Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Christmas Sprite

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”, so says Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas morning after his night of haunting.  A lesson learned by Scrooge late in life but better late than never.  There are those who learn the lesson well and early, William Water was one such person.   
                               The Waters' house on Elm Street, Oshkosh
This December will mark the ninety ninth anniversary of William Waters' passing.  Through my research on Mr. Waters I've learned much about his work and something of the man himself.  One of the first documents I read about Mr. Waters was his obituary, where in it is stated, “For many years he had done act of kindness for people less fortunate than himself, but it was always done so unostentatiously it was known to but a few people. It is said that one the last things he did before his final seizure was to walk laboriously down to his office to make a liberal donation to charity.  Upon more than one occasion poor families had loads of coal or wood sent to them without learning who the donor was.  A number of young men who have entered the architect's profession had received not only their inspiration but financial aid from Mr. Waters.  Several families have lived for month, rent free in houses that he owned, and no payment was ever demanded.  It is said by those knew best that it would be impossible to even estimate the amount of money contributed in such ways.”  
                    William Waters seated to the right of the drum.
William Waters was reported to be of a “retiring personality”, amicable and easy to work with.  He was a devotee of William M. Thackeray and played the base drum for renown Arion Band.  His picture with that band is as far as I know the only photograph of him.  He was passionate about his work and the city and state he made his home.  We may all benefit from like attitudes towards work and the needs of others.    

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Kellett Block

William Waters received yet another commission in Neenah, the Neenah Times of March 8, 1893 published a brief notice that the architect had been in town in order to discuss plans for a new building to be erected near the Post Office for Mr. William Kellett.   Mr. William Kellett in addition to real estate dealings was a merchant of dry goods, along with his partner Edward Jandrey.  The Wm. Kellett and Company store was just across the street from Kellett's proposed new building.  A few weeks later the “Times” reported that the contractors for the new building would be Louis Weber and D.W. Barnes and that the building would be in a similar style  to that of the George Danielson Block, built of red brick with stone trim and would eclipse in beauty all other building along the street.  The first floor was reportedly leased to the American Express company as their Neenah office.   
The new Kellett Block was not all that like the Danielson building, it was not as wide as Danielson's but was built of red brick with stone trim of brown stone, instead of limestone, it also had courses of dark brick for visual interest.  The first floor store front had a door at the center and display windows on either side.  The second floor was defined by three windows in a row and above that in a peaked pediment was a casement window.  The peaked pediment seemed to be the only stylistic similarity to the a fore mentioned Danielson Block.  The Kellett building did indeed add the grace and dignity of West Wisconsin Av., however sometime long after it was built the peak of the pediment was removed, perhaps for maintenance reasons.  The truncated facade gave the structure an odd and unfinished look.      

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mr. Danielson's Block

Architect William Waters found many commercial building design opportunities in Neenah, one such structure was a business block for contractor George Danielson.  The preliminary announcement of Mr. Danielson's intention to build was an article in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of August 8, 1892 which stated that William Waters would draw the plans for the new block.  In November of 1892 the Neenah Times reported that Charles Paul, a grocer and dry goods purveyor would soon occupy the new store.  The building was described as being built of St. Louis Red Pressed brick and cut stone, large and commodious, finished inside in fine style.  The edifice was said to have cost $8,000, a great improvement to Wisconsin Avenue.  The second floor was finished as a residence for Mr. William T. Ward, proprietor of the Russel House sample rooms, the bar in Neenah's largest hotel, 
The building was representative of architect Waters' work for that time.  The use of red pressed brick and limestone for lentils and trim were favored by Mr. Waters.  The building features a design element found on several other of his hand; at the top of the front elevation on either side of a gabled pediment the brick work had square indentations in even rows, a motif found on the Athearn Hotel and several bank buildings.  Mr. Danielson was a contractor and builder and doubtless built the structure which might account for the speed with which it was completed. The building added to the grace and dignity of the business district.   

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Henry Sherry's Buildings

William Waters was very busy in the early 1880's drawing plans for the home, office and business block of Henry Sherry.  Mr. Sherry was born in 1837, a native East Menden, New York.  He came west to Wisconsin, started out in business with great success and married Abbie Paddock in 1865 at Ripon.  He resided in Neenah but his holding and enterprises were statewide. He had lumber mills in Neenah and Oshkosh as well as Wood County, he invested in boot manufactures, paper mills, real estate and banks, a true empire builder.  The near west side neighborhood in Neenah bore the moniker “Sherrytown”, Sherry Wisconsin in Wood county and Sherry Junction in Langlade County also derived their names from Henry Sherry.  The city of Park Falls owes its' being to Mr. Sherry as he built a paper mill there.  No biography of the man would be complete without mentioning his bankruptcy in the early 1890's, no doubt brought about by the panic of 1893.  His loses amounted to well over one million dollars, a sum he and his son managed to repay. 
 Mr. Sherry's building spree started in 1882 with a large and ornate mansion on East Wisconsin Avenue, the house was in the Esthetic Style and was an elegant addition to the mansions on that street.  The next year Mr. Waters was drawing plans for a business block and an office building.  The business block became known as the Post Office Block, because the post office occupied the first floor corner.   There were three other retail spaces on the first floor and according to fire insurance maps of the day one side of the second floor was the Masonic Hall and the other was City Council meeting room.  The building was of a cream colored brick with an asymmetrical layout.  Just past the Post Office portion was a stairway leading to the second floor above which was a window with a Gothic Arch and beyond that rose a diminutive tower holding a set of double windows on the front elevation.  The tower was capped by a short hipped roof and flag staff. 

