Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bills' Banks, Part Two

It was a bank in Appleton that gave William Waters his first opportunity to design a bank building.  The history of early Appleton banking owes a great deal to David Smith, the subject of a post from July 9th, 2013.  Mr Smith founded The Bank of Appleton which would later become the First National Bank, he would also go on to start the Manufactures Bank.  The First National Bank by 1871 was a well established institution and required more appropriate offices.  An article in The Oshkosh City Times of September 20, 1871 stated that architect Waters was drawing plans for a new bank in Appleton which was to be 22' x 80' and two stories high, of brick and stone.  The new building was located on the southwest corner of College Avenue and Appleton Street.  The bank was of a classical style with the front elevation having four segmented pilaster supporting a frieze inscribed with the word "Bank".  Between the center pilasters was an arched opening with double doors and transom flanked by large arched windows.  Above the frieze were three window between corner pilaster which supported brackets under a cornice, each window was adorned with an ornate window crown.  Beyond the cornice were posts corresponding to the pilasters of the first floor with parapets between.  
The bank remained there until 1932 when  a new structure was built across the street.  A jewelry store was the first post bank occupant, followed by a myriad of tenants and ill conceived renovations.  In recent times the building has under gone another remodeling more in keeping with the original style.  Mr. Waters next Appleton bank was The Manufacturers Bank, yet another financial enterprise of David Smith.  There were no newspaper announcements to herald the banks construction, just an old unidentified photograph to show that William Waters drew the plans among those of the Oshkosh Public Museum archives.  While looking through old postcards of Appleton I spotted the building on a card of the intersection of College and Morrison Street, further research relieved that it was The Manufactures Bank.  The bank was doing business from 1871 until 1885 when it merged with Commercial National Bank.  The building then become the home of the Crescent Press, which later merged with the Appleton Post.  A verity businesses occupied the building until it was razed
The last of Mr. Waters' Appleton bank building was by far the largest and most elegant.  A notice appeared in the Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of May 19, 1881 telling of the many projects the architect was working on.  In Appleton there was listed a building for a newly organized bank, of brick, sixty by ninety feet, three stories high with the top floor to finished off as a Masonic Hall.   The cost was to be $15,000 with the vault costing several thousand more.  The bank was the Commercial National Bank which was located on the southwest corner of College Avenue and Oneida Street.  The brick used in its' construction was a cream color and there were bands and accents of darker brick.  In addition to the bank there were two retail space on the first floor.  Access to the upper floors was gained by way of two stairways, one on the north side of the building and the other on the east side.  The bank entrance was at the base of a chamfered corner which rose two more stories to a set of small triplet windows crowned by date inscribed pediment, such as those seen on other Waters' buildings.  The building was a fixture at that location until a winters' night in 1928 when it burned to the ground.     


  1. Love your blog. I wrote a book in the late 90's on the works of William waters. My name is David groth and I live in Oshkosh. Have you seen my book? Its a compilation of newspaper articles from 1865 to 1917. Also, what is this "wellie" book you refer to.

  2. David, I have a copy of your book, it's of great use to me. Willie's book was a collection of sketches done by Waters and pasted into an old journal by William Jr. The original is at the State Historical Society. See the post of 3/18/13.

    1. The Oshkosh museum had a similar book with old photographs and postcards given to them by I believe waters niece. I went through it when I was writing the book. When I first saw your blog I wondered where all these "Jensen" drawings came from? Then I read you drew them. Amazing. I have a lot of questions for you and would love like to meet with you next time your in Oshkosh or talk to you by phone. My number is 920-252-9926. I'm actually going to Ashland and places in between to look for waters buildings this week so I'm glad I found your blog. Hope to hear from you soon. Again, great blog and amazing art.

    2. Oh yea. On a sad note. Developers have pitched the menasha hotel and have asked the menasha landmarks commission permission to demolish the building. Thankfully, they denied their request but are appealing the decision. They are claiming its too expensive to restore.

  3. David, I hope the good people of Menasha will save that bit of their history. Save a safe trip to Ashland, it will be long. I've had some contact with the Ashland Historical Society, they've very helpful. I've asked them to locate pictures of two schools built in 1872 that may have been designed by Waters.