Wednesday, December 13, 2017

One Hundred Years Ago

December 14, 2017 is the one hundredth anniversary of the passing of William Waters.  After a century, many of his buildings are no more but many remain as monuments to his ability.  His extant structures serve as touch-stones to our past, a reminder of what was and may server to inspire our future. William Water, like many early Wisconsinites had roots in the east.  He was born in 1843 to William and Elizabeth Waters in the village of Franklin in Delaware county New York, his father a successful man of business and civic leader could provide well for wife and three children.  Young William was educated in Franklin, then in 1863 attended Rensselaer Polytechnic School in Troy, New York but left to take a job on the Midland Railroad, after the Civil War he made his way west. What brought him to Oshkosh?  Surly Milwaukee or Chicago held great allure for young men wishing to start a life in the frontier where opportunity was abundant.  Having acquired sufficient knowledge of engineering and architecture the twenty-three-year-old William went to Oshkosh, arriving there in December of 1866 and married Catherina Follett.  Miss Follett’s family also originated in Franklin, New York, her father moved west to Oshkosh in 1849 with his family following in 1850.  Mr. Follett was very successful, even becoming the city’s second mayor and although he’d been killed in an accident his son, Catherine’s brother was a prominent citizen who’s name and position carried a great deal of weight in the city.
William Waters wasted little time in establishing himself as an architect and was soon receiving commissions from the city for schools and fire houses. He also took on supervision jobs, guiding the construction of other’s buildings.  The state of Wisconsin also noticed him and picked his plans for the new normal school to be built in Oshkosh as well as giving him the job as superintendent of construction of the Northern State Hospital for the Insane, just north of Oshkosh.  Mr. Waters’ amiable nature, attention to details and ambition soon garnered him commissions from parties in other cities such as Sheboygan Falls, Neenah-Menasha and Appleton making him one of the premier architects of fast growing central Wisconsin.  He and Catherine started a family and by 1872 had three children, first born was Elizabeth then Willie and finally Katie who lived but ten months.  William’s carrier continued to expand helped by a devastating fire in 1874 and another even more destructive conflagration in 1875.  James Peter Jensen Waters’ draftsman, quipped “Plans by the yard” were drawn up after the fire of ’75.  The office was busy but things at home took a terrible turn when Catherine suddenly died in October of 1875.  For fifty-one years William Waters made Oshkosh his home and worked for the improvement of the city and the state.  I know I drew inspiration from his life story, I hope others might as well. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Two more by Mr. Waters

There were two houses that I’d always suspected of being the work of William Waters but lacked proof of his authorship of the plans.  I was recently informed that other scholars had determined the two structures to have come from his drawing table, confirming my long-held suspicions. 

 The first of these houses was on the south side of Algoma Street just west the Trinity Episcopal Church and was probably built in 1898 for Dr. J.T. Ozanna.  The lot at #81 Algoma had long been occupied by a structure but the Sanborn maps from 1890 and 1903 show a change in what buildings were there. The city directories indicate that A.F. Plumer lived at that address until 1895 and in 1898 lists Dr. Ozanna as dwelling at #81 Algoma Boulevard.
The house was interesting as it showed elements of the American Four-Square Style which would become the predominate house style of the early twentieth century.  Some feature that marked it as such were the hip roof and central dormer.  The house was demolished so that the church next door could expand.
 The next house I’d suspected as the work of Mr. Waters was that of W. W. Waterhouse, a large house on the corner of East Irving Avenue and Boyd Street.  Mr. Waterhouse was an attorney who dealt in real estate.  It is hard to say with certitude what year the house was built, although I believe it was around 1890.  As with many large houses the Waterhouse place did not remain a single-family dwelling but was converted to multifamily use, a move which brought about a deterioration in the property.  The porch which once covered the front and a side was removed and different siding applied which detracted from the homes charm and beauty.       

