Wednesday, August 14, 2013

After the Great Fire, Part Five

The area near the intersection of Algoma and Main and Washington was hot real estate, no pun intended.  The entire block east of Main Street and south of Washington Street was the heart of the business district.  
The corner on Waugoo and Shonaon Streets was to be the location of the new Tremont House.  Proprietor Joseph Staudenraus had commissioned William Waters to plan his new hotel; it would be three stories high and hold forty guest rooms.  Seventy feet was to front on Waugoo Street and eighty on Shonaon, there was a stable as well.  Mr. Staudenraus' hotel was designed to appeal the commercial traveler or traveling salesman.  On the first floor were the offices parlor, sitting and dining rooms as well as rooms where a sales man could display his wares to prospective customers.  The guest rooms also included a sitting room outfitted with carpet, sofa and easy chair for family use.  Over the years the place lost its luster as it became a low rent residence hotel, renamed the Star.  It was razed to make way for a drive through bank and parking lot.  
Over on Washington Street just opposite the new Post Office, Killian Dichman and son William built a concert and amusement hall as designed by William Waters.  The first floor was occupied by two shops; Hellard's News Stand and Kitty Neis' Millinery.  A lager hall and ancillary rooms made up the forty  by seventy second and third floors.  Entrance to the hall was gained from Washington Street by way of the broad stairway.  Casino Hall as it was known measured forty by forty with five windows along Washington Street and two on the west wall, along the alley.  The stage filled a recess on the back wall, twenty feet wide and ten feet deep. There was a ladies dressing room just off the hall as well as a thirty by thirty room which could be used for cards or other activities.  Above and behind the hall were the dinning room and kitchen which was reach by a stairway in the main hall.  The building later became the offices of the Wisconsin National Life Insurance Company but was demolished some time early in the twentieth century.  
The post office erected after the fire of 1875 was the second  Oshkosh post office to come from architect Waters' drawing board, the first was in 1869 and was part of a building on the corner of High Street and Division Street.  The new edifice was sixty by forty and two stories high, situated on Washington Street just east of the First National Bank.  The post office was on the first floor and private offices on the second floor.  As a matter of fact Mr. Waters' offices were on the second floor of this building.  Three sets of arched topped double doors provided access to the building and above them were three arched topped windows, capped by a pediment bearing the inscription "US POST OFFICE".  The center was flanked by wings, each with two windows on the first and second floors.  Small pediments above the cornice finished the roof line.  The building was replaced in 1886 by a grand red brick structure just to the east and was razed in 1911 to accommodated a new bank building.            
The Beckwith House was indeed the most prestigious hotel in the city.  The Empire House Hotel was built in 1867, purchased and renamed by Sanford Beckwith in 1873.  After the hotels destruction Mr. Beckwith was determined to build the best hotel in town and enlisted William Waters to draw the plans.  All did not go smoothly at first when the mayor pointed out the construction was in violation of city ordinances pertaining to the thickness of the walls. In October of 1875 both Mr. Beckwith and William Waters appeared before the common council and in the end a variance was granted.  By June of the next year a description of the new hotel filled the news paper.  The structure was four stories high, unusual for Oshkosh at that time, with the whole the the first floor given over to commercial shops.  At the center of the Main Street side was a  broad entrance and staircase which lead to the second floor office and front desk.  There was a sitting room to the left and the dining room to the right, the front desk was flanked by a coat room and wash rooms. Toward Main Street were two parlors with a balcony above the front door.  To the south of these parlors was the gentlemen's sitting room, in a triangular shape as formed by the structure of the building, the view from this room and those above it were said to have been magnificent.  Along the Algoma Street side were sample rooms to accommodate the commercial trailer, where displays could bet set up and clients entertained.  The third and forth floors held 71 guest rooms each equipped with a button to signal the front desk.  The grandeur was to last but five years, for on the evening of December 3, 1880 a lighted kerosene lamp exploded, the fire consumed most of the hotel and took three lives.  What is left of the once proud hotel still stands, only a two and small three story section remain.       
The Bailey Block seems to have been financed by Mrs. H. P. Bailey, a dressmaker.  In addition to a grocery store and Mrs Bailey's shop and residence the building was reported to house the offices of several physicians, among them the eminent Dr. Dale. Over the years few changes have been made to the building, leaving it much as it was when erected. 


  1. Thank you for posting this information as it identified the appearance of where my great grandfather resided (Empire House Hotel) in 1868.

    1. The Beckwith House was built in 1875, Its' predecessor The Empire House burned in the great fire. images can be see on Oshkosh.pastperfect