The building featured some patterned tiles above the second floor windows, for greater visual interest.  Along the top of the building the line was broken by three gable peeks in the parapet which corresponded to large sets of windows below them.  The building was designed in the Esthetic Style, same style as Mr. Sherry's house.
At about the same time William Waters designed an office building for Henry Sherry.  It was just across the street from the Post Office and was the hub for all of Mr. Sherry's business dealings, on the second floor was a public library, according to insurance maps.  The two story brick structure was a classic Waters' design for that time.  It was built of cream colored brick with courses of dark brick as accents.  The chamfered corner held the front door which was flanked by columns holding up a pediment.  Above the front door and pediment was a large window and above that was a set of small triplet window just below the ultimate pediment.  At first there was just the building on the corner but by 1887 the fire insurance maps indicate a sizable addition to the west side of the building.  The structure had many uses including Neenahs' first YMCA.  By the 1970's its was no longer useful and was razed. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Winnebago Paper Company

John R. Davis immigrated from Wales to North America and landed in Quebec in 1840.  Six years later Mr. Davis was in Milwaukee and meet Jane Jones also a Welch immigrant.  The two were married in 1848, later that year John visited Neenah and purchased some real estate and moved there the next year.  Mr. Davis was a great entrepreneur and engaged in wagon building, a trade he had plied before arriving in Milwaukee.  In 1852 he acquired the old Government Mill and went into the flour milling business until the mill burned in 1874.  He then organized the Winnebago Paper Company and built a new mill near where Main St. bends to become West Wisconsin Ave.  The paper company was very successful which helped support his family of six and the families of many workers.  Shortly before his death in 1885 Mr. Davis commissioned William Waters to design his home on East Wisconsin Ave.
The passing of John Davis Sr. didn't stop the company from growing, his son John Jr. took over and expanded the company to Eau Claire.  In 1893 the younger Mr. Davis asked William Waters to plan an office building for the mill.  Architect Waters produced plans for a Romanesque Style building with arched window openings on the first floor, a chamfered corner entry and living quarter on the second floor.  The structure was built of red pressed brick with roughhewn limestone arches, sills and lintel.  The corner entrance featured a door flanked by two diminutive columns on tall plinths supporting a lintel and pediment of intricate stone work.  Above the door was recessed bay window with limestone bartizans on either side, which rose to top of the parapet.  Just below the gable was a set of arched triplet windows, a favorite component of Mr. Waters.   

In 1904 the mill was purchased by the Bergstrom Paper Company and not long after the office was expanded to double its original size.  Waters was called upon to draw the plans as he had drawn the originals and had designed Mr. Bergstrom's house.  The addition was sympathetic and seamless; one would have been hard pressed to discern the alteration.  The building served the company for many years but when the business was sold and the mill closed the structure was razed and replaced by a monument made up of bits and pieces of the building. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Kimberly Clark Office

In 1872 four enterprising individuals, namely; John Kimberly, Havilha Babcock, Charles Clark and Frank Shattuck all of Neenah, Wisconsin, formed a partnership for the purpose of making paper.  The company was very aggressive and soon was the largest paper manufacturer in the mid west with mills not only in Neenah but Appleton too.  It was only right and proper that the company have a suitable office from which to conduct it's affairs.  So it was that in 1880 Kimberly  Clark sought the services of William Waters.  Mr. Waters was the preeminent architect in the area and had by that time designed identical dwellings for Messrs. Clark and Shattuck and would eventually plan the home of Havilha Babcock.
The company had a parcel of land fronting on Ceder St. along side a canal, a fine place to build an office.  In March of 1880 the construction contract was let to Watkins Gittens of Neenah and work started shortly after that.  The Oshkosh Times, in an article about Kimberly Clark, published on November 27th 1880 mentioned that the firm had just moved in to it's fine new office building which had been designed by William Waters.  The notice also stated that the two story brick building measured 28 x 60 with heating apparatus in the basement and offices on the first and second floors.  It was indeed a handsome structure of cream colored brick with dark courses and lintel accents.  The building was capped by a steep hipped roof with a Gothic arched window occupying a dormer, front and center.  The fenestration was regular and symmetrical with rosettes  carved into the keystones and springers of the lintels.  
Sometime around 1906 an addition was erected on the west and south sides of the building.  There is no written account of the addition or its planning, just fire insurance maps showing an expanded structure about that time. Surely the addition was penned by Mr. Waters as it was sympathetic to the original facade.  The addition however had no hipped roof or dormer to match the original, this gave the building a somewhat unbalanced look.  Kimberly Clark built a new office in 1956 but the old building on Ceder, cum Commercial Street still served the company.  With the demolition of Neenahs' city hall in the early 1970's the old office building became the temporary city hall from 1972 to 78 and was razed when the city moved in to a new building.                        

