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. 

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