Saturday, February 23, 2013

Your Indulgence Please

Recently I became a follower of a blog called "An American Downton Abbey" by Peter Adams.  Mr. Adams lives in Neenah in the house built by his great grandfather H. Babcock, a co-founder of the Kimberly Clark Corporation.  His home has been mentioned more than once in this blog as the work of William Waters.  Reading Mr. Adams blog got me thinking about my interest in Mr. Waters.  I rarely personalize my postings because this blog is about William Water, not me.  Please indulge me this one time reminiscence.  
I recall most vividly the first time I saw the Babcock house in Neenah.  After my mother past, my maternal grandmother would take my sister, brother and me on little outings. She would pack a picnic lunch and load us in the back seat of her dark blue 1950 Chevrolet and off we went.  Perhaps it would be to visit old friends in Appleton or to High Cliff but often it was to picnic in Neenah's Riverside Park.  She was born and raised in Neenah and knew the city well.  On one beautiful summer day when I was four or five and just becoming more aware of my surroundings we stopped to picnic in Riverside Park along East Wisconsin Avenue just in front of the line of towering mansions.  At the time I was ignorant to the significance of the street or the houses lining it.  I was impressed by many things that day; the green grass, the beautiful harbor, the good food served to us but most of all the graceful houses across the street.  

The one that most interested me was the one with the great round tower and imposing porch, the Babcock place.  Set within a backdrop of souring trees in full summer foliage it looked as a castle in a sylvan glen. My gaze took in all aspects of the great house, in particular the prominent tower; the combination of wood and brick and all the windows.  The dark green shades pulled half way down, the white curtains and the dark void of the room beyond gave me to wonder who lived there?  Were there children within or did elderly people dwell there?  All these question were forgotten as my brother , sister and I played in and explored the park under grandma's watchful eye.  Time wore on and we children grew tired, it was time to pack up and leave.  There would be more picnics in the park with grandma and visits to my uncles and their families living in Neenah, Menasha. Trips there were not uncommon and as I grew so did my interest and appreciation in the history and architecture of Neenah.  

It was not, however until I was in college that I became most keenly aware of the works of William Waters and his affect on the communities I grew up in.  Through my research I found the church I was baptized in, the schools I attended from kindergarten to the eighth grade, the library and museum I loved to visit were all his handy work.  Many of the beautiful homes I admired in my neighborhood and elsewhere too were of his hand.  I realized his buildings were all round me and not just in Oshkosh but in Neenah, Menasha, Appleton and beyond.  I try to bring to others an appreciation for Architect Waters quality and quantity of work.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More Schools for Neenah, Menasha

William Waters continued to design schools in both Neenah and Menasha.  Over the years from 1888 to 1894 he drew plans for two schools in each city.  1888 was a very busy year for Mr. Waters with projects in Oshkosh as well as a school and city hall in Neenah.  Most of the press was given over to the progress of the new city hall and no mention made of the school boards decision to replace the ageing and cramped Third Ward School.  Architect Waters delivered a beautiful Queen Anne Style edifice with Tudor style details, the Stevens Point School Board also used the same plans for the Fifth Ward School in that city

These buildings had been described as Tudor Style but that was not a term that would have been used in 1888.  The buildings' plan was simple, a large pavilion adorned with an imposing bell tower next to a covered arched portico with another pavilion at a right angle to the left.  

Neenahs' school was constructed of very light colored brick while the Stevens Point permutation used a darker sandy brick; both had decorative contrasting darker courses of brick. Neenahs' third ward, located on Doty Island, built the new school on Forest Avenue between First and Second Streets.  By 1923 the building had become inadequate despite a large addition erected about 1900, it was razed and replace by Roosevelt School.  A comparison of these two structure and Oshkoshs' First Ward School built in 1886 show that they are mirror images of each other in lay out. The later schools are smaller and differ in style but the similarity is unmistakable.  
Manashas' forth ward was by 1891 in need of a new school as well.  Architect Waters was hired and drew up plans for a pleasing yet compact building located on Manitowoc St. between First and Second Streets.  The structure cost $10,000  and was the pride of the city.  Built in the Queen Anne Style the building was symmetrical with the front elevation consisting of an arched entry, above which were four windows and a pediment raising to a peak just below a diminutive and elegant belfry set upon a hip roof.  There were six window on each side of center, two on every level from the basement to the second floor. Constructed of a light colored brick with contrasting dark bands the lintels, sills pediment cap and other trim were of limestone.  The building was replaced by Jefferson School built about two blocks to the east.

In the Neenah Times of April 4, 1893 an extensive article with a wood cut of the new Second Ward School was published.  There was perhaps some significance attached to this write up as few illustrations appeared in the newspapers of the day, wood cut being expensive to produce.  The missive states,"The plans and specifications are by Architect Wm. Waters of Oshkosh, whose fame as a successful architect is well known."  By way of description the school was of a light colored brick with limestone trim and measured 64' 6" by 89' 6"  with three class rooms and adjoining clock rooms on both floors.  The school was a fanciful Queen Anne Style, almost castle like in appearance with a playful fenestration, a lofty 76' high tower, arched entry portico, a hip roof with an "eyebrow window" and built for a total cost of $15,350. In service for many years there was at least one addition placed on the school before being replaced and demolished.  
Menasha also kept Mr. Waters occupied with a new Third Ward School built in 1894 to replace a school in Smith Park, dating from 1879.  The new structure was on the corner of Ahnaip and Nassau Streets and displayed a movement away from the Queen Anne Style and toward the more Classical Style as seen in the Wittenberg High School. Still present was a prominent bell tower but most of the other picturesque details were gone.  Laid out in a lengthwise plan the front of the building had basement windows, two arched windows on the first floor and two set of double windows on the second floor, a hip roof with dormers crowned the structure.  A short distance along the right side wall arose the tower which also held the entrance, a limestone arch with doors beyond.  There were windows at the second floor and attic levels of the belfry and it was topped by a bell deck with arches which echoed that of the front entry, the bell was said to have once occupied the Tayco Street firehouse.  The window arrangement on the right side indicated that a hallway and staircase were just inside the front doors.  By 1919 the school had become overcrowded and a barracks like building was erected for class rooms and more land acquired for play ground.  In 1926 it was replaced by Nicolet School..