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Northern Wisconsin State Fair

In 1870 the Northern Wisconsin Agricultural and Mechanical Association was formed as group interested in promoting more efficient framing techniques and practices.  The association grew rapidly and every year held a convention in various cities, such as Berlin, Appleton, Ripon and Green Bay.  The officers of the group too were from many different locations.  In September the group held a fair and exposition in Oshkosh.  It wasn't long before the fair became an important event, attracting hundreds of attendees, and needed a suitable grounds and exhibition hall. 
 In 1879 the society had a large hall built on grounds just west of Jackson Street, north of New York Avenue.  There was a race course too, on the west side of the exhibit hall.  It's unclear who drew the plans for the building but similarities to other building of the time by architect William Waters suggest it was he who penned the plans.  It was truly a grand edifice with a towering belvidere at its' center, long wings stretching to the north and south and the corners of each wing, towers with peaked roofs and windowed dormers.  The building was the largest exhibit hall in the northwest out side of Chicago.  It was however a short lived grandeur as a fire reduced the building to ash and charred limber within a year.   A replacement was soon in the works with plans drawn by Mr. Waters.  The new hall was finished in 1881 and was slightly large than its' predecessor.  Still it bore a great resemblance to the former exhibition building with imposing central cupola, outstretched wings and corner towers.  The lighting was improved with skylights and dormers along the length of the vast wings, the corner tower had peaked roofs but with no windowed dormers.  The exhibition hall served for but a few years when in 1885 three tornadoes roared through town, leaving the fairgrounds littered with roof sections and other debris and no exhibit hall. 
There was no immediate news of a replacement and was not until the summer of 1891 that word came out of plans to build anew.  Mr. Waters submitted plans but there was a challenger, a contractor named Schneider, who’s plan was less expensive.   Architect Waters redrew the hall, removing ornamentation and embellishment.  In the end Mr. Waters modified design won as the Schneider plan although attractive was thought be “not so firm.”   Later in July came the news of an intended grand stand also planned by William Waters.   It was to 183’ long and seat 1,000 people with a roof to shield the audience from the sun.  By mid-August the papers reported that the exhibition hall was to be finished in the next week and that the grand stand would be ready in time for the fair in September.  The few newspaper accounts from July and August of 1891 seem to be the only record of those structures, there are no photographs or written records to tell what they looked like or what became of them.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Neoclassical in Neenah

In the late nineteenth century many small local insurance companies were formed.  The Fox River valley had several; Aid Association for Lutherans of Appleton, Oshkosh's Wisconsin National Life Insurance and The Fraternal Reserve Association and in Neenah there was The Equitable Fraternal Union which was founded in 1897.  All these companies would eventuality build large, impressive home office buildings.  The first to do so was The Equitable Fraternal Union of Neenah.  The fast growing company quickly out grew its' original office space and in 1908 turned to William Waters to design the “Home Office”.   A lot on the corner of Commercial and Doty Streets was acquired and by September of 1909 the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported on the nearly completed edifice, replete with a fine engraving of the building.  
The favored style of the time for building of that nature was neoclassical.  It was a style which projected strength and longevity and the Equitable Reserve building seems to have been the bell weather for structures to follow, such as; The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance building in Milwaukee or the Wisconsin National Life Insurance building in Oshkosh.  The Equitable Reserve building was built of limestone and was three stories high and measured 68' x 102' with the front entrance on Commercial Street.  Above the front door was a colonnade of six ionic pillars supporting the frieze and cornice.  Atop the cornice was a parapet with decorative escutcheons at the corners and a pediment at the center.  In a history of Neenah published in 1958, architect Henry Auler described the building as…”one of the few remaining buildings of classical design that is true to the Greek method of construction.  It too is an example of what is expressed in the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.”  The building remains to this day unaltered and looking as it did the day it was finished.            

