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.