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.