Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Waupaca Surprise

The subject of my last post, the Plymouth Congregational Church of Oshkosh was unusual yet familiar to me.  There was something about the bell tower that resonated with me, as if I'd seen it somewhere else in a different context.  I decided to check the on line reproduction of “Illustrated Waupaca” a book published in 1888.  The original book had no photographs but instead drawings based on photographs.  There was a fine drawing of the Methodist Episcopal Church with a steeple identical to that of the Plymouth Church in Oshkosh. It also bore a resemblance to Oshkosh's 1873 First Congregational church.  I contacted the Waupaca Historical Society and received friendly and informative response from the groups' president.  He sent a photo for the Methodist Church with a truncated steeple and a newspaper article as to how it got that way.    
The article was dated February 20, 1875 told of a thunder storm and a bolt of lightening which struck the 110' spire, destroying it but it seems unlikely that a thunder storm of such ferocity would occur in the winter.  Further investigation was needed so I contacted the church and the pastor sent a copy of the church history.  According to the church history, in 1875 pastor Rev. Moses Alley advocated for a new church in the Gothic style.  A building committee was formed with R. N. Roberts, A. Gordon, Winfield Scott and William West, with Mr. West being credited with raising money, picking committees and drawing plans.  The claim that Mr. West drew plans notwithstanding I believe William Waters to have been the architect of the church.  As for lightening struck steeple there were a few inconsistencies between the newspaper article and the church history.   The church history places the event in 1890 which is more credible for the 1888 “Illustrated Waupaca” pictured the church with a tall steeple, after the mishap the bell tower was considerably abbreviated.  The building served the congregation until 1961 when it was replaced.              
P. S. Just for fun I went, via Google to William Waters' home town of Franklin in Delaware County New York.  There was St. Paul Episcopal Church with a steeple looking much like that of the churches in Waupaca and Oshkosh.  The top of the tower also resembles that of Appleton's 1873 First Methodist Church.   St. Paul's church, built 1865 was the work of Richard Upjohn a prominent eastern architect. Mr. Waters may have been in Franklin at that time and may well have been influenced by what he saw.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Another Oshkosh Church

Some time ago I did a series of posts on William Waters' Oshkosh churches and I thought I'd covered all of them. That was not the case, for not long ago while perusing the photos on Oshkosh Past perfect, I saw a church which was unfamiliar to me. The image was identified as the Plymouth Congregational Church, located on the corner of Church and Franklin Streets. I studied the image carefully, surly it must have been designed by William Waters I thought.

 The building was a wooden frame structure and rather unusual with what appeared to be large bays on the side walls. The steeple featured fancy woodwork reminiscent of Stick Style and a roof very much like that of St. Joseph in Appleton. After a short time it occurred to me I'd seen a sketch of the church among the drawing in “Willie's Book” and I search it out. There it was, a front elevation and floor plan which explained the large bays on the side walls.

Further research of church histories reveled a contradiction as to when the building was constructed. All the accounts agree the original church was built 1856 but differ as to weather this church, its' replacement was put up in 1868 or in 1876. Mr. Waters was in Oshkosh by 1868 and this could have been a very early job. The drawing collected by the architects' son and affixed to a discarded magazine, "Willie's Book", date from the mid 1870's which makes the 1876 date likely.  I believe the 1876 date to be more accurate.  The small wooden church served until 1894 when it was replaced by a large red brick house of worship designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Warren Howard Hays.