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.

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