Friday, April 15, 2011

Oshkosh Schools 1901 to 1916

The destructive High School fire of 1901 brought about a competition for a replacement. Five architects vied for the job, William Waters and Ephraim E. Stevens chief among them. With a crowded field of contenders there was much to look at, consider and talk about. The debate went on for weeks and preliminary votes taken but no resolution. The discussion became rancorous at times with accusations that some members of the school board were voting for the man, not the plan. In the end the most serious consideration was given to the plans presented by Mr. Waters and Mr. Stevens. At the school board meeting that was to finely decide the issue, forty ballots were taken before the plans of Mr. Stevens were chosen.
The City Council then started to bicker over the choice and even more time was wasted. But after all was said and done E. E. Stevens' plans were built. It seemed that William Waters exclusivity as architect for the Oshkosh School Board was at an end.

E. E. Stevens' 1901 Oshkosh High School

In 1903 the city was contemplating a school for the thirteenth ward on the city's growing south west corner. A call was put out to local architect for plan for a new school to be built near South Park. Both Waters and Stevens submitted designs for the new building. Not much press was devoted to the school boards proceedings. A vote was taken and the job of designing South Park School was awarded the Mr. Stevens. The design looked as if it was to have another wing added, perhaps as the need arose. The result however was an unbalanced looking structure.

Stevens' 1903 South Park School

Eight years pasted before another public school job came up, the Orville Beach Manual Training School. The building was to located on property next to the High School donated by Mr. Beach. This time the competitors were William Waters, E. L. Lindsay and Henry Auler. A few years later Mr. Auler would work with Waters on the design of the new High School

Some of the Oshkosh schools were aging, the Frentz School built in 1873 was by 1914 deemed dangerous and obsolete. The idea was to place the school on Grove Street in the eleventh ward. Without a great deal of debate the job went to Mr. Waters. Longfellow was not unlike St. Peter's School planned the year before.

Also in 1914 the School Board decided to expand the High School. It was recommended the design go to William Waters, assisted by Henry Auler. A tour of high schools in St. Paul, Superior and other cites was arranged in order to see the latest in school design. The new addition was in the same style as the Beach Training School and the pair presented and impressive sight. The building serves today as Oshkosh City Hall.

P. S. The High School addition was the last building William Waters worked on. After his death his firm became Auler Jenson & Brown.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oshkosh Schools of the late Nineteenth Century

As the nineteenth century dwindled, William Waters still enjoyed a good relationship with the Oshkosh School Board. In 1898 the board called for four major projects; A new Punhoqua School, additions to the Second Ward and High Schools as well as a school for the 10th Ward. Without much ado, Waters was asked to draw plans for the Punhoqua School and the and the additions to the other schools.
The Punhoqua School was a small and graceful structure, located in the suburb of Algoma and described in an earlier post. The additions planed were for the back side of the Second Ward School and finely the total restructuring of the High School's front elevation. The High School project was very ambitious; remove the center tower and build an addition 112' x 58', three stories in height, modernizing the look of the building. An article in the Oshkosh Northwestern dated 6/23/1898 states that construction might start in the fall of that year with a similar addition to be erected the following year on the Church St. side of the building. However no press is given to the actual accomplishment of the renovation. A comparison of the two photo below shows the facade was never altered. Perhaps the project was delayed and rendered moot when the building burned in 1901.

The Tenth Ward or Merrill School had a very convolute design history. Plans drawn by Waters were adopted in 1898, and then rescinded by the board a few months later. Other architect were asked to submit plans but no other submissions were forthcoming and Waters' plans were readopted. An intervening election changed the make up the school board and once more other architects were encouraged to supply plans for the new school. Several architects entered plans, most notably Ephraim E. Stevens.

For more than a year the City Council and School Board haggled over the design. At one point the council authorized bids be let only to be over ridden by the school board. Finely in 1900 the a resolution was arrived at and E. E. Stevens' plans were adopted.