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.