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Big Three on Church Avenue

Years ago, when I started to research William Waters I drove about Oshkosh taking pictures of buildings I thought might be the work of Mr. Waters.  There were three large home at the west end of Church Avenue I photographed and thought I would one day get around to studying but I never did.  Recently, I’ve had correspondence with David Groth a fellow Waters devotee with a vast knowledge of the man and has a good eye for spotting his work.  He asked me what I thought of the houses and I said they were most likely the work of architect Waters, although I’ve not been able to find written documentation to prove that.
Church Street as it was known in the nineteenth century was a fashionable street with large ornate homes and many churches.  The street maintained its’ prestige well into the twentieth century but with the construction of the new county courthouse the complexion of the thoroughfare began to change.  With the onset of the great depression many of the large one family dwellings became a financial burden and so, some were converted to multifamily homes.  Also with the expansion of the nearby university these building became prime student housing.  Over the years absentee landlords and careless tenants caused the building to deteriorate and fall into disrepair, there size and location were their undoing. 
The first of these three big houses to be built was the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Davis the widow Joseph B. Davis the proprietor of the Oshkosh Gas Works.  The family had lived on Algoma Boulevard but Mrs. Davis had a new house built in 1889, the home was 3,044 square feet and had eleven rooms.  Mrs. Davis lived in the house until about 1909 and was joined by Mrs. Nora Lemley.  Over the years many changes have been made, the most egregious was the replacement of a large double window at the center of the second floor with a small octagon light, other windows were boarded over.

Next to the house of widow Davis was the home of another widow, Caroline Jackman.  Her husband Cyrus Jackman was half the partnership, Prince and Jackman, manufacturers of washing machines.  The shop was on Pearl Street and the Jackman’s lived on the same street.  Sometime between 1891 and 1895, Mrs. Jackman had a large house built, consisting of ten rooms and 2,651 square feet of space.  In the 1895 city directory Mr. Robert Fair is also list as a resident at that address but his name disappears from the record after that time.  The house underwent few changes over the years, the front porch was rebuilt and expanded and that’s about all.  Over the last forty years however, the house has suffered much neglect and abuse.
The last of the big three was the residence built in 1893 for Samuel H. Gullford the secretary of the Hay Hardware Company.  Mr. Gullford managed the fit a 2,853-square foot house of ten rooms on a 6,654-square foot lot.  The years have been kind to the old house, with but a few changes; the front porch once wrapped around the side but was truncated sometime after 1903 and a small porch and side door were added under the stairway bay.     

Monday, October 30, 2017

Out on Jackson Dr.

Two more houses I believe to be the work of William Waters were built on Jackson Drive north of New York Avenue.  The first one was constructed in 1890 for Mr. Gustav Grunske, a grocer turned teamster.  The city directory of 1889 lists Mr Grunske as a grocer at 217 Pearl St. and living at the same address, the directory of 1891 lists him as a teamster living on Jackson Dr. 
The house was extensively remodeled, perhaps in the 1960's or 70's and altered so much as to be nearly unrecognizable as a Queen Anne style much less a job by William Waters.  I was unable to find a photograph of the building before modernization but I feel given what other Waters' designed houses of the time looked like it probably appeared much like the drawing.
The next possible Waters' job is just across the street from the Grunske place but dates from 1908.  The land west of Jackson Dr. and north of New York Avenue had been occupied for many years the the fair grounds, a large exhibition building and race course.  About 1900 the grounds were moved north of Murdock Ave. between Jackson and Main Street.  Soon many fine new house were being built along the west side of Jackson Drive one of them was for T. B. Waters the treasurer of the Foster Lothman Mill.  Mr. Thomas B. Waters was not related to William Waters but Thomas had a fine house built and may have chosen William Waters, for the house featured many details often used by architect Waters.    


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Circumstantial Case

I’ll be honest and say I’ve got some misgivings about declaring these next two houses as the work of William Waters but one could make a strong circumstantial case for that thesis.  Not too long ago I noticed a similarity between two houses in Oshkosh, one on High Avenue and the other on Scott Avenue.  They shared many of the same features but were mirror images of one another.  Both dwelling had large front porches covered by a long sloping roofs and in the center of that roof was a dormer with a door which opened on to a balcony with a railing, to one side rose a tower with a steep conical roof. 
 The house on Scott Avenue appears much as it did when built in 1898 for Robert Grandy a foreman with the Morgan Company. The gable ends were covered with shingles, the second story was a combination of clapboard and shingles, while the first floor was clad with clapboard.  The roof was dominated by a dormer at center with a gabled roof and door flanked windows.  I had seen dormers like that on homes designed by Mr. Waters, notably the A. B. Ideson residence in Oshkosh, built 1898 and the C. W. Howard house in Neenah
The house on High Avenue was also constructed in 1898 but may have been altered from the original.  It would be likely that this house too had a cone shaped roof that was may have been removed for a verity of reasons.  It may have been a coincidence that William Waters played the base drum for the renowned Arions Band and that the High Avenue house was built for Professor A. D. Amsden the director of the Arions Band
That is as compelling a case as I can make for the assertion that the homes of Robert Grandy and Professor Amsden were from and drafting table of William Waters.       

