Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mac Kinnon's Menasha Mansion

D. T. H. Mac Kinnon was a capitalist, entrepreneur and inventor.  Among his business ventures were a pulley factory, excelsior mill for which he invented a more efficient knife and paper mills.  Duncan was born in 1852 in England, the son of Capt. Lauchlan Mac Kinnon of the Royal Navy.  Captain Mac Kinnon met former Wisconsin territorial  governor, James Doty in 1849 while in Washington D. C. and traveled with him to Menasha. The captain loaned Doty money with the governor's land holdings as security.  The upshot of it all this was the governor defaulted and Mac Kinnon acquired land in Menasha.  In time the captains sons Falkland and Duncan came to this county and were managing things in Wisconsin.   Falkland moved on to Wausau and then Wisconsin Rapids and Duncan made his fortune in Menasha.  
By 1898 Mr. Mac Kinnon wanted a fine home.  Like many other wealthy Menashans  he sought the services of William Waters to be his architect.  But unlike others, Mr. Mac Kinnon didn't build his house on East Forest Avenue in Neenah, instead he chose the corner of First and Milwaukee Streets just north of the business district.  Architect Waters designed a massive twenty four room Queen Anne Style house with large bay windows, irregular fenestration and high roof with many dormers. When finished in 1899 there were  front and back parlors, music room, dining room, bath and kitchen on the first floor.  On the second floor were seven bedrooms, sewing room and three bathrooms, the third floor was a ballroom.   It was a late Queen Anne Style and had it been constructed of stone it may have looked like a French chateau.  It must have been truly magnificent when new but like so many large, grand houses it was costly to maintain.  It was converted to The Sunset Haven Nursing home, fire escapes where added and it was clad with aluminum siding which altered it's once grand appearance to shabby.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

One Mystery Solved

Many years ago my son, then four years old and I drove from Waukesha to Oshkosh to keep an appointment I'd made with the archivist of the Oshkosh Public Museum to view the file on William Waters. Once there, Tommy occupied himself with some toys and I donned a pair of white cotton gloves and perused the contents of the Waters' file. Among the materials were some black, photo cover pages as if from a disassembled album.  Most of the buildings pictured there were familiar to me but some were not.  I arraigned with the archivist, Mr. Scott Cross for copies of the mystery buildings and since that time I've searched for their identity, with some success.  Recently I conducted an online search and was directed to The Old Third Ward Association, in Appleton.  There were pictured there, many houses designed by architect Waters familiar to me but one address was not.  I closely examined the image and read the paragraph about the house.  I recognized it as one the last buildings I had yet to identify.
It was the home of George Gerry an Appleton lumber dealer.  Mr. Gerry was born in Canada in 1840 and was the owner of Gerry Lumber.  In 1882 he commissioned William Waters to design his dwelling.  It was situated on a corner and  fronted on Cherry St. which later became Memorial Dr.  The front door was on a diminutive front porch with large ornately turned posts with a window over it on the second floor.  To the left, around the corner was another entrance, perhaps to an office and even further along the side of the house was one more door.  To the right of the front door were two windows and two windows above with a set of small twin windows in the gable.   On the right side of the house was a large bay window.  The interior walls were frescoes done by J. Frank Waldo who often worked with Mr. Waters, based on that connection the Third Ward Association correctly concluded that William Waters was the architect.  The house was moved about one hundred feet east from its' original location in order to make way for a row of multiple family houses.  What was once the front of the house became the side of the house, the front porch was removed and the door covered over.  Gone too was the "office door" and what had been a side entrance was made to be the front door, other alteration occurred as well. The barn at the back of the house was converted into a dwelling.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Buildings of the North, Part Three

Ashland Wisconsin in the late nineteenth century was a robust and growing city with many large impressive buildings.  Structures of three or four stories were not uncommon, one such building was the Bristol Block.  Built in 1894 by business partners E. J. Born and T. J. Bristol the building bore Mr. Bristol's name and housed the jewelry store of Mr. Born, of which Mr. Bristol held a half interest.  A full description of the store and building was published in the Ashland Daily Press - Annual Edition,1894 and was said to have some of the finest offices in the city, on the second floor.  The article failed to mention the architect and the sole proof of William Waters' authorship of the plans was a photograph of the structure found in a portfolio of his work at the archives of the Oshkosh Public Museum.  Mr. Waters had designed many buildings using the lime stone quarried in Oshkosh and the brown stone of the north was little different.
The Bristol Block like most of the stone structures in Ashland was built of that native brown stone, quarried near by.  It was four stories high, perhaps one the tallest commercial building to come from Waters' drawing board and had two retail spaces on the ground floor, separated by a stairway to the upper floors.  The second floor at center had a set of double windows and balcony and above that another balcony and a set of triplet windows on the third level, these were flanked by bay windows.  The top floor was perhaps a work shop and had two sets of nine small windows on either side of an arch at the center divided into thirteen windows.  A variety of businesses had occupied the building's first floor: a jewelry store. haberdashery and a drug store.  Lawyers, a seamstress and the telephone exchange had all found a place on the upper floors.  Some years ago a bank purchased the building, refurbishing the office space to their use and as rental space.

P. S.   Mr. Waters was also cited as the architect of two schools in Ashland.  It is unclear which two were of his design but they were likely the two commissioned by the school board in 1872 and built that same year. All other Ashland schools of the nineteenth century were the work of Henry Wildhagen or the firm of Conover and Porter.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Buildings of the North, Part Two

Price County Wisconsin was created by the Wisconsin State Legislature in March of 1879.  The county was formed from portion of Lincoln and Chippewa counties and named for T. W. Price, president of the state senate and logging magnate in that part of the state. With the construction of railroads population centers where no longer bound to a close proximity to waterways such as a river to transport goods and materials. The community of Phillips was one such village, a fast growing town, it was selected as the county seat.   Mr. Waters was credited with the design of three building in that city: the courthouse, school and the Citizens' Bank.  In the April 3, 1880 edition of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern there appeared a notice of solicitation for sealed bids for the construction of a courthouse at Phillips, the structure was finished that years at a cost of $10,000.  The subject of the courthouse was covered in a post dated 8/8/2012.  
In addition to the courthouse, it was cited in The Commemorative Biographical Record of the Fox River Valley, that Waters also designed a school and bank. Both where most likely built of wood, as that was the most abundant building material on hard.  The school built in 1884 was undoubtedly the work of architect Waters and served until 1891 when it was demolish and replaced by a larger building.  As for the bank, local historians find no record of the Citizens' Bank at all.  Very little survived the fire of 1894 including photographs of the city before the conflagration and those that do, don't show the buildings in question. There are no written descriptions of the buildings from which one might extrapolate a drawing.  Perhaps one day images will be found but until then their appearance will remain a mystery.