Thursday, February 25, 2016

Oshkosh Parochial Schools

The public schools of Oshkosh have already been covered in previous posts but not all the schools of Oshkosh have been discussed. All the Catholic congregations had schools as did some of the Lutheran churches. Mr. Waters designed churches for two Catholic parishes and the schools which were to follow. The first parochial school was for St. Vincent de Paul on Oregon Street. An announcement for the taking of bids appeared in the newspapers of May 1874 and there followed in July a missive on the laying of the cornerstone. That was all the Oshkosh press had to report on the matter, it being quite common place for south side projects to receive little or no attention in the pages of the papers. Soon a fine brick school stood on the lot adjacent to the church and rectory. The building was three stories high with a tower at the front and center, a feature that along the church spire would dominate the south side skyline for fifty years. In 1889 the school was expanded. This time the newspaper were a little more generous this their coverage. The Oshkosh Times of August 7, 1889 ran a story about the addition to be erected next to the existing building. The details were that the annex was to be built of brick, measuring 40 x 80 and two stories high with a large hall to occupy the second floor. St. Vincent parish covered the block fronting on Oregon Street from South Park Avenue to Twelfth Avenue. The congregation replaced the old church in 1914 and by 1930 the old school was replaced as well.
Architect Waters also planned St Peter's Church and that congregation built a school in the summer 1884. It's unclear if Waters designed that early structure but photographs reveal some details that were commonly used by Mr. Waters. What is a fact is that in June of 1913 plans were announced for a new Catholic high school. By July The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern published a full description replete with architect Waters' rendering. The basement was to be devoted to club activity with billiard, reading rooms, bowling allies and a swimming tank on one side of the building and on the other there was to a gymnasium 40 x 70, two stories high. The first and second floors were going to be outfitted with commodious class rooms and an auditorium on the top floor above the gymnasium. All this was to cost $35,000 or $50,000 with the addition of the land purchase need to build. Some years later a large gymnasium was built adjacent to the school giving more room for classes. Eventually the building became an elementary school and in the 1960's an addition was placed on the front of the school.
I attended grade school at St Peter's and have many fond memories of the place.  I also attended kindergarten at Longfellow School which was also a Waters' design and noticed the similarities in the two schools.  Some years ago the Catholic churches of Oshkosh were reorganized and what was St. Peter became Most Blessed Sacrament Parish and the school is still in use.  

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