Monday, February 13, 2012

Neenah Residences, Part Three

The cities of Neenah and Menasha are very different from one another, there always been the perception of Neenah as the affluent city and Menasha as a mill town. Doty Island is shared by both cities with the boarder being Nicolet Blvd. A few blocks south is East Forest Avenue and the neighborhood known as "The Menasha Colony". Here many of the well to do Menasha mill owners built grand homes, close to the mills of Menasha and to wealthy of Neenah. The best of both worlds perhaps.
In 1873 Miles H. Wheeler built an Italianate Style dwelling on the south east corner of East Forest Avenue and Webster Street. Mr. Wheeler was a lumberman; perhaps that meant a dealer or wholesaler. The occupation did well for him as he was able to retain the services of William Waters to plan his house. It was a simple design with no tower, belvidere or large porch. The lay out was similar to that of the William Doe Residence in Oshkosh. The structure was razed many years ago.
At the other end of the block, to the east was the home of Ellis Jennings. Mr Jennings was at first associated with the Paul Paper Company, which proved to be a short lived proposition for he soon partnered with M. H. Wheeler in the lumber trade. In 1893 architect Waters planed a fine Queen Anne Style house which still graces East Forest Avenue. The building has been well maintained and has had no major alterations.
In 1885 Mr. Waters designed a large brick Queen Anne Style home for a builder/contractor named David Barns. In 1910 Frank B. Whiting purchased the place and had a sizable addition built on the back side of the structure. The house remained unaltered until the 1960's when it was "up dated". A new front porch, incongruous with with the Queen Anne Style replaced the original along with other changes. Recently the building was restored to its 1885 appearance.
Frank Whiting's father George also lived on East Forest Avenue. The elder Mr. Whiting came to Neenah in 1875 and joined with William Gilbert, forming the Whiting & Gilbert Paper Company. By 1886 Whiting bought his associate's interest and later incorporated as George A. Whiting Paper Co. Mr. Whiting had been living on East Forest Avenue for many years, when in 1897 he commissioned William Waters to design large home. The old house was razed and beautiful mansion built in its place. Architect Waters was fond of using limestone in many of his buildings but with the Whiting house the foundation and first story were of brownstone from quarries near Bayfield. George's grandson inherited the house but felt burdened by maintenance and demolished the structure in 1957.
Henry Spencer Smith was the second of two sons of Elisha Smith founder of Menasha Wooden Ware Company, later known as The Menasha Corporation. Henry served as an officer and executive of the company and in 1892 commissioned William Waters to design a fashionable new dwelling to be located on East Forest Avenue. The architect mixed Queen Anne and Shingle Style to produce a pleasing edifice. At some time the building was greatly enlarged with the addition of a third floor to the tower and expansion on the north and east sides of the house.
Another Menasha mill owner to build on East Forest Avenue was Albert C. Gilbert, son of William M. Gilbert. In 1903 Mr. Gilbert asked William Waters to draft plans for a new house. Mr. Waters conceived a magnificent mansion with a large front porch and corner tower. It is difficult to pin point a style for this house. As with many homes, after twenty years or so someone gets the urge to remodel. Perhaps in the mid 1920's the front porch was removed as well as the dormers at the front and center of the roof.
Not a wealthy mill owner, Perry Lindsley was a commercial traveler or salesman if you will. In 1893 Mr. Lindsley hired Waters to plan his dwelling. What came from the drawing board was a modestly sized Shingle Style, looking like an enchanted cottage. The roof had two dormers; a large on to the left and smaller one the right. Entry to the front porch was gain through an arched opening situated next to a larger aperture to the right. The house has endured the years with a few alterations but look much as it did when built.
George Banta Sr. also had a house from the Waters' firm. This Menasha industrialist built not in Neenah but on Nuymut Street in Menasha. His 1883 brick Queen Anne Style was adorned with a capacious front porch and side porches on both the first and second floor. Over the years the house had fallen in disrepair but has recently regained its splendor with a total renovation.

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