There was a fine house on Otter Avenue which I’d long admired but hadn’t considered to be the work of William Waters until just recently. The house was built for Peter Nicolai, a prominent and colorful citizen. ( Number 4.)
Mr. Nicolai was born in 1820 at Rhineland-Platz, Germany and immigrated to Oshkosh in 1849 making the city his home until his death fifty-one years later. He married Appolonia Jagoditsch and they had eight children. His obituary lists Peter as a carpenter but said he did not engage in that occupation for many years, a check of old city directories shows that Peter was a saloon keeper, restaurateur and man of leisure. Mr. Nicolai had quite a temper and was arrested for an assault on Theodore Frenz, it seems Mr. Frenz told Peter that he’d seen his daughter at Rolla Herrmann’s saloon drinking beer with unsavory company. Later Peter went to Mr. Herrmann and inquired if he had witnessed his daughter with undesirables, Rolla told Peter he had not and Peter left Mr. Herrmann’s establishment only to return the next afternoon in the company of Theodore Frenz. The two strolled up to Mr. Herrmann and Peter asked if he’s seen his daughter in bad company to which Rolla said no, Mr. Nicolai then sized a duster and beat Mr. Frenz about the head with the handle to the point of drawing blood. But I digress.
The reason I feel the Nicolai house is a Waters job is the front entrance and porches, they are
nearly identical to the entrance and porches of the Rodrick McKenzie house. The layout of the
front elevation of both structures is the same only the scale and some details differ.
The dates would be about the same, the McKenzie place was built about 1873 and Peter Nicolai’s
first residual listing on Otter Avenue comes in 1876, I therefore conclude Mr. Waters to be the
architect of Peter Nicolai’s house. I can offer no written proof of my accretion just my intuition.