised himself as a practical stone cutter suppling cut stone, flagging, curbing and coping work for cemetery work.  Business must have been good for by the early 1880’s Charles was able to move his wife and family to a large, stylish house further north on Mt. Vernon Street, he even became involved in local politics, representing the forth ward on the city council.   Queen Anne Style was all the rage then and the Repe house was a beauty; a porch across the front, long narrow windows in the gables and gracefully curved bracket supporting over-hanging roofs.  There was even an intriguing bay on the second-floor corner with several small windows and a cartouche-like medallion.

Charles Repe and his wife moved away in 1908 and sold the house to A. A. Steele.  The subsequent year were not kind to the house, the front porch was removed and the place was resided, taking with it much of the architectural detail.  Still one can see the grandeur that once was there.