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

All Around the Town

 Four more houses I believed to be the work of Mr. Waters were two on the east side and the others near the Normal School, all around the town if you will.  The first one was the residence of Marrian Ebernau a painter and wallpaper hanger.  Mr. Ebernau had for many years lived on Ceape Street but at a verity of addresses and in 1891 his dwelling was listed as 269 Ceape Street.  The 1898 directory lists the same address for Marrian and other occupants as well, Albert, Bertha and Ida but doesn’t reveal the relationship to Marrian.  Perhaps they were wife, son and daughter or all siblings.  The house at 269 Ceape Street (That’s the old number.) was a large home with plenty of room and could easily accommodate a lager family.  It displayed the hallmarks of a Waters’ Queen Anne Cottage; a front facing gable portion at a right-angle to the main body of the house with a long slopping roof which covered the front porch.  On the left side of the house was an elegant curved bracket which supported one end of the side gable.

The residence of Frank Favour on Bowen Street was a few blocks to the north of the Ebernau place.  Frank was half of the partnership, Welch and Favour, proprietors of the sample room at the Tremont Hotel.  Mr. Favour’s house was likely built in 1896 or 97 and exhibits feature shared with other Waters’ dwellings but with a twist.  The long slopping roof which usually came off the main portion of the house in this case came off the front gable and covered the front porch.
In 1891 Rush Brown had a fine home built on the corner of W. New York Avenue and Western Street.  Rush was of the Brown family of Cook and Brown Lime Company but worked for the McMillen Company.  Mr. Brown’s house, like the John Washburn residence on Mt Vernon Street had a front gable nearly as wide as the main body of the house but in this permutation, there was an open porch or balcony above the front porch.  Along the Western Street side was an elegant bracket supporting one end of the gable and a bay which went from the foundation to the roof line.
Another dwelling built in 1891 and surly the work of William Waters was on Scott Street, the home of George Johnson a scaler for the Conlee Lumber Company. A scaler would measure the cut trees to determine the volume and quality of wood, scalers were better educated and made more money than the lumber-jacks. Mr. Johnson’s house was very much like the J. A. Nemitz place on Jefferson Street but was a mirror image and not as ornate.  As with other buildings of this style there was the front gable and main body of the house with a portion of the roof covering the front porch, a dormer with a bay window like front perched above the porch.   

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Moven’ On Up to the East-side

As stated in other posts, the near east-side neighborhoods of Oshkosh were very popular with doctors, lawyers, professionals and business owners and William Waters was often the choice of architect of those who built there.  Jefferson and Mt Vernon Street were favored for their proximity to the business district and government buildings.  One such business professional was Maurice O’Brien a life insurance salesperson, who in 1890 had a Queen Anne cottage built on the west-side of Jefferson Street just south of what is now Parkway Avenue.  It was a simple design with a few architectural ornaments and was a pretty house.  The structure’s main portion ran parallel to the street. On the left end of the house at a right angle to main portion was a gable and to the right of that a long slopping roof with a dormer   As the years went on other families moved in and the house deteriorated, many ill-conceived and poorly executed “improvement” were made, robbing building of all grace and charm.  It stands today almost unrecognizable from what it had been.
Just north of the O’Brien house was another dwelling surly from the drafting table of Mr. Waters, it was the residence of J. A. Nemitz and it was constructed in 1892.  Mr. Nemitz was a merchant tailor and dealt in clothing, furnishings, caps, hats, trunks and valises.  He and his business partner, C. R. Boardman maintained an establishment at number 44 Main Street and in 1891 Mr. Nemitz was living at 196 Tenth Street, south of the river.  His new house, north of the river was a tour de force of Queen Anne design and ornamentation. The building shared much the same layout as the smaller O’Brien place next door but with an ostentation of decoration; there were rosettes at the corners of the window frames, art glass window panels and a dormer above the front porch with a balcony and towering spindle on the roof, a truly handsome dwelling.  Alas as the businesses along Main Street expanded it was demolished to make room.  
There was on Mt. Vernon Street another house I consider to be the work of William Waters.  The home was constructed in 1895 for John R. Washburn, a lumberman in the partnership of
Washburn and Wagstaff.  Mr. Washburn had resided at 22 Jefferson Street so he had not far to move when his new abode was finished.  The house was big and something of a departure from the usual layout.  There was of course the main portion of the house but instead of a smaller transverse section to one side, the front gable ran nearly the width of the building and what might have been a dormer above the front porch was part of the front gable.  The second floor was clade in shingles with tall narrow windows in the peaks.  There was a long slopping roof which covered the porch and the first floor was sided with clapboard.  Alteration were made over the decades; the front porch pillars replaced by wrought iron standards and railings and the second-floor shingles were removed but the fenestration remained the same.   