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lakeside Sanitarium

As a kid I was told by a friend that the house on the corner of Washington and Hazel Street was the original Mercy Hospital, I was skeptical.  As it turned out my friend was right, and wrong.  The history of medicine and hospitals in Oshkosh is interesting from an architectural point of view.  Perhaps the first general hospital was Alexian Brother founded in 1880 and housed in the former J. J. Moore residence on the corner of Jackson and New York Avenue.  Later the brothers built a large brick structure with grounds that occupied the entire block.  In 1891 the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother established St. Mary Hospital in an erstwhile store on the corner of Boyd and Merritt Street, which was replaced by a handsome brick structure designed by E.E. Stevens in 1894. 
 By 1903 the good Sisters had ambitious plans for explanation and hired E. Breilmaler and Sons, architect of Milwaukee to plan an addition, which if built as drawn would have tripled the size of the hospital.  That was not to be and only a small portion was constructed and served as a hospital until 1934 when it became a home for the aged.                                      
 In 1889 a young doctor named Michael E. Corbett MD arrived in Oshkosh, his office was in the Beckwith Block on Main St. and his residence on Waugoo Avenue.  In 1892 Dr. Corbett chose William Waters to design his house on Washington Avenue.  Dr. Corbett seems to have been an ambitious person and soon made a name for himself such that by 1902 he purchased the lot behind his house and commissioned William Klapproth to design a modern new office. The office was something of a new departure for a doctor’s office.  Physicians might have an office in their home or on the second floor of a business block, Dr. Corbett’s office looked like a home.  
In 1905 Corbett bought the former residence of Congressman Richard Guenther on the Washington Avenue, the same house my friend claimed was the original Mercy Hospital.  Dr. Corbett transformed the house, designed by William Waters into the Lakeside Sanitarium. 

It remained that until 1912 when he and eighteen other doctors formed the Lakeside Sanitarium Company and hired architect Waters to plan a modern new hospital.  New facility was equipped with the most up-to-date innovations, such as an Otis automatic elevator, one merely had to push a number button and the car would stop at that floor. The new building occupied the block from Hazel to Oak and from Park to Cleveland and was four full stories with the fifth floor as a dormitory.  
For a while, the city was blessed with two general hospitals, St. Mary's and Lakeside. The Alexian Brothers had long since taken up working with addiction and mental patients only.  In 1918 the Sister of the Sorrowful Mother purchased the Lakeside Sanitarium, renaming it Mercy Hospital.  The sisters maintained both St. Mary's and Mercy, even expanding Mercy in 1922 with a lager wing at the north side of the building, in 1938 there was another addition to the south end, witch completely obscured all vestiges of the original building. 

 For many decades Mercy Medical Center as it became known, was fixture on Hazel Street.  As the city grew so did the hospital, its expansion had an adverse effect on the surrounding residential neighborhood.  Finally, in 2000 a new medical center was erected on the city's far west side and what had been the hospital became care and housing for the elderly.                 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Schlitz In Oshkosh

In an earlier post the subject of Oshkosh beer distribution and the Pabst brewing company was covered but many other out of town breweries set up shop in the city, chief among them was Schlitz. August Uihlein of the Schlitz Brewery was selling beer in Oshkosh as early as the 1880's and in 1891 the Uihlein Block was completed, which housed Schlitz Hall a magnificent drinking place. ( See, “More Oshkosh Buildings, Part Five.” May 28, 2015)
Something was afoot, in February of 1891, William Dichmann an Oshkosh business man purchased a lot on Division Street. Dichmann has purchased the lot at Washington and State St. some years earlier and in turn sold it to Mr. Uihlein so that the Uihlein Block could be built. In mid-year, 1891 came the announcement of the brewery's intention to build a storage house with a bottling facility and stable, this according to the Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of July 8, 1891. The article stated that the structure was to 36 x 62 and was to be located on Division St., between the Milwaukee Road and Central Wisconsin Central tracks, the same lot acquired by Mr. Dichmann some months earlier. There was also published in that same edition a notice to contractors for sealed bids for the construction of the edifice, plans for which could be viewed and bids accepted at the office of William Waters, architect. The Oshkosh Times of October 29,1891 printed an article on the just completed Schlitz warehouse, describing it's modern attributes and praising it as “...quite an addition to the city's semi-public buildings.” Just what the building looked like is a bit of a mystery as there are no extant images of the place.
The building did appear on the 1903 Sanborn Map of Oshkosh, labeled as Louis Plate Beer Bottling and shows several structures, some of wood and some with a brick veneer but not much more than that. The Oshkosh Beer Blog of April 4, 2016 covers the Schlitz in Oshkosh subject more extensively and I commend those pages to you as a good and interesting read.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pabst Brewing, Oshkosh

