Friday, August 11, 2017

Have You Met the Twins?

There are on Otter Avenue two more houses I believe to be the work of William Waters.  Located next to Peter Nicolai’s Italianate Style house these two houses are mirror images of each other and of the Queen Anne Style.  They were built in 1885 and were occupied at different times.  Presently the houses are numbered 402 and 406 but in 1886 would have carrier the numbers 93 and 97, respectively.  The dwellings are nearly duplicates of the rectory built in Appleton for the Episcopal church there.  They show many of the stylistic elements that would mark them as the work of William Waters. There are on one side elevation double gables as seen on the J. W. Kelley residence of Washington Street.  Like brackets supporting gables and eves are found on other Waters houses as well, they surly must have come from architect Waters’ drawing board.
                                            See number 5, lower right corner.



An article in the Daily Northwestern of January 2, 1886 gives a list and dollar amount for the buildings completed in 1885, two are listed on Otter Street for C. D. Heath at $2,500 each, the report doesn't name any architects.  Mr. Heath was born in Racine in and came to Oshkosh with his family in 1858.  He was proprietor of a cigar shop and later the Senate sample room on Washington Street and Athearn Hotel.  Additionally, Heath was second ward alderman and was for one week in April of 1891 the mayor of Oshkosh.  Later he and his family moved to Marinette, Wisconsin, where he ran a hotel.
The first resident of number 406 was Frank D. Topliff a partner in the dry goods house of Hough and Topliff which had two locations, one on Oregon Street and the other on Main Street. The city directory of 1886 lists Mr. Topliff’s residence as 279 Jackson Street but the 1889 register locates him on Otter Avenue.  Mr. Topliff came from New York in 1872 to Green Bay and married Miss Hoffmann while working for Seels and Best Dry Goods.  In 1879 he traveled to Oshkosh and eventually partnered with Elbert Hough in the dry goods business.  That arrangement went until 1894 when Topliff opened his own store.  He remained it business until 1915 when he and his wife retired to Green Bay.  Parenthetically Mr. Charles Heath was the Topliff Company treasurer.     

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Special Report

On July 31, 2016 I gave a presentation to the Winchester Academe, a like long learning organization based in Waupaca.  I had been eagerly anticipating the event for months and Robbi and I had assembled a fine power point lecture which covered William Waters and his work in Waupaca.
 The proceedings were well attended and the crowd enjoyed show, asking many question during the Q and A.  I saw some folks I'd not seen in years and made new acquaintances, it was a splendid evening.  My thanks to my wife Robbi, Ann Buerger Linden, Nolan, Joe and Maggie Jones and the other members of the board of Winchester Academe for making the presentation possible.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Peter Nicolai and His House

There was a fine house on Otter Avenue which I’d long admired but hadn’t considered to be the work of William Waters until just recently.  The house was built for Peter Nicolai, a prominent and colorful citizen.  ( Number 4.)
Mr. Nicolai was born in 1820 at Rhineland-Platz, Germany and immigrated to Oshkosh in 1849 making the city his home until his death fifty-one years later.  He married Appolonia Jagoditsch and they had eight children.  His obituary lists Peter as a carpenter but said he did not engage in that occupation for many years, a check of old city directories shows that Peter was a saloon keeper, restaurateur and man of leisure.  Mr. Nicolai had quite a temper and was arrested for an assault on Theodore Frenz, it seems Mr. Frenz told Peter that he’d seen his daughter at Rolla Herrmann’s saloon drinking beer with unsavory company.  Later Peter went to Mr. Herrmann and inquired if he had witnessed his daughter with undesirables, Rolla told Peter he had not and Peter left Mr. Herrmann’s establishment only to return the next afternoon in the company of Theodore Frenz.  The two strolled up to Mr. Herrmann and Peter asked if he’s seen his daughter in bad company to which Rolla said no, Mr. Nicolai then sized a duster and beat Mr. Frenz about the head with the handle to the point of drawing blood.  But I digress.
The reason I feel the Nicolai house is a Waters job is the front entrance and porches, they are
nearly identical to the entrance and porches of the Rodrick McKenzie house.  The layout of the
front elevation of both structures is the same only the scale and some details differ. 

The dates would be about the same, the McKenzie place was built about 1873 and Peter Nicolai’s 
first residual listing on Otter Avenue comes in 1876, I therefore conclude Mr. Waters to be the
architect of Peter Nicolai’s house.  I can offer no written proof of my accretion just my intuition.      

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Kings of Waugoo Avenue

There is one other house on Waugoo Avenue which I always believed to be the work of William Waters but for which I’ve no proof, just my intuition.  The house at 204 Waugoo Avenue was once one of many homes in that block but as the neighborhood changed it became the only house in that block on that side of the street.  When I was in grade school the bus, I rode home on would pass this house and I always admired the house.

 My research indicates that it was built in the early 1890’s for Peter King who was half of the partnership of the King Brothers.  F. B. King had been a resident of Oshkosh since 1863 and operated several sample rooms which seemed to be very lucrative, for F. B. King could commission William Waters to design a large house on the south west corner of Waugoo and Broad Streets.  

If Fred could hire Mr. Waters, perhaps his brother could also.  Peter’s house wasn’t as grand as his brother’s but it was a fine building, the design for which was used by others.  There was a house on Parkway Avenue which was the mirror image of the King house and the Sorensen house in Neenah was nearly identical. 