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Bells of St. Mary's

An Oshkosh neighborhood near the intersection of Bay and Washington Streets, within the sound of the bells of St. Mary’s Catholic church was a popular with business owners no doubt because of the proximity of Main Street and the business district. There were in that district several homes with similar features which I believe to be design by William Waters. 
 Of these houses, perhaps the first to be built, circa 1891, was the home of Mr. Robert Mehlmann, a cigar maker who arrived in Oshkosh in 1875.  In business with his brother Adolph, Robert lived on Bay Street for many years before building an eleven room Queen Anne Style house there.  His family was large, there was his wife Ida, daughter Gretchen, two sons and his sister Matilda, who ran the millinery shop on Waugoo Avenue.  The dwelling displayed the features of a Queen Anne cottage with a long sloping roof with a dormer to the left of the front gabled section.  The main part of the house had two gables on the south elevation, with a bay running from the foundation to the roof line of the secondary peak.  In all, however the building lacked ornamentation, being covered in just clapboard with scallop shingles in the gables.  The Mehlmanns moved to a house near Algoma and Murdock in 1905 and sold the Bay Street house in 1912.  After that it seems to have suffered the fate of many large nineteen century houses, it became a multi-family dwelling and over the years deteriorated and was finally demolished.
At about the same time Mr. Mehlmann had his house built, Mr. Peter Stein had a fine house constructed just up the street and around the corner on Washington Avenue.  What the Mehlmann house lacked in decoration, Peter Stein’s more than made up for it.  Mr. Stein showed up in Oshkosh in 1889 and was the proprietor of the Royal Bodega sample room on Main Street and live on Waugoo Avenue.  The saloon business must have been good as Peter soon could build a fine home.  His house was in the familiar Queen Anne cottage template with some ornate features; a picture window flanked by six lights on each side adorned the center of the first floor, above that was a set of triplet window which combined with a fan light in the attic to give the look of a Palladian window and in the peak of the gable was a carved festoon.  Missing was any sort of dormer on the roof above the front porch but the elevation to the right had two gables and a full-length bay.   
This style must have had great appeal for in 1895 Charles Stroud had a house built that was a combination of the Mehlmann and Stein residences. Stroud was a partner in Stroud and Thomson, dealers in oil, lubricants and paint and business must have been good for Mr. Stroud built a fine dwelling.  Stroud’s home was just down the block from Peter Stein’s place and it appeared some-what larger but not as ornate.  There was a dormer above the front porch, not seen on the Stein house but there were double gables on the side and a two-story bay, just as with the others.         

Thursday, August 31, 2017

More of the Cottage Style

The city of Oshkosh had many houses based on the Queen Anne Cottage Style and they were not all Queen Anne or cottages, some were large and more classical in style.  William Waters may have drawn the plan for these two houses that seem to transition away from the Queen Anne, the first was a diminutive dwelling built on Fulton Avenue for J. P. Miller.  Mr. Miller was a millwright a job that was much in demand in the Oshkosh of the later 19th century.  In the mid 1880’s the Miller family including J. P.’s mother were living on Otter Avenue but in 1889 the family had moved to a fine new house on Fulton. 
The house was uncluttered with ornamentation and even lacked a dormer on the long roof above the front porch.  There were two curious design elements first the pseudo gable at left above the porch and the half window between two windows on the second floor of the front elevation. 
The residence of Martin Davidson on Wisconsin Street was built about 1890 and displayed a more classical style as well as being larger than the Miller place.  Mr. Davidson was a carpenter by trade and may have had a hand in building his house.  As with other dwelling of this style, the second floor is shingled covered and the first floor is clad in clapboard.  There was on the right side a bay which rises to the second floor and above the front porch is a small dormer.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Durable Arrangement

