Monday, June 19, 2017

Dream Along With Me.

                                                             
                                                             Prologue

                         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 list 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.