Friday, May 20, 2016

W. H. Doe Fire House

The history of the Wm. H. Doe Fire House is not well documented. There had long been a fire house on High Street, the Union Hook and Ladder Company, located on that street between Division and Light streets. As the city expanded it made little sense to have three fire houses just a few blocks from Main Street and companies were relocated. Most of the history to be found on the fire house were newspaper notices of city council proceedings. The first was dated 3/18/1874 and told of a resolution voted upon concerning a new steam fire engine recently purchased by the city. The resolution was to name the engine for William H. Doe and instructed the manufacturer to affix a plaque to the machine bearing that name. A reason for this honor was not reported in the missive. Next, on May 27, 1874 Alderman Whitney of the Fire Commission presented to the council a plan for a new fire house intended to house the new Wm. H. Doe Engine and perhaps that's why the house took on that name as well. That report
was followed on June 10th by a more detailed proposal which mentioned a High Street lot, recently purchased and the cost for both wooden and brick structures. Also on that same day in the same newspaper there appeared a notice for the taking of bid for the new fire house, the plans for which could be seen at the office of William Waters. The city council approved the building of the new station and for the rest of that year notices of the council proceeding concerned themselves with the letting and payment of contracts for the building.
Mr. Waters' design for the Doe Fire House was a departure from his earlier efforts. The building was simple and symmetrical with no tower to grace the facade. There was a large central door for equipment flanked by passage doors. On the second floor, at center was a set of double windows with single windows on either side and above that was brick cornice topped by a parapet. Photographic evidence shows an addition of a wooden shed on the north wall, perhaps to accommodate more equipment. The station was not without a tower but it was placed toward the back of the building. That neighborhood along High Street was the industrial center of the city and was lined with factories that produced sash and doors, wagons and carriages, trunks and luggage as well as matches, all things made of wood. Algoma Boulevard was becoming a popular residential street for the wealthy of Oshkosh, so it was imperative to have good fire protection. The station was still in use in 1922 but was decommissioned not long after that, at the end it was the home the the University Book Store before being razed in order to provide green space.      

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Phoenix Fire House

Mr. Waters' commissions continued with homes, commercial structures, churches, schools and in the summer of 1871 the Phoenix Fire House on Main Street just north of Merritt Avenue. As you will learn this was a most appropriate name for the building.  The city of Oshkosh was sensitive to the thereat of fire, having experienced two divesting conflagrations in 1859 and 1866.  The summer of 1874 was hot, dry and windy.  There were two fires that summer one in early May and another on the afternoon of July 14, at about 3 pm.. 
A fire broke out in a barn near the corner of Main and Church.  Pushed by southwest winds the fire scorched a wide swath toward the northeast, the Phoenix Station lay in it's path and didn't escape the flames and could not be saved.  By the next day the fire was out and the damage assessed; all that remained the the Phoenix Engine House was the front wall and tower.  The Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern of August 6, 1874 reported on the city council meeting and the decision to rebuild the brigade's station on Main Street.  At a subsequent meeting it was moved by Alderman Stringham to preserve what remained of the front wall and tower, and so it was that the Phoenix Fire House rose from it's own ashes. 

For the decades that followed the rebuilt Phoenix served the city well but was decommissioned in 1915. 
The building was purchased by Henry Roeder and used as auto and machine repair shop, by 1922 it housed the Oshkosh Oakland Agency.   The top of the tower was removed and a display window replaced the doors but little else changed on the exterior of the old fire house.  It continued as a retail space until the late 1960's when it was demolished to make a parking lot.