Saturday, March 26, 2016

Special Edition, William C. Klapproth, Part One

In a recent post I mentioned that as the twentieth century progressed William Waters faced stiffer competition from younger, more aggressive architects, one such man was William C. Klapproth.  Mr. Klapproth was born in 1869, the son of a Chicago bricklayer.  Klapproth grew up in Chicago, became a draftsman and worked in that city for a time then moved to Los Angeles where by 1890 was employed in the office of prominent architect R. B. Young, soon young William became an architect as well.  He planned two Los Angeles parks projects, the West Lake Park Pavilion and the East Park Conservatory, both were widely praised.  Abruptly, Mr. Klapproth left Los Angeles in 1893 to return to the mid-west, settling in Oshkosh and took a position in the office of E. E. Stevens where he worked for four years.  Propelled by his great aptitude and ambition the young architect found an eager clientele and opened his own office in the Webster Block on Main Street.  Oshkosh of the early 1900's was a center of population, manufacturing and commerce which in turn created wealth and a market for upscale housing.  It was not long before Klapproth's output surpassed that of his erstwhile employer and that of the venerable William Waters.  One of the first things architect Klapproth did when he arrived in town was to purchase a lot on the corner of Pleasant St. and Hudson Avenue and have a house of his own design built.  He courted Miss Helene Bernicke the daughter of a local cigar maker.   The two were married in May of 1895 and in time she had a daughter Violet and a son, William. 
 Commissions of all kinds came his way, an early and conspicuous one was The Ladies Benevolent Society's Home for the Friendless on Main Street.  He also took work in Waupun, Shawano, Wittenberg, Luxemburg and Antigo.  His designs included houses, churches, schools and a proposal for the new Oshkosh High School.   Sometime about 1900 the Klapproth family moved to a new house on Elm Street, in the 5th ward.  In July of 1902 one of the 5th ward aldermen resigned, Mr. Klapproth was nominated as a replacement and elected by the city council as alderman.    Everything seemed to be going well until March of 1903 when Klapproth was arrested for indecent exposure, there had been an incident about a month earlier and the police had surveillance on Mr. Klapproth.  The case didn't go to trial as the architect plead guilty.  In a letter to the city council, alderman Klapproth resigned his position, saying he was going to Chicago, then on to Pensacola to seek the help of a specialist on nervous diseases, the missive went on to say that Mr. Klapproth would then spend a month in Cuba.  On April 9, 1903 it was reported that the architect and former alderman had returned to the city form Pensacola and was seen in front of his residence but would not go into the house yet walked about the neighborhood.  He was taken to Alexian Brothers Hospital to be examined as to his mental condition. 

Despite his arrest and conviction, he continued to work, finishing some seventeen buildings in Oshkosh and elsewhere.  In the 1905 Oshkosh city directory Mr. Klapproth is still listed in the business roster of architects but there is no listing for him among the general population and the address directory shows 150 Elm Street, his home address as being vacant.  In January of 1906 a notice was published in the Daily Northwestern that architect Klapproth sold his office furniture and other apparatus to Fluor Brothers and departed the city. 
 It's unclear where William and his family went but his name appears in the Los Angeles city directory of 1908 and he's listed as head draftsman at the office of R. B. Young, for whom he worked in 1890.  Mr. Klapproth continued his employment with Young's office through 1912 the same year his wife Helene divorced him.  He returned to Oshkosh with a new wife named Katherine and he again opened an office on Main Street.  For several years he and Katie lived and worked in Oshkosh and he received commissions for a few homes in town and one in Clintonville.  Late in 1918 he and his wife left to spend the winter in California, they returned in April of 1919.  From 1920 until his death Mr. Klapproth residency got somewhat murky, he worked in Oshkosh as an architect but by 1922 was in Los Angeles employed as a salesman.  In the summer of 1927 Mr. Klapproth, with $30,000 in his possession, was intercepted on his way Excelsior Springs, Missouri where he intended to invest the money in a questionable scheme.  On June 13, 1927 a judge made his wife special guardian and the architect was confined the Milwaukee County Hospital for the Insane, where a special jury found him to be sane.  After his release from the hospital Mrs. Klapproth asked to be made his general guardian with control over his property and money.  His death notice dated July 25, 1931 stated that Mr. Klapproth had been in ill health for an extended period. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

