Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More Oshkosh Building, Part One

There were a great many building along Oshkosh's North Main Street designed by Mr. William Waters.  On the west side of Main Street from Algoma to Church Avenue were structure I believe to be the work of Waters, but have no proof of his authorship.  The fire of 1874 burned the area north of Washington Avenue and to the east for many blocks.  The aftermath of the conflagration did not receive the same kind of press coverage as the fire of the following year.  Photographs from 1887 show that portion of Main Street to have been lined with large, fine retail buildings.  It was these images I relied upon for much of my research.  
One building which was outstanding for beauty and presents was built in 1883 for Webb and Brooks Hardware, dealers in stoves for heating and cooking.  It was constructed of red pressed brick, two stories high.  The six windows of the second floor had Gothic arches with segmented lintel of brick and limestone.  The two windows at the center were slightly taller than the others and above them was limestone plaque bearing the date and owner's name. There were other limestone adornments on the facade which was capped an almost steeple like parapet with two openings that matched the windows below.  The building stood about mid block, where the Time Cinema is now.  There well be some vestiges of the old building still there.         
Down the street was another building likely from the drawing board of Mr. Waters.  It is still there at, 415 North Main Street, sans the cornice and pediment from 1874.  There were a few old photographs from which one might ascertain the building original appearance but awnings and a severe angle obscured much of the detail.   With help from some enhanced images from the Oshkosh Public Museum and sketches from Wm. Waters I was able to reproduce the facade.  The detail of the arches of the second floor windows which can still be seen are identical to that of the main arch of the Grand Opera House, with rosettes carved in the limestone springers and keystones.     
Also built after the fire of 1874 was the Luther Davies and Company, Dry Goods.  The three story building was constructed of cream colored brick with red accents.  Architect Waters employed many intricate brick work techniques, (see post of 10/23/2010).  For many years the store was covered with several coats of paint, cloaking its' beauty, until cleaning the brick reviled the original splendor.  
At the corner of North Main and Church Street was another commercial structure built in 1874, using much the same brick style as the Davies building; cream colored with red brick accents.  The second story windows on the front featured Gothic arched and segmented lintel of cream and red brick with springers and keystones of limestone. The side of the building ran at an obtuse angle from the front, along Church Avenue.  The building had three retail spaces, one on Main Street and two on the Church Avenue side.  Also on that side was the stairway to the upper floor which housed the Oshkosh Business College, run by W. W. Daggett.  For years the structures' beauty lay hidden under many layers of paint, which when removed exposed the rich color and intricacy.      


  1. Is any information available on why someone would paint over the beautiful brick architecture? We see lots of buildings restored by cleaning and they are amazing. Why cover them with paint?

  2. I know of no information on why brick building get painted, perhaps it's to freshen dingy old brick.

  3. Luther Davies didn't occupy 163 N. Main until April 1892, when he moved here from Columbus WI. It was Rumery and Gunnell groceries in 1886, just Rumery by April 1887, through the 1889 city directory.