Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Oshkosh Buildings, Part Five

Many new commercial structures were erected in Oshkosh in the last decades of the nineteenth century. One, the Uhlien Block was of particular grace and beauty with a engaging history.  The first mention of the building was made in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of March 16, 1886 which tells of the purchase by Wm. Dichmann form Mr. Forbes of property at the corner of Washington and Shonaon or State Street as it was later known.  Mr. Dichmann paid $5,000 for the land and intended to put up a handsome building of two or three stories with several stores the first floor.  A few days later it was reported that Mr. Forbes wanted to back out of the deal but the contract was upheld.  Not long after that Mr. Dichmann was denying rumors that the purchase was made on behalf of the Schlitz Brewing Company but was made with an interested friend.  He also denied a claim by a temperance group that the building would house a saloon.
 The project seemed to disappear until late October of 1889 when it was reviled that a hotel might be erected on the spot with Charles Josslyn as landlord.  Architect Waters had drawn plans which were to be approved by Mr. Uhlien of Milwaukee with the hope that hotel could be completed soon after the new government building was finished.  Another year past before there was word that Mr. Dichmann had just returned from Milwaukee and a meeting with Mr. Uhlien where it was decided to erect a building of three or four stories.  Just two days later the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of January 29, 1891 ran a headline, “ Five or Six Stories High.  A magnificent structure to be erected on Washington and State.”  The article went on to talk about Mr. Waters estimating stone block and that it was to be built of red pressed brick.  It was also said the Crescent Lodge of the Knight of Honor would have apartments of the upper floors.  On April 13, 1891 final plans were announced.  The Crescent Club opted to stay where they were which precluded the need for more than two floors.  It was to have 100' frontage on Washington Street and a large dome at the northeast corner. 

Four businesses could occupy the first floor and the second story would be office space.  The building was a great success, occupied by tenants such Medberry and Bemis and Schlitz Hall. The building at last became to Oshkosh offices of Wisconsin Public Service and was remodeled in the 1950’s.  The tower and dome were removed and replaced by polished red granite.   
In the Oshkosh Times of April 9, 1895 there appeared a notice the sealed bids for the construction of a store for J. E. Kennedy and Sons.  Plans could be viewed at the office of architect William Waters.  By mid-June of the year the first floor was nearly finished and would rise two more with cold store apartments.  Kennedy and Sons were wholesale grocers and this new building was the grandest for that purpose in the city.  The building was on High Street, just east of the Soo line tracks.  It was made of red press brick with a limestone foundation and limestone lintels and trim.  Three arches dominated the front elevation above which was a sill of stone and three sets of windows just below a cornice and parapet.  The store served other businesses as well, notably Bemis Hooper Hays, also a wholesale grocer.   In the 1960’s it was a marine supply store and was demolished to make way for a parking ramp.          
The Oshkosh newspapers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often ignored the news from south of the river.  The Daily Northwestern of 2/4/1893 did however report plans to build a fine hall on Kansas and Ninth streets, undertaken by Joesph Stringham and designed by William Waters.   The description of the building to be called Columbine Hall, said it was to front 75 feet on Kansas Street and 90 feet on Ninth Street with marble pillars flanking the front door and three commercial spaces on the ground floor.   The hall on the second floor was to be 68 x 70 feet with a balcony and four foot high stage measuring 16 x 40 feet. The article also mentions that the land had been used as a garden for many years by Mr. Stringham and although rather low it would fine location for the hall.
1893 was the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Columbus and America celebrated in many ways, the World's Columbine Exposition, aka the Chicago’s World's Fair was one manifestation, Oshkosh was to get a new opera house on the south side.  The problem was that the fine building as described in the newspaper was not what was built.  The Columbine Hall was built on the west side of what now South Main Street, about half way between 9th and 10th  Streets.  The newspapers never mention the change of plans which were altered probably because the southeast corner where it was to be erected was too low and wet to support a large, heavy building.  The press also never offered a description of the amended plan.  The structure which was put up was just as grand as the first concept with three stores on the first floor and an arched entrance to second floor hall to the far left.  The size of the hall and stage are unknown for the building was turned to other uses after a short time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

New London School

One of the earliest posts on this blog was “Small Schools” an exploration of of five school buildings built from 1891 through 1901, namely Menasha's Forth Ward School, Punhoqua School in Oshkosh, Dartford School in Green Lake, the Edgar Grade School, Edgar, Wisconsin and Winneconne's West Side School.  All the buildings were of a more diminutive scale, based on a similar floor plan and exterior features.   About a year ago I came across an old postcard of the Fifth Ward and Waupaca County Teacher's Training School in New London, Wisconsin and  there was something very familiar about the building.  The fenestration, arched entrance and bell cast hipped roof looked much like the 1900 grade school in Edgar Wisconsin.  I did as much online research as I could but found no information about the building.  In my frustration I turned to the director of the New London Public Museum, Christine Cross.  I sent her images of both the schools in Edgar and the 5th Ward School, asking her and her husband, archivist at the Oshkosh Public Museum, to compare the two.  Their conclusion was, given arraignment of the window, arched entry and roof shape that the buildings were by the same architect.  Ms. Cross went even further by locating an article in the New London Republican of 7/24/1907 crediting William Waters with the design and specifications for the new school building.    
The school was known as the Fifth Ward School or North Division School and was later renamed McKinley School.  It also served as the Waupaca County Teacher Training School.  As with the other schools of this pattern, there was central pavilion with an arched entrance flanked by windows.  Above the front door was a set of double windows with two windows on either side, all the window had jack arch lintels.  At the top of the wall, above the roof line was a dormer with a single arched window with an elongated keystone.  Wings on either side of the the central pavilion had nine windows, three on the basement level, three on the first floor and three on the second floor, along the sides were four window on each level.  At the back of the school was another wing, giving the structure a “T” shape.  There were windows on basement and upper floors as well as side doors protected by porches with shed roofs.  The school was built of  a cream colored brick and had a bell cast hip roof.  Chimneys on the back side flanked a bell tower that sat at the center of the roof ridge.