Monday, March 18, 2013

Willie's Book

Recently I question a fellow blogger about an image of a house in Neenah.  He told me he'd seen a picture of the house in an album compiled by William Waters Jr. and that the book was held at the Wisconsin State Historical Society.  I called the archivist to confirm the existence of the collection and by the description given to me, I felt sure it was what I was looking for.  I went to the archive in Madison, accompanied by my wife and after filling out the requisite paper work the file was brought to us. What was in the file wasn't the photo album I had anticipated but some thing just as exciting.    

Before me were the pages of a once bound agricultural journal.  Upon the pages young William Waters Jr. or "Willie" as he was known had pasted discarded drawing done by his father or J. P, Jensen.  It was evident to me that it was the work of a child for the haphazard nature of organization and mounting.  There were some engravings  of building not designed by his father and perhaps included just because the boy liked them.  Most of the pages were filled with small pencil drawings: elevations, floor plans and details of residential, religious and commercial structures.  The majority of the sketches were from 1876 as some of them were dated, Willie would have been seven.  One can speculate about the books creation; perhaps it was a summer day, the boy went to the office with his father and took up the project as a way to keep occupied.  This was a difficult time for Mr. Waters and his family, their infant daughter had died in April of 1873 and Mrs. Waters past away in October of 1875.  The disastrous Oshkosh fires of 1874 and '75 had kept the office busy as well as forcing Waters to find new office space.
The younger Waters finished his education in Oshkosh with a diploma from Oshkosh High School and then in 1888, went on to Cornell University, graduating four years later with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. After a year of study abroad he returned to Oshkosh and worked in his fathers office. In 1896 William junior partnered with George A. Rockwell also an Oshkosh native and graduate of Cornell, opening an office in Green Bay.  Perhaps things didn't go well as the partnership ended by 1899, where upon William returned to Oshkosh and the office of his father, forming the firm of William Waters and Son.  In early June of 1900 William married Florence E. Bacon of Milwaukee and the union was blessed with a daughter, Mercedes.  William took an examination in March of 1902 for the United State government architects office, which must have impressed officials, because by April he was hired and assigned to Manila. Upon his return from the Philippians he and his family settled in San Francisco.  Not much is known of his work at this time but he became supervising architect of building construction for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. William's last visit to father came in the summer of 1917 but was unable to attend his funeral in December, there being business to attend to in California.  William Waters Jr. past away, November 27, 1920 at age 51, his ashes interned in Oshkosh's Riverside Cemetery on the ninth of December.  


  1. The drawing of the residence is still standing but altered on Merritt street between Bowen and hazel.

  2. Do you know the address? I thought the drawings were just ideas and perhaps never built.