Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cook's Stable

The pages of "Willie's Book" have reviled yet another surprise and prompted some questions.  The image below is an elevation of an urban barn or stable and there was something quite familiar about it to me.  I went to my archive or what passes for an archive and located an image from the 1880 publication, "History of Winnebago County Wisconsin" by R. J. Harney which showed the grounds and residence of Ossian Cook on Church Street in Oshkosh.  I knew I'd seen the building before and there at the right side of the picture was the stable.  I shared this revelation with others and they agree the barn sketch and the stable in the picture were one and the same.    

The question comes to mind, "If William Waters designed the barn, did he design the house as well?" The design of the house is reminiscent of that of the Oshkosh residence of Wm. Doe built at the corner of Merritt and Mt. Vernon Streets in 1869.  The layout and fenestration are nearly identical, that is not to say this design was exclusive to architect Waters for I've noticed similar structures in other cities. There are other design elements that have a Waters like look about them; the original porch roof resembles those of the Frentz School.  It is true that the Ossian Cook home doesn't appear on any lists of jobs designed by Waters but there were many Waters' jobs that went undocumented.  It could also be that Mr. Waters sold the plans to anyone in need of a stable, for there is in that same publication a picture of Tom Wall's house with the same style barn.         
The insert photo to the left of the picture was taken not long before the house was leveled to make way for a parking lot.  At sometime the house was updated to look more Queen Anne in style; a tower was added, the front door moved to the other side of the house and a large porch erected.  The porch was abbreviated later, perhaps for maintenance reasons but the discolored brick indicates it wrapped around the side of the house.  The next question one must ask is; "Who designed the revisions?"  The changes were sympathetic and harmonious to the original structure.  The tower roof bares a resemblance to that of the Athern Hotel a Waters job from 1895, which may have been about the time of the remodeling.

P.S. I always thought the house looked spooky.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The W. D. Williams Residence

W. D. Williams started his career in the commission houses of Milwaukee and in 1868 he located in Berlin, Green Lake county and opened a wholesale business.  His choice of Berlin was a good one for it was a gateway to northern Wisconsin and beyond.  His success made him wealthy and by 1881 he wished to show the community his good fortune by building one of the biggest and most unusual homes in the city.  In the Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of May 19th, 1881 an interview with architect William Waters reveled a plethora of jobs, most of which were out of town.  Mentioned in the list is the 32' x 64' frame dwelling of Mr. Williams of Berlin to be built at a cost $3,500.  A September 1881 issue of the Berlin Evening Journal quoted Mr. Williams as follows; "My house will be a large one, larger then the Harkness house next door.  It will be Gothic, something entirely new in Berlin."  The article went on to say only the finest materials were used, walls were back plastered for warmth and cross braced so as prevent cracking.  The carpenters pledged their finest workmanship.
The term "Gothic" was misleading, for the house was designed in the Queen Anne Style; with steep roofs, dormers, bays and various surface textures.  The imposing roof at the corner of the house made a great visual impression, aided by a balcony and dormer.  A generous number of window gave the house a light, airy appearance and a diminutive front porch added grace to the front elevation without overpowering it.  Only minor changes have occurred throughout the years; no ill conceived addition or remodels, leaving the house much as it appeared when built.