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.      

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