As the city of Oshkosh became better connected by rail with Chicago, Milwaukee and north, goods were able to come and go at a lower coast, it was a boon to industry. It was soon discovered by many brewing companies that Oshkosh made an excellent distribution point for northern Wisconsin. The Oshkosh Times of March 29,1891 noted this fact in an article under the headline “A Center for Beer”, brewers from Cincinnati, St. Louis as well as Milwaukee's Schlitz and Pabst all had a presents in the city with some bottling plants, warehouse and beer halls. As early as 1876, Pabst had an agent in town to distribute their product. Captain Pabst was shrewd businessman and had turned his father-in-law's failing enterprise into the county's largest brewery. The company built numerous taverns in Milwaukee, surrounding cities and beyond. Early in 1896 the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported another purchase of land by the Pabst agent Lawrence Thence. The Light Street property, occupied by the Columbia Hotel was acquired from Mr. Charles Schriber for the sum of $8,500 and the stated intent was to erect a large three store brick storage and bottling plant. The day following that announcement came clarification from Mr. Thence who stated that work would start in the next week at an accelerate pace from plans that called for a two story building 40 x 120. More reports were published outlining Pabst's plans to acquire the entire block bordered by Jackson, Light and Pearl Streets. Mention was also made of a rumor that the brewer was interested the Methodist church property at the corner of Main and Merritt which was denied by a company attorney.
Perhaps the timetable put forth by Mr. Thence was overly ambitious because it wasn't until March 16,1896 that the announcement for sealed bids was publish. Interested parties could view the plans at the office of William Waters. Work on the building was underway by May with precaution taken dew to the wet ground. After excavating to a depth of four feet eight foot piles were driven in and covered with gravel for a solid foundation. Contrary to earlier report the building was to be two stories high and measure 30 x 78 with an office, bottling room and refrigerator on the first floor, living rooms and storage were on the second floor. It was customary for building of the Pabst Brewing Company to have certain look about them and a circular Pabst logo in the brickwork. Parapets and towers were part of the design by architect Waters, giving the building the look of a diminutive Rhine castle which was consistent with Pabst architecture. With the rise and dominance of local breweries the Pabst market share fell off and prohibition was the death knell for the breweries' presents in Oshkosh. The building was sold in 1925. Remodeling work removed the parapets and a general renovation many years ago made the building a show piece.

P.S. For a more comprehensive article on the Pabst Brewing company in Oshkosh, please visit, Oshkosh Beer Blog of May 9, 2016. It's a good read.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stroud's Warehouse

George F. Stroud was a paint and oil merchant in the early days of Oshkosh. He was well established by the early 1870's. There is pictured in the 1886 city directory his retail store and his warehouse, side by side. The store was on the east side of Main Street's second block in a building erected by C. Griffin after the great fire of 1875 and his warehouse was on Otter Street. It was not uncommon for enterprises to picture their building in fictitious settings.
In 1884 there was and curious news item in the Daily Northwestern of March 7th. The Stroud warehouse had been located near Pearl and Market Streets and the Wisconsin Central freight depot. The article reported that Mr. Stroud was dismantling his warehouse and moving the stones to his lot near Otter and State Streets and that when, weather permitting he would erect a new factory and warehouse. The write up stated the building would be 44 x 100 with two stories and a basement.
The March 27th the Daily Northwestern published a notice for sealed bids to be received for the construction of George Stroud's new building, the plans for which could be seen at the office of William Waters. Mr. Waters planed a building that was of no great beauty as its' utilitarian nature didn't call for it. The structure was of plain limestone block, a material the architect was familiar with. There was but one truly decorative feature, a cornice of protruding blocks spaced about twelve inches apart. There was another announcement in late April that work had started on the foundation of the Stroud warehouse. 
The Stroud Company occupied the building for many years, for a time as Stroud and Thomson. In 1914 the building had two tenants: H. M. Wellman and C. O. Sweet followed by the Heco Envelope Company in 1920. The final company to inhabit the place before its' demolition was Mondl Manufacturing, a shoemaker. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oshkosh Public Library

A great part of what makes a community vital and attractive is a good public library and Oshkosh can boast of one of the finest.  It was not however always so, in the early days of the city, like minded people formed private literary associations where for a nominal fee they could access books. 
These private libraries were some times housed in stores, restaurants or the YMCA.  The Oshkosh Library Association and the YMCA both maintained reading rooms but merged in 1869. This was a fine arrangement until the great fire of 1875 destroyed the reading room and its' contents but the library association rebuilt.  By 1889 the public library movement was gaining popularity, fueled by the generous gifts of Andrew Carnegie and a state law which provided that municipalities could levy a mill tax for establishment and maintenance of libraries.  In April of 1890, pushed by the Oshkosh Library Association the city council voted to hold a referendum on a city funded public library and the measure failed.  The Oshkosh Library Association closed but was replaced in 1894 by another group which too faltered.  That same year the city council appointed a library committee to make proposals.  
 Yet another referendum was held in 1895 but it too was defeated, the Library Committee discerned the failure was due to lack of information on the part of the laboring population.  The committee persisted in its' efforts to establish a public library when came the news of the death of Abbie Harris the widow of Marshall Harris a promoter of the public library movement.  In her will Mrs. Harris bequeathed $75,000 and the Harris property on the corner of Washington and Jefferson for a public library.  On the recommendation of the Library Committee the City Council appropriated $1,900 for the establishment of a library in a basement room of city hall, which opened in April of 1896.  In 1897 former Senator Pliletus Sawyer made a generous largess of $25,000 toward the library, the Library Committee recommended a bond issue of $50,000 and the City Council approved it 