P. S.  It has come to my attention that a publication for the 1990's credits Mr. Waters as the architect of the Peter King house.     

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dream Along With Me.

                                                             
                                                             Prologue

                         The following is an illustrated day dream.  …Enjoy.

Imagine if you will that you live in a fair-sized city in Wisconsin, the year is 1885. The June morning is warm with a light breeze which feels cool.  You are strolling through a park and the leaves rustle as the breeze moves the tree tops, there is the faint sound of a morning dove.  You emerge the trees to a corner of the park where a fountain splashes water down two tiers to a large basin bellow, before you is a neighborhood of large brightly colored homes with well-kept grounds.  Across the street a boy pushes a lawn mower and can swell the fresh cut grass on the breeze, from behind you hear the approach a vehicle on the brick pavement and you turn to see a horse drawn Phaeton speed past, a distant church bell chimes the hour.
You turn left and walk down the street to the crest of a slope at the end of which is a lake shining as a sapphire on a green velvet cushion.  Thousands of bright flashes of light strike your eyes as the breeze turned surface reflects the sun light.  Cumulus clouds indolently drift by as your gaze falls upon a mother pushing her infant son in a carriage and her daughter tags along.  The mother hums a tune as the little girl chatters about the long walk home and other childish concerns.  The young mother notices you and calls out a greeting, you reply “Good morning”.  She pushes the carriage up to the gray house, picks up her baby and she and the children go into the house.  You cross the street, walk toward the white Queen Anne cottage last in the row, you’re home after your morning walk.

                                                                      The End

P. S.  All the houses in the pictures were designed by William Waters, some were in Oshkosh, others in Neenah and Appleton.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Two on Waugoo

I can trace my interest in architect Waters to some old acquaintances: Lee and Eileen Weigert.  I had known them since I was in first grade, the parents of a classmate and friend. The Weigerts were devotees of Oshkosh history and William Waters.  In 1977 I entered the Oshkosh Public Museum Art Fair, one of my drawings was a pen and ink called “Glimpses of Oshkosh, Wisconsin” and featured drawings of many prominent Oshkosh buildings.  The Wiegerts and I were talking when Lee said, “You know Richard, all these buildings were designed by William Waters.  Do you know much about him?”  I had to plead ignorance and the Wiegerts filled me in on Mr. Waters.  Eileen told me of a house on Waugoo Avenue as being a Waters job but remodeled beyond recognition.  She described in detail its location and I at once knew of which house she spoke, it was number 316 Waugoo or old number 91.  







                                                    Numbers 2, 3 are address 91, 101

Until recently I never pursued much research on architect Waters’ early works.  The collection of sketches compiled by William Waters Jr. as a boy had been a great help in discerning works from the 1870’s and photographic evidence showed architectural details also seen in the sketches of “Willie’s Book”.  I was now able to identify some Mr. Waters’ early residential works and I concluded that the houses at 91 and 101 Waugoo Avenue were both the work of architect Waters, but to linking the house to the person who had it built was another matter.  The Oshkosh city directories from the 1870’s list names, occupations and home address, there was no listing of street addresses and occupant name.

In 1891, D. C. Buckstaff resided at number 91 Waugoo, he was the treasurer of the Buckstaff and Edwards Company.  D. C. Buckstaff isn’t listed in the 1879 directory and all other Buckstaffs are listed as living on the south-side and working for Buckstaff Brother and Chase Company.  The occupant of number 101 Waugoo in 1891 was Herman Derksen, a cigar maker who had previously lived at number 152 Main Street.  It was unlikely that either man had these homes built for them. 

 Both building have long since been demolished but it's nice to imagine the days when the street was lined with houses, not parking lots.

Friday, June 2, 2017

James G. Clark Residence

Recently in Oshkosh, the Washington Avenue Historic district was established to help preserve the many fine neoclassic buildings in the 200 block of that street.  This is a good thing and I endorse any effort the preserve architectural treasures.  I’m also aware that the neighborhood now protected was once an up sale residential district.  In the nineteenth century, many doctors, lawyers and businessmen made their homes on Washington and adjacent street.  One such denizen was James G. Clark a partner in the Biggers and Clark dry goods store.  In an article from the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern from December 14, 1877 which recapped the years building, there is mention made of Mr. Clark’s new dwelling on Washington, as planned by William Waters.  
Where was it and what did it look like, were the questions in my mind.  The Oshkosh city directory of 1880 lists Mr. Clark’s address as 71 Washington Street and the 1903 Sanborn map shows that number to be on the north side of the street and third from the corner of Mt. Vernon.  As to its’ appearance, I consulted “Oshkosh Illustrated” from 1887 and the photograph looking north taken from the top of the court house.  I notice a house in the upper left hand side the picture, about where number 71 would stand.  The image wasn’t very clear but clear enough to trigger a recognition, I had seen something like it the collection of sketches put together by William Waters Jr.  I leafed through the pages and found the drawing, a good match to the fuzzy image from 1887 and the date would have been spot on, I determined that the house in the photo and the house in the sketch were one and the same.  
P. S. The house designated as 1 is the Clark residence, I’ve numbered several houses in the photograph as they will be the subject of future posts.