Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Oshkosh Buildings, Part Five

Many new commercial structures were erected in Oshkosh in the last decades of the nineteenth century. One, the Uhlien Block was of particular grace and beauty with a engaging history.  The first mention of the building was made in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of March 16, 1886 which tells of the purchase by Wm. Dichmann form Mr. Forbes of property at the corner of Washington and Shonaon or State Street as it was later known.  Mr. Dichmann paid $5,000 for the land and intended to put up a handsome building of two or three stories with several stores the first floor.  A few days later it was reported that Mr. Forbes wanted to back out of the deal but the contract was upheld.  Not long after that Mr. Dichmann was denying rumors that the purchase was made on behalf of the Schlitz Brewing Company but was made with an interested friend.  He also denied a claim by a temperance group that the building would house a saloon.
 The project seemed to disappear until late October of 1889 when it was reviled that a hotel might be erected on the spot with Charles Josslyn as landlord.  Architect Waters had drawn plans which were to be approved by Mr. Uhlien of Milwaukee with the hope that hotel could be completed soon after the new government building was finished.  Another year past before there was word that Mr. Dichmann had just returned from Milwaukee and a meeting with Mr. Uhlien where it was decided to erect a building of three or four stories.  Just two days later the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of January 29, 1891 ran a headline, “ Five or Six Stories High.  A magnificent structure to be erected on Washington and State.”  The article went on to talk about Mr. Waters estimating stone block and that it was to be built of red pressed brick.  It was also said the Crescent Lodge of the Knight of Honor would have apartments of the upper floors.  On April 13, 1891 final plans were announced.  The Crescent Club opted to stay where they were which precluded the need for more than two floors.  It was to have 100' frontage on Washington Street and a large dome at the northeast corner. 

Four businesses could occupy the first floor and the second story would be office space.  The building was a great success, occupied by tenants such Medberry and Bemis and Schlitz Hall. The building at last became to Oshkosh offices of Wisconsin Public Service and was remodeled in the 1950’s.  The tower and dome were removed and replaced by polished red granite.   
In the Oshkosh Times of April 9, 1895 there appeared a notice the sealed bids for the construction of a store for J. E. Kennedy and Sons.  Plans could be viewed at the office of architect William Waters.  By mid-June of the year the first floor was nearly finished and would rise two more with cold store apartments.  Kennedy and Sons were wholesale grocers and this new building was the grandest for that purpose in the city.  The building was on High Street, just east of the Soo line tracks.  It was made of red press brick with a limestone foundation and limestone lintels and trim.  Three arches dominated the front elevation above which was a sill of stone and three sets of windows just below a cornice and parapet.  The store served other businesses as well, notably Bemis Hooper Hays, also a wholesale grocer.   In the 1960’s it was a marine supply store and was demolished to make way for a parking ramp.          
The Oshkosh newspapers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often ignored the news from south of the river.  The Daily Northwestern of 2/4/1893 did however report plans to build a fine hall on Kansas and Ninth streets, undertaken by Joesph Stringham and designed by William Waters.   The description of the building to be called Columbine Hall, said it was to front 75 feet on Kansas Street and 90 feet on Ninth Street with marble pillars flanking the front door and three commercial spaces on the ground floor.   The hall on the second floor was to be 68 x 70 feet with a balcony and four foot high stage measuring 16 x 40 feet. The article also mentions that the land had been used as a garden for many years by Mr. Stringham and although rather low it would fine location for the hall.
1893 was the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Columbus and America celebrated in many ways, the World's Columbine Exposition, aka the Chicago’s World's Fair was one manifestation, Oshkosh was to get a new opera house on the south side.  The problem was that the fine building as described in the newspaper was not what was built.  The Columbine Hall was built on the west side of what now South Main Street, about half way between 9th and 10th  Streets.  The newspapers never mention the change of plans which were altered probably because the southeast corner where it was to be erected was too low and wet to support a large, heavy building.  The press also never offered a description of the amended plan.  The structure which was put up was just as grand as the first concept with three stores on the first floor and an arched entrance to second floor hall to the far left.  The size of the hall and stage are unknown for the building was turned to other uses after a short time.

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