Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Pleasant Surprise !

One research source I've come to rely upon is the Wisconsin State Historical Society.  The society has a search engine, where by one may view their vast collection of images.  Many of the pictures are take from building surveys done in the late 1980's by many cites, Oshkosh being one of them.  One day I was perusing the buildings of Oshkosh and was captivated by an image of an old house.  The picture could well have passed for a prize winning photograph; high contrast black and white and excellent composition moving from the upper left to to lower right.  I looked over the picture closely, feeling there was something familiar about the building.  Perhaps it was because I had driven past the place years ago.   

The address given for the house was 2175 W. 4th Street but it was obviously in a rural setting, unlike any part of 4th Street I could recall.  Next I check the Oshkosh Public Library's address number conversion chart which show that there never was a 2175 W. 4th Avenue.  Where was this place?, I thought to myself.  I then check the city assessors office web site and the address, 2175 Witzle Ave. and got the name of the Oakhaven Church.  I went to the church's web site which featured a slide show, one image of which was the barn that is now the church and the old house in the distance.  
I was convinced the house was a Waters job and that I'd seen it somewhere before.  I decided to revisit "Willie's Book", a collection of drawing gather by a young William Waters Jr. and pasted to the leaves of an old agricultural journal.  There it was!, with a plan view and detail of the porch posts.  In the photograph the porches have been removed but some pieces and shadows remained as witness to their existence.  So whose house was it?  An old atlas of Winnebago county revealed that the land belonged to Rodrick McKenzie.  His biography states that McKenzie was a long time resident of Oshkosh and ran a feed and seed store located on Washington Street between Mt.Vernon and Broad Street.  Further it said McKenzie retired to his farm in 1874 where lived until his passing in 1886, by which time his nephew William McKenzie immigrated from Scotland and ran the farm.  The drawings in "Willie Book" date from the early 1870's and I would recon the McKenzie house to have been built in 1872 or 1873.        

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

More Oshkosh Buildings, Part Two

The lower end of Main St in Oshkosh had always been a hub of activity and commerce of all kinds. At first it was a ferry crossing and Main St. was known as Ferry St.  Later a bridge was built along with a steamboat dock.  The Revere House, a large, fine hotel was adjacent to the river and other brick building were soon erected such that by the early 1870's only a few frame structures remained.  
One of the most interesting buildings at that end of the street was the one erected by C. S. Weston, pictured here with the Phoenix firehouse.  There is no written proof that William Waters drew the plans for the Weston building, but when compared the the Phoenix firehouse, a building known to have been drawn by Waters, it's obvious they are by the same hand.  Another tell tail sign is the Weston building's layout; two store fronts separated by a stairway to the second floor .  On the upper floor there are two sets of triplet window with a small window between them, Mr. Water used this template in many of his commercial structures.
Just next to the Weston building stood Weisbrod's Hall, built in 1873 for Rudolph Weisbrod a furniture maker and undertaker.  Although there is no proof that Mr. Waters drew the plans for this structure, it may well have been his work as he did other projects for the Weisbrod family.  In 1884 Mr. Weisbrod remodeled the building, changing it to a saloon and hall.  Weisbrod sold the building in 1891 to Herman Teichgraber and it was remodeled once again and reopened as the Alhambra saloon. It is this remodeling shown here and is doubtless the work of architect Waters.  Red pressed brick, terracotta panels as well as a scrolled sill below the second floor windows were all Waters hallmarks. 
There once stood a house on southwest corner of Main St and Marion St. the erstwhile home of O. B. Reed.  The old frame building was torn down in 1885 and the cellar became a frog breeding pond and eye sore.  Henry Borman purchased the property in 1890 and in the spring of that year began construction of a Waters designed building.  An Oshkosh Daily Northwestern article of April 30. 1890 states that the brick building was to be three stories high and measure 20 by 100 feet and cost $8,000.  What was erected was a two story building of red pressed brick with limestone and terracotta accents with a chamfered corner entrance, Mr. Borman resided on the second floor.  All the of the buildings in the first block of Main Street were demolished in the late 1970's.