Mr. Waters would sometimes find a layout or template that worked well, appealed to clients and he would use variations over and over, for instance commercial building of two stores separated be a stairway to the upper floor.  The architect also had such a template for dwellings and is best exemplified by R. P. Finny’s Queen Anne cottage built in 1888 on Washington Avenue in Oshkosh. This design featured a two-story portion on the front elevation with a gabled end, transversely situated to that portion was the main body of the house, which rose slightly higher.  The main segment had gables at each end and a long slopping roof to the left of the front gable.  This long roof came down past the second story and cover the front porch, the slope often had dormers of various designs. 
There were many residences built using this plan, not all were the work of William Waters but there were several I’d long suspected as the product of his drawing board.  The staff of Oshkosh Public Museum had already researched the two houses to be covered in this post, the first is that of Charles F. Abraham on Ceape Street.  Mr. Abraham was born on September 21, 1861 and immigrated to Oshkosh in 1883 after serving in the Prussian army.  Upon arriving Charles took a job in the tailor shop of S. Eckstein and Son and soon married Clara Timm and over the years the couple have five boys.  In 1889 Mr. Abraham opened his own shop and not long after that built a fine home to house his family.  The dwelling was in the Queen Anne Style with a verity of surface coverings and interesting fenestration.  In the shingle covered front gable there was a small widow set back in the peak of the gable. Below the second story was covered with clapboards and shingles and the first floor was clad with clapboards. A small dormer with a diminutive railed balcony protruded from the long sloping roof to the left of the front gable.  Along the west side of the house at the roof line was a large bracket with an elegant curve holding up the gable end.  To my eye so many elements and details mark this house as the work of William Waters.
The next house I suspect of being the work of architect Waters was the home of Mrs. Sophia McMillen on Jefferson Street.  The house was built about 1890 for the widow of lumberman, John H. McMillen, Sophia.  The dwelling was in the Queen Anne Style and bore a great resemblance to the R. P. Finny house mentioned earlier.  There were many surface covering and details consistent with the Queen Anne Style.  The gable on the front elevation was supported by the elegant brackets so often seen in Mr. Waters’ works.  There was also in the front gable an elongated window and the side gables too had such fenestration.  A dormer with a prow gable emerged from long slope of the roof above the front porch and on the north side of the house was a feature common to this design, the stair well landing bay.  The interior stair way would rise half the distance to the second floor and then double back on itself to finish the rise the upper floor.  To provide more room architects would cantilever a landing past the exterior wall to accommodate the directional change of the stairs. 
I’m unable at this time to offer any proof of William Waters authorship of the plans for these buildings but perhaps in the future…              

Friday, August 11, 2017

Have You Met the Twins?

There are on Otter Avenue two more houses I believe to be the work of William Waters.  Located next to Peter Nicolai’s Italianate Style house these two houses are mirror images of each other and of the Queen Anne Style.  They were built in 1885 and were occupied at different times.  Presently the houses are numbered 402 and 406 but in 1886 would have carrier the numbers 93 and 97, respectively.  The dwellings are nearly duplicates of the rectory built in Appleton for the Episcopal church there.  They show many of the stylistic elements that would mark them as the work of William Waters. There are on one side elevation double gables as seen on the J. W. Kelley residence of Washington Street.  Like brackets supporting gables and eves are found on other Waters houses as well, they surly must have come from architect Waters’ drawing board.
                                            See number 5, lower right corner.

An article in the Daily Northwestern of January 2, 1886 gives a list and dollar amount for the buildings completed in 1885, two are listed on Otter Street for C. D. Heath at $2,500 each, the report doesn't name any architects.  Mr. Heath was born in Racine in and came to Oshkosh with his family in 1858.  He was proprietor of a cigar shop and later the Senate sample room on Washington Street and Athearn Hotel.  Additionally, Heath was second ward alderman and was for one week in April of 1891 the mayor of Oshkosh.  Later he and his family moved to Marinette, Wisconsin, where he ran a hotel.
The first resident of number 406 was Frank D. Topliff a partner in the dry goods house of Hough and Topliff which had two locations, one on Oregon Street and the other on Main Street. The city directory of 1886 lists Mr. Topliff’s residence as 279 Jackson Street but the 1889 register locates him on Otter Avenue.  Mr. Topliff came from New York in 1872 to Green Bay and married Miss Hoffmann while working for Seels and Best Dry Goods.  In 1879 he traveled to Oshkosh and eventually partnered with Elbert Hough in the dry goods business.  That arrangement went until 1894 when Topliff opened his own store.  He remained it business until 1915 when he and his wife retired to Green Bay.  Parenthetically Mr. Charles Heath was the Topliff Company treasurer.     

