Monday, January 17, 2011

In September of 1894 the Oshkosh School Board received a report on the condition of the city's schools. Of particular concern was Smith School on Oregon St. The building had been in service since the mid to late 1860's and the years had taken there toll. The school was an embarrassment to the city and the recommendation was "Build a new school." The board announced the intention to build and five different plans were submitted from architects from Appleton, Merrill, Milwaukee and Joliet, Illinois. William Waters submitted plans as well and in the end was awarded the job.

By July of 1895 contracts were let. The job of building the structure was given to Domke & Meyer. The building's style is unlike anything Mr. Waters had previously designed, a departure from the belfries and ornamentation of the past. There is a central pavilion with two arches forming the entrance, just inside of which a flight of steps rises to the front doors. Above the entrance are three sets of arched windows. The main building is arranged symmetrically behind the central pavilion with sets of arched double windows on the first story and arched single windows on the second story. The building is caped with a hipped roof supported by brackets. Still in service after more than one hundred years the school has had an addition. The same plans were used to build the 1897 High School in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. That building has since been demolished.
In 1886 the citizens of the first ward clamored for a new school house of their own. With the replacement of the old Third Ward School the first wards was the oldest in the city. The school board was unable to oblige as the out lay of money needed for the new south side school had emptied the coffers. Finally in 1887 the school board went forward on a new First Ward School. Again William Waters won the contract to draw up the plans. E. E. Stevens was awarded the contract to build the school.
Architect Waters conceived a beautiful Romanesque style building of red brick and lime stone trim with a tall central tower. A newspaper article printed in 1888 proclaimed the school "The finest of them all." The article further mentions the other grand new buildings of Oshkosh; City Hall, Trinity Episcopal Church and the soon to be constructed Post office and Federal Courthouse. The structure was ornate with many large windows for well lighted class rooms. The building was enclosed in 1888, the doors and windows were boarded over and the school was allowed to settle. The next year the finish work was done and the school was ready for classes in the fall of 1889.

Across the river, the third ward school building with its' 1869 addition was then the oldest in the city. In 1885 the school board approved a new school, selecting William Waters as architect and N. J. Ruby to be the contractor. More land was acquired and construction began. Mr. Waters designed another Queen Anne style building. A cream color brick with contrasting dark brick bands was employed. At the center of the front elevation was pavilion with a large arched entrance above which was a set of four widows. In the gable were three gothic arches and in the very peek a decorative circle. From the gable roof rose an understated bell tower. The other elevations echoed the pavilion of the front and the fenestration was regular overall. The roof climbed steeply but not a peek and it seemed to be flat at the top.
The slope of the roof was interrupted by dormers on either side of the gable. The school was symmetrical in design and can be seen as a larger prototype of the smaller schools the architect would plan in the future. (Please see the earlier post on Small Schools.) The school was renamed Jefferson School and enlarged in 1906 with plans drawn by Waters. After a long service a new structure was built in the 1980's.


Oshkosh Schools from 1883 to 1895

Nine years after the Frentz School opened there was talk of over crowding and the need for another school in the second ward. Architect Waters was to plan the school and E. E. Stevens was to build it. Waters planed a grand edifice not unlike the Frentz School, but bigger and better. The Queen Anne style building was built of cream colored brick and featured contrasting bands of dark brick as an accent. In some areas below the windows several courses of brick were laid diagonally for even more visual interest. The most striking element was the imposing bell tower behind which were arranged the class rooms. The building had the look of a mix of the Frentz School and Read School.
The school was finished in 1883 but not everyone praised it. One newspaper article criticized the ostentation of the tower as wasteful; the money spent could furnished school room with maps and books. As time went on the Frentz School was closed and addition and improvements were made in 1898 and 1910 as planned by Mr. Waters. Known as Washington School in later years the school served until it was replaced in the 1960's


Thursday, January 13, 2011

The city's fifth ward had steadily grown in population and by 1878 the school house at the corner on Elm and Vine Sts. could no longer accommodate the large number of scholars. Property on Algoma Blvd. was purchased and plans by Mr. Waters were adopted by the school board in June of 1879. The contract for construction was awarded to E. E. Stevens. By the spring of 1880 Read School was ready for occupancy.
One newspaper account said "It has somewhat of a unique appearance, and in style and arrangement is quite unlike the other school buildings in the city." Waters employed a transverse lay out which gives the building an imposing presents from the street. The school is of cream brick with a central bell tower rising high above the steeply pitched roof. The tower roof has been restored to the original tall peek, after decades with a low pitch replacement. As for what style to call it, perhaps Queen Anne fits the best. The buildings' fenestration is regular with windows of a large size. Over the years architect Waters drew plans for additions in 1895 and 1905. The building is still in use today, some one hundred thirty years later.

P. S. The name of E. E. Stevens will come up again in subsequent posts. Not only was Stevens a contractor but for a time the mayor of Oshkosh. Additionally he was a talented architect and often competed with Waters for jobs, that will be the subject for a post of its' own.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

By 1873 the duel school buildings of the second ward at the corner of Otter and Mill Sts, which had served since1869 had to be replaced. Plans were announced in July of that years and the building was completed in October with plans drawn by William Waters. The building was erected on lots between Winnebago and School Sts. not far from Bowen St. A two story brick building measuring 36' X 70' in the Queen Anne style was erected and named for Theodore Frentz the school board member representing the second ward.

The style was a departure from the architects earlier school structures and presented a pleasant and ornate building with contrasting bands of red brick which also topped the windows. There were two front doors located on small wings on either side of the school, each covered by a gabled canopy. At the very center of the first floor front was canopy covered window which had the appearance of an other door. Above it all rose a charming two tiered bell tower.

That same year, 1873 Waters was asked to plan an addition to the First Ward School, an older frame structure on the corner on Wisconsin and Algoma. The next summer the great fire of 1874 destroyed the schools of the forth ward. Both the buildings designed by Waters; the 1868 Jefferson St. and the 1869 building on the corner of Jefferson and Irving were gone. William Waters however did not design a replacement, that honor went to Carl Kock of Milwaukee. The school was constructed on the corner of Mt. Vernon and Irving Streets. and was named for Dr. Dale, head of the school board. Mr. Waters would later draw plans for two addition to Dale School.


Oshkosh Schools from 1869 to 1879

In a previous post Waters' early works for the Oshkosh school board were examined. In this post the subject will be school from 1871 to 1879. The school building needed for Oshkosh remained static from 1869 to 1871. By then however the city's west side sixth ward had grown and was in need of a school of its own. A lot on the corner of Sixth St. and Idaho St. was purchased for the proposed new edifice. The press showed little interest but for an article in the Oshkosh Time in September of 1871, listing new building from Waters' office.
The school was a two story brick structure 40' X 64' in the Italianate style and laid out in a lengthwise form. There was a central pavilion with a door at center, flanked by windows. Above, on the second floor was a row of three windows. On the roof rose a louvered bell tower with a low pitched roof and small spire. Behind this section was the wider main body of the building with doors on the front elevation. As the west side population grew Waters drew plans for two
additions, in 1891 and 1909. The school would later become known as Franklin School. It was replaced in the 1960's.