With financing in place the project moved forward, there were many details to be worked out but the Library Committee asked for and got proposals  for the new building from three local architects; William Waters, E. E. Stevens and William C. Klapproth. There were also plans drawn by an east coast architect at the behest of Senator Sawyer which never gained much favor.  The contest came down to the three most prominent Oshkosh architects of their day.  Throughout the month of August 1898 the Oshkosh Northwestern published sketches and plans along with the architects' description of their proposals.  From the out set the Library Committee seemed to favor the Waters plan.  George Paine, a member of the school board was a proponent of the plans submitted by Senator Sawyer and seemed to be of the opinion that Oshkosh deserved the best and that local architects weren't up to the task. When all was said and done the plans of William Waters were selected and the corner stone was laid in 1899.                        

As the city grew greater demands were placed on the aging building such that by the mid 1960's it was apparent more space was needed. The firm of Irion and Reinke was engaged to design the addition the plans for which called for expansion along the west and north sides of the original building. Because of limited space and resources a less than harmonious structure was erected. As more time past the inadequacies of the whole library were reviled and in 1992 the city made plans for a complete renovation that in the end would amount to $10.9 million. With a generous gift from an anonymous donor the city realize the financing needed. Architectural firms from Milwaukee and Chicago were selected for the monumental undertaking. Architects Lonn Frye and Barbara Arendt acted as design architects and devised a sensitive addition to the original Waters building. For the duration of the construction the library was moved to the former Radford factory on Wisconsin Ave. In October of 1994 the newly expanded library opened.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The State Street Station

In 1890, not long after the completion of City Hall the city council was considering the construction of a new Fire Department “Truck House” for State Street, even though Company No.1 was housed just three blocks to the north at the Phoenix Fire House.  The process moved quickly with the purchase of a vacant lot just north of City Hall.  William Waters drew the plans and a construction contract was let to Louis Houle with work started on the twenty first of July.  Waters specified the same types of building materials as used in the City Hall. 
The foundation and trim was of Oshkosh Blue Limestone and the brick was red pressed brick.  There were many terracotta plaques decorating the exterior walls.  The original building was a display of symmetry; with a lime stone foundation there were two large limestone arched door at the center flanked by entry door.  Above the entry doors were decorative rectangular terracotta plaques and between the equipment door was a circular plaque.  A course of limestone formed the lentils of the entry doors and more limestone delineated the first and second floors.  At the center of the second floor front elevation was a large terracotta plaque inscribed with O. F. D. surrounded by floral flourishes, either side of which were large windows.  Above the entry doors were narrow window capped the lentils of limestone and across the whole of the building was decorative brick work like a window pane lattices, divided by pilasters at either end and to the inside of the narrow windows.  The front of the structure was topped off by two more courses of limestone.           
It's unclear when, but not long after the fire house was finished an addition was proposed.  It is clear that William Waters was the architect because the extension was a seamless match to the original building.  About a third more was added to the south side of the structure using the same building materials and deign motifs.  On the first floor there was a limestone arched equipment door and to the left an entry door above which was a decorative terracotta plaque.  On the second floor was a single large window centered over the arch below it.  To either side of the widow, like book ends were inscribed terracotta plaques.  At some point the arched equipment door were altered to accommodate larger apparatus and the building continued to serve until 1970 when it razed and replaced by a parking lot. 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Job Well Done

On April 14, 2015 I authored a post on this blog entitled “A Call to Action”.  The news came out that the Paine Art Center wished to expand its' parking to the lot next door which was occupied by the one hundred four year old Louis Schriber house.  The art center offered the house for the price of one dollar to anyone who would move it.  In that post I urged the art center and the citizens of Oshkosh to find a way to make the relocation happen and I take no credit what transpired over the next year.  That honer goes to the many creative and patient people how worked long and hard for a solution.  This is not news to some but to some it may be, the move is a fait accompli, and the house should survive for another one hundred years.
When first announced, the magazine "This Old House" highlighted the availability of the building, generating nation wide interest and many inquiries.  At last a deal was worked out between the Paine Art Center, David and Jason DeVooght and their sister Tammie DeVooght-Blaney the latter being on the staff of The University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley and the brothers operators of DeVooght House and Building Movers.  The company was started by their father Don and although headquartered in New Jersey, DeVooght has moved other Oshkosh houses.  Of note was the 1985 relocation of another brick house from Oshkosh to Menasha via Lake Winnebago.  The plan for the Schriber home didn't call for placing the house on a barge and float it twenty miles north, merely turning it around and moving it a block down the street.  A near by vacant lot was available and the planning began; first the 200 ton building would need to be jacked up and 65 tons of steel beams placed under it. Fourteen, remote controlled eight wheel dollies were attached to the beams.  One hundred twelve wheels rolled the house from it's old foundation and turned it, moved it to the street, then down the block and on to it's new foundation.  
There was prep work of a somewhat disappointing nature; two fine old oak tree had to be cut down, one in order to get the house on to the street and the other stood where the house was to be placed.  The entire move took several days and was cover in the social media.  There will be more work as the new occupants make the place livable once again.  I tip my hat to all those who made this possible, it was truly a job well done.