What Might Have Been

It's fun to imagine what places would look like if somethings as reported in the newspapers had happened. Through my research over the the past few years I've learned of many projects reported upon that never came to pass: school additions, apartment houses and club houses. Not too long ago I posted an article on the proposed Union Club of Oshkosh which was never built. There were in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries any number of fraternal or social clubs, men and women could join and Oshkosh was a city of joiners as there were an abundance organizations in town. By the early twentieth century the Oshkosh newspapers was urging any group to build a large ornamental club house that would bring prestige to the city. In 1900 the Union Club and the Elks were under pressure to build and drawings and plans were presented but nothing came of it. Finally in 1903 the Oshkosh Yacht Club built its' beautiful club house at the foot of Washington Avenue. In the 1800's clubs would rent space, erect or buy a commercial block and house their club rooms on the second floor, while drawing income from the stores below. One such outfit was the Elks Club, a group which formed after the Civil War with the Oshkosh lodge first meeting in 1894. For many years the B P O E lodge number 292 occupied rooms on the second floor of a building on the corner of  Main and Church Street. The building was constructed after the fire of 1874 and was home at first to the Oshkosh Business College.

The group was unhappy with the accommodations and in 1902 started a campaign to build a club house, several sites were considered but nothing came of it. In April of 1903 a fire damaged the building and the club considered remodeling and adding a third story to the structure, which was owned by the estate of the late Daniel Libbey, who's sons Frank and Charles were member of the lodge. William Waters was retained to draw up plans for the modifications and the proposal was announced in an article in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of May 15, 1903 along with floor plans of the renovation but no sketches of the exterior. Perhaps Mr. Waters would have given the outside a face lift to bring the old building into the twentieth century.

The changes never happened and the Elks met at the Odd Fellows Hall for a time and then in the rooms once used by the Union Club on the second floor of the Heissinger Bros. Block on the corner on Main and Washington St.  Finally in 1913 the Elks were able to build a large decorative club house on Jefferson Street that building was demolished in 1978.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Bandstand on the Square

In the nineteenth century there were phonographs which reproduced music after a fashion but no radios, television or computers on which to share popular music, live performances were the way most popular music was transmitted. Oshkosh had a lively theatrical and musical scene with many venues for entertainment of all sorts. The Grand Opera House was host to many vaudeville shows and the city had several noteworthy bands. In the summer band concerts were often held outdoors and were very popular with the denizens of Oshkosh. The Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of July 23 1891 reported that at a recently held outdoor band concert the band was encumbered by the large crowd and a movement was forming to build a band stand in Opera House Square. There was great enthusiasm at first with a petition being presented to the city council asking that the fountain on the square be move and the band stand be built according to plans drawn by William Waters. A subscription campaign was started, the city council appropriated $500 for the project and work started on the foundation. It was decided that the square should be repaved as well and by early October came the announcement that the band stand would not be built until the spring. In April of 1892 the Oshkosh Times urged the city to finish the project but the city was reluctant to authorized more funds. For the rest of the year and the year that followed, city hall bickered about the finances.

Finally in the spring of 1894 construction was started and four limestone arched were built. In the mist of the arches was the fountain and the walls held up a deck from which the band would play. Around the deck was a metal railing with uprights and frame work to support a canopy. The band stand adorned the square until 1907, that was the year it was announced that Col, Hicks would erect a civil war solder monument in the square. It was decided that that band stand should be relocated to North Park. There were a few newspaper notices about the move but nothing to indicate if indeed it was moved or where in the park it was put. A notice of a concert in North Park by the Arion Band was publisher in the summer of 1908 and in June of 1927 Fluor Brothers won the bid to build new band stand, which would imply that the structure had been moved and was in need of being replaced by the late 1920's.