Friday, March 8, 2013

Alton Ripley Residence

There isn't much information about the Alton Ripley residence in Fisk Wisconsin.  There were no newspaper articles announcing Ripleys' intent to build or to use Mr. Waters as architect.  In point of fact the only proof I have of Waters' authorship of the plans is a drawing done by J. P. Jensen the firms' draftsman.  It's one of a hand full of rendering I acquired many years ago after they were carelessly disposed of following an exhibit of Oshkosh architecture, at the university.  All the drawings were of structures built in the 1880's and 90's which leads me to believe the Ripley house was built circa 1890.  
The house is unlike any other job done by Waters, it is the only house of his, I know of  with a gambrel roof. Laid out on a lengthwise plan, there was a small porch on the front set within the footprint of the building.  To the left of the porch on the first floor was a set of double windows and above in the gambrel gable were two separate windows.  There was an intersecting a gable roof about half way along the side of the house.  On the first floor of the north elevation there was a set of triplet windows in the dining room with pantry and kitchen windows beyond. Above on the second floor a small dormer with a diminutive window preceded the gable overhang supported by graceful brackets.  Shaded by the protruding gable was a large stair case window starting just below the  upper floor which continued to the sofitt.  A set of double and one single window completed the fenestration on that wall. The south side also had a protruding gable and a bay window from first to second floor. There was an open, covered side porch with ornate bracket to support the roof.  Next to the bay on the second floor was another window and a small aperture occupied the gable. 
Alton Ripley was the son of Sylvanus Ripley, a partner in the lumber company Ripley and Mead.  The elder Ripley resided at 257 Algoma St. and also owned 120 acres just north of the village of Fisk southwest of Oshkosh, Alton too lived at the Algoma St. address.  The younger Ripley had a number of occupations: book keeper for Ripley and Mead, President of the Lord Bros. Jewelry Co.of  Milwaukee, proprietor of the Wuapaca Granite Quarry and a manufacturer of fire apparatus.  The Ripleys remained residence of Algoma St. even after Sylvanus' death in 1897, never was their address listed as Fisk, Wisconsin.

A few years ago I paid a visit to Fisk, ostensibly to find the house.  I was richly rewarded, for when I located the farm I stopped and made the acquaintance of Helen Kleinschmidt.  She and her husband George moved to the farm just after the war, for an hour we looked through old photographs as she reminisced,  At last I asked if I might take some pictures of the place, she was happy to oblige. Perhaps sometime in the 1960's the house was altered: the front porch enclosed and large windows to replace the set of double windows.  A sizable addition was erected on the north side of the house while the side porch on the south face was enclosed.


  1. In 1906, Alton Ripley built the first car with left hand steering. (pg. 36, In This Century, A History of Winnebago County In the 20th Century.

  2. Now we must backtrack to the 1906-1909 era. Like many others of that time, J. D. Termaat and L. J. Monahan experimented with an automobile that they called the T.M. After Fahrney joined them to finance the venture, it became the T.M.F. According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars and The New Encyclopedia of Motorcars, the 1906 version was designed by Alton Ripley, a company employee. The car was a typical high-wheeled motor buggy of that time with an air cooled engine. Serious production was not carried out, . but a few were assembled for local use. The redisinged car, the T.M.F. of 1909, was also a high-wheeler. The Badger Manufacturing Company was formed in Oshkosh to produce the car, but the project did not survive more than a year. There is a statement by Wendel that the Universal marine engine was built in the Badger Manufacturing Company shop.