Friday, April 15, 2011

Oshkosh Schools 1901 to 1916

The destructive High School fire of 1901 brought about a competition for a replacement. Five architects vied for the job, William Waters and Ephraim E. Stevens chief among them. With a crowded field of contenders there was much to look at, consider and talk about. The debate went on for weeks and preliminary votes taken but no resolution. The discussion became rancorous at times with accusations that some members of the school board were voting for the man, not the plan. In the end the most serious consideration was given to the plans presented by Mr. Waters and Mr. Stevens. At the school board meeting that was to finely decide the issue, forty ballots were taken before the plans of Mr. Stevens were chosen.
The City Council then started to bicker over the choice and even more time was wasted. But after all was said and done E. E. Stevens' plans were built. It seemed that William Waters exclusivity as architect for the Oshkosh School Board was at an end.

E. E. Stevens' 1901 Oshkosh High School

In 1903 the city was contemplating a school for the thirteenth ward on the city's growing south west corner. A call was put out to local architect for plan for a new school to be built near South Park. Both Waters and Stevens submitted designs for the new building. Not much press was devoted to the school boards proceedings. A vote was taken and the job of designing South Park School was awarded the Mr. Stevens. The design looked as if it was to have another wing added, perhaps as the need arose. The result however was an unbalanced looking structure.

Stevens' 1903 South Park School

Eight years pasted before another public school job came up, the Orville Beach Manual Training School. The building was to located on property next to the High School donated by Mr. Beach. This time the competitors were William Waters, E. L. Lindsay and Henry Auler. A few years later Mr. Auler would work with Waters on the design of the new High School

Some of the Oshkosh schools were aging, the Frentz School built in 1873 was by 1914 deemed dangerous and obsolete. The idea was to place the school on Grove Street in the eleventh ward. Without a great deal of debate the job went to Mr. Waters. Longfellow was not unlike St. Peter's School planned the year before.

Also in 1914 the School Board decided to expand the High School. It was recommended the design go to William Waters, assisted by Henry Auler. A tour of high schools in St. Paul, Superior and other cites was arranged in order to see the latest in school design. The new addition was in the same style as the Beach Training School and the pair presented and impressive sight. The building serves today as Oshkosh City Hall.

P. S. The High School addition was the last building William Waters worked on. After his death his firm became Auler Jenson & Brown.

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