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. 

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.