Friday, May 20, 2016

W. H. Doe Fire House

The history of the Wm. H. Doe Fire House is not well documented. There had long been a fire house on High Street, the Union Hook and Ladder Company, located on that street between Division and Light streets. As the city expanded it made little sense to have three fire houses just a few blocks from Main Street and companies were relocated. Most of the history to be found on the fire house were newspaper notices of city council proceedings. The first was dated 3/18/1874 and told of a resolution voted upon concerning a new steam fire engine recently purchased by the city. The resolution was to name the engine for William H. Doe and instructed the manufacturer to affix a plaque to the machine bearing that name. A reason for this honor was not reported in the missive. Next, on May 27, 1874 Alderman Whitney of the Fire Commission presented to the council a plan for a new fire house intended to house the new Wm. H. Doe Engine and perhaps that's why the house took on that name as well. That report
was followed on June 10th by a more detailed proposal which mentioned a High Street lot, recently purchased and the cost for both wooden and brick structures. Also on that same day in the same newspaper there appeared a notice for the taking of bid for the new fire house, the plans for which could be seen at the office of William Waters. The city council approved the building of the new station and for the rest of that year notices of the council proceeding concerned themselves with the letting and payment of contracts for the building.
Mr. Waters' design for the Doe Fire House was a departure from his earlier efforts. The building was simple and symmetrical with no tower to grace the facade. There was a large central door for equipment flanked by passage doors. On the second floor, at center was a set of double windows with single windows on either side and above that was brick cornice topped by a parapet. Photographic evidence shows an addition of a wooden shed on the north wall, perhaps to accommodate more equipment. The station was not without a tower but it was placed toward the back of the building. That neighborhood along High Street was the industrial center of the city and was lined with factories that produced sash and doors, wagons and carriages, trunks and luggage as well as matches, all things made of wood. Algoma Boulevard was becoming a popular residential street for the wealthy of Oshkosh, so it was imperative to have good fire protection. The station was still in use in 1922 but was decommissioned not long after that, at the end it was the home the the University Book Store before being razed in order to provide green space.      

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Phoenix Fire House

Mr. Waters' commissions continued with homes, commercial structures, churches, schools and in the summer of 1871 the Phoenix Fire House on Main Street just north of Merritt Avenue. As you will learn this was a most appropriate name for the building.  The city of Oshkosh was sensitive to the thereat of fire, having experienced two divesting conflagrations in 1859 and 1866.  The summer of 1874 was hot, dry and windy.  There were two fires that summer one in early May and another on the afternoon of July 14, at about 3 pm.. 
A fire broke out in a barn near the corner of Main and Church.  Pushed by southwest winds the fire scorched a wide swath toward the northeast, the Phoenix Station lay in it's path and didn't escape the flames and could not be saved.  By the next day the fire was out and the damage assessed; all that remained the the Phoenix Engine House was the front wall and tower.  The Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of August 6, 1874 reported on the city council meeting and the decision to rebuild the brigade's station on Main Street.  At a subsequent meeting it was moved by Alderman Stringham to preserve what remained of the front wall and tower, and so it was that the Phoenix Fire House rose from it's own ashes. 

For the decades that followed the rebuilt Phoenix served the city well but was decommissioned in 1915. 
The building was purchased by Henry Roeder and used as auto and machine repair shop, by 1922 it housed the Oshkosh Oakland Agency.   The top of the tower was removed and a display window replaced the doors but little else changed on the exterior of the old fire house.  It continued as a retail space until the late 1960's when it was demolished to make a parking lot.     

Monday, April 25, 2016

Brooklyn Fire House

When William Waters came to Oshkosh he wasted no time in finding work and establishing himself as an architect. Some of his early commissions came from the city of Oshkosh and in May of 1868 the young architect was preparing plans for a new forth ward school house to be erected of Jefferson St., there was also that month a notice to builders, published in the paper advertising for bids on the construction of an engine house in the third ward, the plan for which could be seen at the office of Mr. Waters. By the end of June the Oshkosh City Times wrote a brief description of the south side fire house, calling it the handsomest building of it's kind in the city and praising the large decorative cornice and Nicolson pavement of the equipment deck. (Nicolson pavement is of wooden blocks.) Even more praise came from Oshkosh Journal of August 8, 1868 which ranked it as one of the finest fire houses in the state. Noting its' ornamental bell and look out tower, the article stated, “Architecturally the building is well harmonized, and is a specimen of fine taste and good workmanship.”
The building must have impressed more than just the newspaper reporters because the city of De Pere built a structure nearly identical to it which served as fire house and city hall. There are no records which establish William Waters as the architect or someone else for that matter.  
The Brooklyn fire house served the south side of Oshkosh unaltered for nine years, then an addition was erected to accommodate a hook and ladder truck. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of 7/22/1879 gave comprehensive summery of the new building, describing its' many attributed and incorporation into the existing fire house. The modifications satisfied the fire departments' needs until 1946 when a new station was built many blocks to the south. For years the building was the home of the Wisconsin Sign Company and was placed on the National Register in 1969 with major restoration following.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Special Edition, William C. Klapproth, Part Two