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Special Report

On July 31, 2016 I gave a presentation to the Winchester Academe, a like long learning organization based in Waupaca.  I had been eagerly anticipating the event for months and Robbi and I had assembled a fine power point lecture which covered William Waters and his work in Waupaca.
 The proceedings were well attended and the crowd enjoyed show, asking many question during the Q and A.  I saw some folks I'd not seen in years and made new acquaintances, it was a splendid evening.  My thanks to my wife Robbi, Ann Buerger Linden, Nolan, Joe and Maggie Jones and the other members of the board of Winchester Academe for making the presentation possible.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Peter Nicolai and His House

There was a fine house on Otter Avenue which I’d long admired but hadn’t considered to be the work of William Waters until just recently.  The house was built for Peter Nicolai, a prominent and colorful citizen.  ( Number 4.)
Mr. Nicolai was born in 1820 at Rhineland-Platz, Germany and immigrated to Oshkosh in 1849 making the city his home until his death fifty-one years later.  He married Appolonia Jagoditsch and they had eight children.  His obituary lists Peter as a carpenter but said he did not engage in that occupation for many years, a check of old city directories shows that Peter was a saloon keeper, restaurateur and man of leisure.  Mr. Nicolai had quite a temper and was arrested for an assault on Theodore Frenz, it seems Mr. Frenz told Peter that he’d seen his daughter at Rolla Herrmann’s saloon drinking beer with unsavory company.  Later Peter went to Mr. Herrmann and inquired if he had witnessed his daughter with undesirables, Rolla told Peter he had not and Peter left Mr. Herrmann’s establishment only to return the next afternoon in the company of Theodore Frenz.  The two strolled up to Mr. Herrmann and Peter asked if he’s seen his daughter in bad company to which Rolla said no, Mr. Nicolai then sized a duster and beat Mr. Frenz about the head with the handle to the point of drawing blood.  But I digress.
The reason I feel the Nicolai house is a Waters job is the front entrance and porches, they are
nearly identical to the entrance and porches of the Rodrick McKenzie house.  The layout of the
front elevation of both structures is the same only the scale and some details differ. 

The dates would be about the same, the McKenzie place was built about 1873 and Peter Nicolai’s 
first residual listing on Otter Avenue comes in 1876, I therefore conclude Mr. Waters to be the
architect of Peter Nicolai’s house.  I can offer no written proof of my accretion just my intuition.      

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Kings of Waugoo Avenue

There is one other house on Waugoo Avenue which I always believed to be the work of William Waters but for which I’ve no proof, just my intuition.  The house at 204 Waugoo Avenue was once one of many homes in that block but as the neighborhood changed it became the only house in that block on that side of the street.  When I was in grade school the bus, I rode home on would pass this house and I always admired the house.

 My research indicates that it was built in the early 1890’s for Peter King who was half of the partnership of the King Brothers.  F. B. King had been a resident of Oshkosh since 1863 and operated several sample rooms which seemed to be very lucrative, for F. B. King could commission William Waters to design a large house on the south west corner of Waugoo and Broad Streets.  

If Fred could hire Mr. Waters, perhaps his brother could also.  Peter’s house wasn’t as grand as his brother’s but it was a fine building, the design for which was used by others.  There was a house on Parkway Avenue which was the mirror image of the King house and the Sorensen house in Neenah was nearly identical. 

P. S.  It has come to my attention that a publication for the 1990's credits Mr. Waters as the architect of the Peter King house.     

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dream Along With Me.


                         The following is an illustrated day dream.  …Enjoy.

Imagine if you will that you live in a fair-sized city in Wisconsin, the year is 1885. The June morning is warm with a light breeze which feels cool.  You are strolling through a park and the leaves rustle as the breeze moves the tree tops, there is the faint sound of a morning dove.  You emerge the trees to a corner of the park where a fountain splashes water down two tiers to a large basin bellow, before you is a neighborhood of large brightly colored homes with well-kept grounds.  Across the street a boy pushes a lawn mower and can swell the fresh cut grass on the breeze, from behind you hear the approach a vehicle on the brick pavement and you turn to see a horse drawn Phaeton speed past, a distant church bell chimes the hour.
You turn left and walk down the street to the crest of a slope at the end of which is a lake shining as a sapphire on a green velvet cushion.  Thousands of bright flashes of light strike your eyes as the breeze turned surface reflects the sun light.  Cumulus clouds indolently drift by as your gaze falls upon a mother pushing her infant son in a carriage and her daughter tags along.  The mother hums a tune as the little girl chatters about the long walk home and other childish concerns.  The young mother notices you and calls out a greeting, you reply “Good morning”.  She pushes the carriage up to the gray house, picks up her baby and she and the children go into the house.  You cross the street, walk toward the white Queen Anne cottage last in the row, you’re home after your morning walk.

