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.  

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