Ever a student of architecture, I recall in my youth being attentive to features of Oshkosh housing and wondered about similarities between certain dwellings. As I grew and traveled Wisconsin I even noticed similar features in houses elsewhere and at last I embarked on a research mission to  discover who was responsible for the houses I had admired. One element I noticed on some of the better class dwellings in Oshkosh was a semicircular bay window, located at the corner of the first floor. Several homes in my native neighborhood displayed this unique bit of fenestration and I began to notice it elsewhere in the city too. Many of the fine dwelling along Washington Avenue, Algoma Blvd, Jackson Street and New York Avenue shared this bay window trait.
At the corner of the house the foundation formed a semicircle from the front wall to the side wall and rose the height of the window sills, there was a picture window flanked by sash windows. The bay was topped with a roof with low points at the ends and center and high points along the front and side walls. I learned through my research that the bay window style was unique to William Klapproth. The architect had other signature features, a favorite element employed by Mr. Klapproth was the Jerkin Head gable and although not exclusive to his work the architect used the truncated gable a great deal. There is another gable treatment used by architect Klapproth and can also be seen on the building of Wm. Waters and E. E. Stevens, the Prow Gable. The etymology of the name is unclear but it can look like the front of a ship and Mr. Klapproth used it sparingly.  Klapproth was also fond of using columns with Ionic capitals, festoons and other classical features to adorn his homes.   
Like many other American cities, Oshkosh had plethora of “American Foursquare Style” houses. This style was very popular at the turn of the twentieth century, Mr. Klapproth conceived many dwelling based on that scheme and expanded versions too.
 From 1900 until 1905 architect Klapproth had a profound effect on the look of Oshkosh but before his arrival in town he lived and worked in Los Angeles.
There were two notable projects to his credit: The West Lake Park Pavilion and East Park Conservatory. There may have been other Los Angeles building designed by the young architect but research has yet to discover them. In Oshkosh, William worked with E. E. Stevens and designed a new house for his bride and himself. For a number of years Klapproth worked with Stevens before opening his own office, when he did he won a number of high paying commissions: the residence of O. T. Waite, a manufacturer of grass rugs, Charles Clark, a partner in a steam boat line and the Ladies Benevolent Society’s Home for the Friendless are but a few.
In the next few years he designed homes for Herman Weyerhorst, F. D. Cross, J. F Hayes, Julius Kiel and A. C. McComb. He penned plans for a new larger house for his family, Christ Lutheran Church and Peace Lutheran School as well as submitting drawing for the new High School. In 1902 Mr. Klapproth designed perhaps the most beautiful commercial building in Oshkosh, the Main Street establishment of H. F. Wenrich, stone cutter and monument maker.  
That same year the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported that the first of a number house designed by Mr. Klapproth was finished. The dwelling was part of a housing co-op started Edward Lull a contractor who subdivided a section of land from Sixth to Ninth Avenues and from Idaho to Knapp Street. The co-op was open to the public and there were three different styles of house from which to chose. Many of the Klapproth house still stand in the Hi-Holder neighborhood, as that section of town was known.
 Many fine home along South Park Avenue seem to be of his design and on the other side of town he planed dwellings for W. J. Campbell on W. Irving Ave, C. W. Schmidt, Frank La Bubbe and A. W. Schram all constructed on Washington Avenue.
 William Klapproth was also getting much work out of town, a home for W. H. Brown on Superior Street in Antigo, Mr. Puchner's residence in Wittenberg, the George Schultz home on Franklin St. in Shawano and a couple in Waupun, one of which was the mirror image of the Charles Clark residence in Oshkosh.
 It seems that Mr. Klapproth left Oshkosh in 1906 and moved to Los Angeles but returned to Oshkosh in 1912 and once again set up an office but work was not plentiful; a few jobs in town and one in
Clintonville.  Mr. and Mrs. Klapproth spent the winter of 1918-1919 in California and returned but work was sparse with only the Wilson Music and  the James Gould residence to he credit that year.
The architect  did submit a plan for the new Punhoqua School which was of a one story design, unheard of in Wisconsin at that time and the plan was rejected as too costly to heat.  The glory years of the past were gone and the architect was unable to rekindle his fire that once burned so bright. Oshkosh owes much to William Klapproth for a deep and beautiful architectural history.