Friday, March 23, 2018

A Great Remodel

In my youth I would occasionally walk home from school, a stroll that took me nearly the entire length of Washington Avenue.  The best part of the walk was from Bowen Street to my house. It was pleasant because the street was lined with large graceful trees and elegant well-maintained homes.  One of my favorites was the house at 1022 Washington Avenue, a larger white house  on the north side of the street, of a simple design, a porch which stretched across its front and sat on manicured grounds.  When I became aware of William Waters I thought it was perhaps one of his works.
I was never able to link Mr. Waters to the house but I did learn some interesting facts about the residence.  One of the first things learned was that it did not always look as it does now and it was much older than I thought.  The house was built 1865 by Colonel John Hancock, a lawyer who served in the Civil War.  The Hancock’s lived there until 1871, then moved closer to the lake on Merritt Avenue.  Attorney Hancock sold the place in 1871 to another lawyer, Charles Felker who’s family resided there until 1919.  In 1894 or so Mr. Felker had the house remodeled and expanded, a large portion was added to the west side of the house and gabled roofs topped off the structure.  There were two elements present which led me to conclude the addition was designed by architect Waters; the graceful brackets supporting the gable ends and the set of four window in the front gable with an arched light above the center two.

Parenthetically, Mr. Felker was an avid yachtsman and one-time commodore of the Oshkosh Yacht Club, in 1885 he instituted the race for the trophy which bore his name and has been contested each year since.              

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Stylish Cottage

In the 1890’s the northern limit of Oshkosh was New York Avenue.  There was north of the avenue the Fair Grounds and Race Course on Jackson Street with a few houses along that thoroughfare.  The fairgrounds effectively blocked several streets from going much past New York Avenue and Wisconsin Street was one such roadway.  In 1895 Wisconsin Street went as far as the southern boundary of the fairgrounds and there were but a few houses along its course.  One on the west side of the street very near the terminus was the home of John Koehler, a body maker at the Clark Wagon Company. 
The dwelling was a fine and stylist structure suitable for a working man and his family.  It was one and half stories high with a small porch in the front corner.  There was on the front elevation a gable with a set of double windows and along the south side of the house was a large bay window.   

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bay Street Bungalow

The house at number 313 Bay Street in Oshkosh is not a real bungalow is the sense of the architectural vernacular but the alliteration made for a catchy title.  The diminutive dwelling was a Queen Anne Style cottage built circa 1885 and featured some details that marked it as the work of William Waters.  It was only one and a half stories but had a layout often used by architect Waters. A small porch at the left of the front elevation is covered by the roof of the front gable.  In that gable was a bay window just below the peak, an element seen in Mr. Waters' Queen Anne works.  Along the south side of the house, just past the porch was another larger bay window and above that a gable with a set of double windows.  Beyond the bay window was the back porch. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Two More Suspects

There were two other houses in Oshkosh I suspected of being the work of William Waters and I was not alone in my suspicions.  Both were not far from each other and very near the university campus. The first one was on Elwood Avenue near Scott Street.  It’s original house number was 188 Elm Street and was first listed in the city directory of 1891-93 as the residence of Orin H. Wetlaufer the shipping clerk at the McMillen Company.  
The house displayed several features often associated with the work of Mr. Waters, most notably the long narrow windows in the gables and a decorative apron beneath a small window near the front door.  There was a second-floor porch or balcony above the front porch and bay window along the south face.  The house was likely built in 1890 as Mr. Wetlaufer’s address in 1889 was number 44 Willow Street.
The other suspect was the home of Mr. Louis Rasmussen on Wisconsin Street near the intersection with Scott Street.  Louis was a mason and it was perhaps in 1894 that his house was erected as there was no listing in the directory of 1893 but the first list came in 1895.  This house also exhibited long narrow windows in the gables and a porch on the upper floor, elements common the both buildings.  At some point after 1903 the front porch of the Rasmussen house was enlarged, as the Sanborn Map from that year still showed the original footprint.  Both houses were resided which destroyed much of the authentic architectural detail.          

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mr. Repe’s House on Mt. Vernon

Years ago, I photographed many buildings I knew to be the work of William Waters, also those I suspected to be by him. One of the houses which attracted my attention was on the south-east corner of Mt. Vernon and Dale Street. in Oshkosh.  The house exhibited many of the signature elements that could mark it as the work of architect Waters; long narrow window in the gables and curved brackets.  To look at the house now, it is hard to imagine the beauty and grace that attended the dwelling when built in 1882. 
 The house was constructed for Charles Repe a stone cutter who’s name first appears in the city directory of 1876.  In those days, Mr. Repe lived at 64 Mt. Vernon Street and his stone cutting operation was on Marion Rd. by the river.  He advertised himself as a practical stone cutter suppling cut stone, flagging, curbing and coping work for cemetery work.  Business must have been good for by the early 1880’s Charles was able to move his wife and family to a large, stylish house further north on Mt. Vernon Street, he even became involved in local politics, representing the forth ward on the city council.   Queen Anne Style was all the rage then and the Repe house was a beauty; a porch across the front, long narrow windows in the gables and gracefully curved bracket supporting over-hanging roofs.  There was even an intriguing bay on the second-floor corner with several small windows and a cartouche-like medallion.

Charles Repe and his wife moved away in 1908 and sold the house to A. A. Steele.  The subsequent year were not kind to the house, the front porch was removed and the place was resided, taking with it much of the architectural detail.  Still one can see the grandeur that once was there.         

Friday, January 5, 2018

Two Diminutive Dwellings

Some time ago David Groth, a fellow William Waters enthusiast shared some pictures with me of houses he thought might be the work of Mr. Waters.  I was surprised by them for I was totally unaware of their existence.  I studied the images closely and was dubious at first, the arched porch entrance seemed too contemporary but then I recalled the Peter King house on Waugoo Avenue which exhibits the same arched entrance and side opening.   I had to agree with David, they were indeed from the drawing board of William Waters.  My research reviled that both homes were built circa 1895 with the house at 51 Pleasant Street being the home of William Krippene, a bookkeeper at the Commercial Bank.  The other house at 11 Bowen Street was listed as being vacant in 1895 but was occupied in 1898 by a laborer named Robert Simonson. 

Mr. Krippene’s house on Pleasant Street shows features that mark it as the work of William Waters.  Above the arch to front porch is a sham gable which is supported at either end by small brackets much like those seen on other jobs by architect Waters.  Over all the building has the look of a “Waters’ Job.”   Some artistic license was taken in the renderings presented here but that was done to show the architect’s intent and not as they appear now.

The house at number 11 Bowen Street was undoubtedly built as a rental property, as the first listing for it indicates it was vacant and subsequent listings have many different occupants.  Architecturally the house has arch openings to the porch and a curious small window high on a diagonal wall on the front porch, a feature seen on other Waters’ houses from the same time.  There is also on the side wall a small window shaded from the sun by an elongated eave.  Both dwellings are charming and diminutive but could house well a small family.  

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.