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.         

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