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.                        

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Northern Wisconsin State Fair

In 1870 the Northern Wisconsin Agricultural and Mechanical Association was formed as group interested in promoting more efficient framing techniques and practices.  The association grew rapidly and every year held a convention in various cities, such as Berlin, Appleton, Ripon and Green Bay.  The officers of the group too were from many different locations.  In September the group held a fair and exposition in Oshkosh.  It wasn't long before the fair became an important event, attracting hundreds of attendees, and needed a suitable grounds and exhibition hall. 
 In 1879 the society had a large hall built on grounds just west of Jackson Street, north of New York Avenue.  There was a race course too, on the west side of the exhibit hall.  It's unclear who drew the plans for the building but similarities to other building of the time by architect William Waters suggest it was he who penned the plans.  It was truly a grand edifice with a towering belvidere at its' center, long wings stretching to the north and south and the corners of each wing, towers with peaked roofs and windowed dormers.  The building was the largest exhibit hall in the northwest out side of Chicago.  It was however a short lived grandeur as a fire reduced the building to ash and charred limber within a year.   A replacement was soon in the works with plans drawn by Mr. Waters.  The new hall was finished in 1881 and was slightly large than its' predecessor.  Still it bore a great resemblance to the former exhibition building with imposing central cupola, outstretched wings and corner towers.  The lighting was improved with skylights and dormers along the length of the vast wings, the corner tower had peaked roofs but with no windowed dormers.  The exhibition hall served for but a few years when in 1885 three tornadoes roared through town, leaving the fairgrounds littered with roof sections and other debris and no exhibit hall. 
There was no immediate news of a replacement and was not until the summer of 1891 that word came out of plans to build anew.  Mr. Waters submitted plans but there was a challenger, a contractor named Schneider, who’s plan was less expensive.   Architect Waters redrew the hall, removing ornamentation and embellishment.  In the end Mr. Waters modified design won as the Schneider plan although attractive was thought be “not so firm.”   Later in July came the news of an intended grand stand also planned by William Waters.   It was to 183’ long and seat 1,000 people with a roof to shield the audience from the sun.  By mid-August the papers reported that the exhibition hall was to be finished in the next week and that the grand stand would be ready in time for the fair in September.  The few newspaper accounts from July and August of 1891 seem to be the only record of those structures, there are no photographs or written records to tell what they looked like or what became of them.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Neoclassical in Neenah

In the late nineteenth century many small local insurance companies were formed.  The Fox River valley had several; Aid Association for Lutherans of Appleton, Oshkosh's Wisconsin National Life Insurance and The Fraternal Reserve Association and in Neenah there was The Equitable Fraternal Union which was founded in 1897.  All these companies would eventuality build large, impressive home office buildings.  The first to do so was The Equitable Fraternal Union of Neenah.  The fast growing company quickly out grew its' original office space and in 1908 turned to William Waters to design the “Home Office”.   A lot on the corner of Commercial and Doty Streets was acquired and by September of 1909 the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported on the nearly completed edifice, replete with a fine engraving of the building.  
The favored style of the time for building of that nature was neoclassical.  It was a style which projected strength and longevity and the Equitable Reserve building seems to have been the bell weather for structures to follow, such as; The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance building in Milwaukee or the Wisconsin National Life Insurance building in Oshkosh.  The Equitable Reserve building was built of limestone and was three stories high and measured 68' x 102' with the front entrance on Commercial Street.  Above the front door was a colonnade of six ionic pillars supporting the frieze and cornice.  Atop the cornice was a parapet with decorative escutcheons at the corners and a pediment at the center.  In a history of Neenah published in 1958, architect Henry Auler described the building as…”one of the few remaining buildings of classical design that is true to the Greek method of construction.  It too is an example of what is expressed in the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.”  The building remains to this day unaltered and looking as it did the day it was finished.            

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.