                                                                      The End

P. S.  All the houses in the pictures were designed by William Waters, some were in Oshkosh, others in Neenah and Appleton.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Two on Waugoo

I can trace my interest in architect Waters to some old acquaintances: Lee and Eileen Weigert.  I had known them since I was in first grade, the parents of a classmate and friend. The Weigerts were devotees of Oshkosh history and William Waters.  In 1977 I entered the Oshkosh Public Museum Art Fair, one of my drawings was a pen and ink called “Glimpses of Oshkosh, Wisconsin” and featured drawings of many prominent Oshkosh buildings.  The Wiegerts and I were talking when Lee said, “You know Richard, all these buildings were designed by William Waters.  Do you know much about him?”  I had to plead ignorance and the Wiegerts filled me in on Mr. Waters.  Eileen told me of a house on Waugoo Avenue as being a Waters job but remodeled beyond recognition.  She described in detail its location and I at once knew of which house she spoke, it was number 316 Waugoo or old number 91.  

                                                    Numbers 2, 3 are address 91, 101

Until recently I never pursued much research on architect Waters’ early works.  The collection of sketches compiled by William Waters Jr. as a boy had been a great help in discerning works from the 1870’s and photographic evidence showed architectural details also seen in the sketches of “Willie’s Book”.  I was now able to identify some Mr. Waters’ early residential works and I concluded that the houses at 91 and 101 Waugoo Avenue were both the work of architect Waters, but to linking the house to the person who had it built was another matter.  The Oshkosh city directories from the 1870’s list names, occupations and home address, there was no listing of street addresses and occupant name.

In 1891, D. C. Buckstaff resided at number 91 Waugoo, he was the treasurer of the Buckstaff and Edwards Company.  D. C. Buckstaff isn’t listed in the 1879 directory and all other Buckstaffs are listed as living on the south-side and working for Buckstaff Brother and Chase Company.  The occupant of number 101 Waugoo in 1891 was Herman Derksen, a cigar maker who had previously lived at number 152 Main Street.  It was unlikely that either man had these homes built for them. 

 Both building have long since been demolished but it's nice to imagine the days when the street was lined with houses, not parking lots.

Friday, June 2, 2017

James G. Clark Residence

Recently in Oshkosh, the Washington Avenue Historic district was established to help preserve the many fine neoclassic buildings in the 200 block of that street.  This is a good thing and I endorse any effort the preserve architectural treasures.  I’m also aware that the neighborhood now protected was once an up sale residential district.  In the nineteenth century, many doctors, lawyers and businessmen made their homes on Washington and adjacent street.  One such denizen was James G. Clark a partner in the Biggers and Clark dry goods store.  In an article from the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern from December 14, 1877 which recapped the years building, there is mention made of Mr. Clark’s new dwelling on Washington, as planned by William Waters.  
Where was it and what did it look like, were the questions in my mind.  The Oshkosh city directory of 1880 lists Mr. Clark’s address as 71 Washington Street and the 1903 Sanborn map shows that number to be on the north side of the street and third from the corner of Mt. Vernon.  As to its’ appearance, I consulted “Oshkosh Illustrated” from 1887 and the photograph looking north taken from the top of the court house.  I notice a house in the upper left hand side the picture, about where number 71 would stand.  The image wasn’t very clear but clear enough to trigger a recognition, I had seen something like it the collection of sketches put together by William Waters Jr.  I leafed through the pages and found the drawing, a good match to the fuzzy image from 1887 and the date would have been spot on, I determined that the house in the photo and the house in the sketch were one and the same.  
P. S. The house designated as 1 is the Clark residence, I’ve numbered several houses in the photograph as they will be the subject of future posts.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

115 Algoma Blvd.

I’ve written pieces about every building I know to have been designed by William Waters. My last two missives were speculative in that I had no confirmation of Mr. Waters’ affiliation with the design of the structures, just my intuition, this and future post will just as intuitive and many posts will focus on architect Waters’ earlier work.
A few years ago, I asked Dan Radig, an artist, historian, archivist and Facebook friend if he had any photos of some of the houses demolished to make way the phone company’s new building on Algoma Boulevard.  In return he sent some great pictures I’d not seen before.  One was of number 115 Algoma, the address before the renumbering of 1957, which was across the street from what is now Oshkosh City Hall.  Many design elements were familiar, like those of Joshua Daltons residence on Central Street. (See post from March 30, 2015.)  The layout of both houses was the same and the front porches were small with an enclosed vestibule.  A look back at the sketches collected by young William Waters Jr. in the mid 1870’s reviled the gable and window trim details to be the work of the elder Waters, I was sure of it.  The Oshkosh city directory of 1890 was the first to list street addresses and occupants name,  115 Algoma is listed as the residence of T. J. Gannon, a commercial traveler, it also the first-time Mr. Gannon’s name appears in the city directories.  A Herculean task I’m not up for, would be to go through the appropriate directories name by name to ascertain for whom the house was built.  For now, the name of the dwelling’s first resident will remain a mystery.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pratt's Block of Ripon

Many years ago, I traveled to Ripon Wisconsin to research some buildings there designed by William Waters.  My destination was the public library and the archive on local history.  I found an image of the town square and one of the buildings pictured there was to my thinking the work of Mr. Waters.  It bore many of the hallmarks of a “Waters job”; a chamfered corner entrance with a set of triplet windows just below the pediment, an intricate brick work cornice and stairways to the second floor between store fronts.  I finished up at the library and drove to the town square and found the building I’d seen in the picture with the inscription just below the pediment, “Pratt’s Block”.
 Perhaps I should have returned to the library that day and researched the Pratt block but time would not allow that.  Over the next many years, I tried to ascertain if indeed Mr. Waters was the architect of the block but my efforts never yielded an answer.  I did discover that the building contributed to the Watson Street historic district of Ripon but none of the research on the building named the designer.  In that research, there’s a was a lengthy description and a brief history of the building which revealed it was built in 1885 as a replacement for a structure destroyed by fire.  There were newspaper accounts of the fire and how a company of firefighters from Oshkosh was dispatch to help extinguish the blaze but no mention in the subsequent months of a replacement building.  Given the Pratt’s Blocks great resemblance to other buildings by Mr. Waters from that time I continue to believe it to be his work and I shall persist in my search.                 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Waupaca Suspect

Waupaca and its’ environs presented William Waters with many design opportunities.  There was one building I’d always suspected of being a “Waters Job” and that would be a rundown bar on Union Street just east of Main Street.  I first glimpsed a picture of it in “Illustrated Waupaca” and thought at once that it may have been the work of Mr. Waters.  A more recent photograph was part of the Waupaca building survey, which I found online at the Wisconsin Historical Society.  The
accompanying description called it the Post Office Block, built in 1880 but there was no mention of the architect.  The block was not part of the Main Street Historic District so it wasn’t researched.
There seemed to be a dearth of information on the building but still I believed it to be designed by architect Waters and here’s why;  It is of the template so often used by the architect, that being two stores on either side of a stair way to the second floor.  The other reason is the intricate brick work and details. The drawing in “Illustrated Waupaca”, which was based on the photograph shows parapets rising from the brick work cornice, a feature common for Mr. Waters commercial building from that time. Much of that detail was removed over the years, perhaps for maintenance reasons.  There were some uncommon design elements as well, first the peaked window arches of the second floor were unusual and the chamfered corner of the front door of what must have been the post office, in other buildings the cut corner would have extended to the second floor.  By 1893 the post office had moved to the Roberts block and what had been the post office became Nelson’s Bar, serving Pabst beer.             

Saturday, April 15, 2017

More Work in Waupaca

The decade of the 1880’s saw much activity in Wisconsin’s north country.  Immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia and eastern Europe found a fresh start in the forests of Wisconsin.  The city of Waupaca was growing rapidly, and as the county seat required all manner of buildings, it too became a center of industry and commerce. Fine brick buildings lined either side of Main Street and a new ornate court house dominated the square at the center of town. 
 One of the most conspicuous commercial buildings on Main St. was the Roberts Block, the first section of which was constructed in 1884 using plans drawn by William Waters.  The building was of dark red brick with courses of black brick as accent, bands of lime stone and tile also adorn the fa├žade.  Pictorial evidence conflicts with written time lines, the 1888 publication “Illustrated Waupaca” indicated that an addition to the south end of the building had already been erected.  This expansion was of three stories and employed the same decorative motifs as the original block and incorporated a diminutive tower at the building’s terminus.  The Wisconsin State Historical Society’s records suggest that the annex of 1893 included that portion which housed the Post Office plus another two store fronts to the south.  The actual construction date is left to conjecture, whatever took place the completed Roberts Block was an impressive piece of architecture.
Another job in Waupaca undertaken by Mr. Waters was in 1909.  Attorney Irving P. Lord hired Waters to design a business block with two retail spaces on the first floor and offices on the second floor.  Architect Waters planed in the Neo-classic Style, built of red brick with limestone trim and metal cornice, complete with dentils.  Large windows on the second floor were favored as they admitted much light and ventilation.  Over the years some changes were made; the large second story windows were exchanged for smaller casements and the decorative cornice was removed.  At some point the retail space on the ground floor was joined with that of the building next door and a large opening on the Granite Street side was bricked in.