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North Washington Street
Residential Historic District

 

City of Watertown, Wisconsin:  Architectural and Historical Intensive Survey Report, 1986-1987, pgs 318-322.

The proposed North Washington Residential Historic District is potentially significant under National Register Criterion C because it is representative of the development of residential architecture in Watertown from the late 1850s until the 1920s. As the location of significant examples of architecture, the district is representative of historic residential architecture in Watertown. It is also potentially significant under National Register Criterion B because several of its residents were associated with important activities in the areas of commerce and industry.

Description

Located in the northwest section of the city, the proposed North Washington Residential. Historic District mainly extends approximately four blocks north of Main Street on Washington Street from the center of the North 100 block to Green Street. The proposed district extends one block west on West Cady to include the historic houses on the corners of North Church and West Cady Streets. Characterized by frame and brick construction, the proposed district is comprised of fifty residential properties, of which four are non-contributing. Architecturally, the North Washington District exhibits a variety of historic styles including Italianate French Second Empire, Queen Anne, Bungalow styles as well as a variety of vernacular house forms. The proposed North Washington Historic District is characterized by the following architecturally significant examples of residential architecture.

1)   HOUSE, 307 West Cady Street. Built of cream brick in the shape of an "L", this 19th century vernacular house form is ornamented by architectural details associated with the Italianate.

2)   EDMUND SWEENEY HOUSE, 210 North Church, 1868. Exhibiting no specific historic ornament, this two-story cube, cream brick house features a low hip roof, flat stone linters and an open balustrated porch. Sandblasting has altered the cream brick exterior.

3)   DANIEL KUSEL HOUSE, 216 North Church Street, 1849, 1870. Originally a small brick house built in 1849, (presently the rear wing), the two-story, main front section of the Kusel house was built after Kusel purchased the property in 1870. Covered by a truncated hip roof, this brick house is characterized by Italianate window heads and iron cresting.

4)   JAMES LESCHINGER HOUSE, 118 North Washington Street, c. 1900. Displaying the irregularity of form and surface essential to the Queen Anne style, this one and a half story frame house also features decorative shingles on the gables and dormers, iron cresting, stained glass and leaded glass.

5)   FRED GOHRES HOUSE, 216-218 North Washington Street, c. 1870. A frame, gabled ell house form, the Gohres house displays Greek Revival styled frieze windows, cornice returns in the gable ends and a Victorian porch.

6)   WILLIAM HARTIG HOUSE, 305 North Washington Street, Between 1889 and 1892. Exhibiting the hip and gable roof form, the cream brick, two-story Hartig house features an unusual flat area on the roof encircled by iron railings. A rather eclectic house, this house is ornamented by Italianate styled windows and a porch with-classical Ionic columns.

7)   DREW AND CHARLES STRAW HOUSE, 306 North Washington Street, c. 1892. An unusual example of the Queen Anne style, this frame, two-story house is decorated by unusual half-timber trim in the front gable, shingled gable ends, and shingled bands alternating with horizontal siding on the upper story.

8)   MARSHALL J. WOODWARD HOUSE, 400 North Washington Street, c.1871. Constructed of cream brick, this two-story, hip and gable roofed Queen Anne styled house is characterized by cut-away gabled bays, decorative shingles and Palladian styled window in the gable and bracketed overhang. A two-story addition is located at the rear of the house. A frame carriage house also is located at the rear of the property.

9)   LEO RUESCH HOUSE, 310 North Water Street, c. 1885. A well-preserved, cream brick house, built in the cruciform plan, this two-story vernacular cross house is ornamented only by raised brick Italianate styled windows and mansard roofed porch and bay window.

Architectural Development

Although the majority of the construction took place in the proposed North Washington Residential Historic District from the 1850s until at least the 1920s, the significant examples of architecture in the district were constructed in the 19th century. The earliest known houses in the proposed district exhibit the influence of the Italianate style. One of the earliest houses in the district, the 1850s brick Dr. Barber house at 419 North Washington Street evidently an Italianate styled house originally, later was remodeled using Classical derived Georgian Revival architectural details. More typical of the Italianate influence, the house built for Daniel Kusel at 216 North Washington in the 1870s was ornamented by elaborate Italianate window heads and Palladian styled window in the upper story of the center pavilion. Italianate stylistic details similar to those used to ornament the Kusel house were used on modest vernacular forms such as the gabled all house at 307 West Cady Street and the cross house built around 1885 for Leo Ruesch at 310 North Water Street.

Usually co-existent with early Italianate styles built in the mid-19th century, the Greek Revival style in its classic form apparently did not influence architecture in the North Washington Street District. However, the gabled ell frame house built for Fred Gohres at 216-218 North Washington as late as c.1870 exhibits Greek Revival derived frieze windows and cornice returns in the gable ends.

A rather unique style for small cities, the French Second Empire style influenced seven houses in Watertown, one of which was built for Christian Becker at 300 North Water. Although displaying the fashionable mansard roof characteristic of the style, the Becker house is less elaborate than other examples of the style in the city.

The most elaborate houses and probably the most architecturally significant houses in the district built in the late 19th century were influenced by the Queen Anne style. Cream brick interpretation of the style include the hip and gable roofed house built for Marshall Woodward around 1872 at 400 North Washington. One of the earliest known Queen Anne houses in the city, the Woodward house has been altered somewhat but still exhibits the ornament and the multiple overhangs and projections that provide the irregularity typical of the Queen Anne style. Built around 1889, the cream brick William Hartig house at 305 North Washington received a new porch with classical Ionic columns and rock-face concrete foundation sometime in the early 20th century. In a more unusual interpretation of the style, the multi-gabled frame house built for the interior decorators Drew and Charles Straw features notable half-timber trim and shingles in the gable ends. Also an unusual design, the small Queen Anne house at 118 North Washington Street was given a fashionable appearance through the application of Queen Anne stylistic details and elements. Built for James Leschinger, this small house exhibits much irregularity of form including multiple gables, overhangs and wall projections.

Construction in the early 20th century in this proposed residential district apparently was minimal. As a result, evidence of the construction of early 20th century historic styles and Period Revival styles exists in only a few houses in the district. Although no true early 20th century Neo-classical styles were built, the revived interest in classical architecture and classical details appeared mainly in the Dutch Colonial Revival styled house at 223 North Washington and in the cross gabled vernacular house with a Dutch gambrel roof at 305 North Church. The historic styles built later in the 20th century during the Period Revival are represented only in the Tudor Revival house at 306 North Church. Characterized by steeply pitched multi-gabled roofs, this vernacular house also displays polychromatic brick surfaces and multi-paned windows.

Evidence of the co-existent "new modern" architecture constructed throughout America in the early 20th century also is found in only a few instances in the district. Constructed generally with minimal historic ornament or reference to a particular historic style, the "early modern" architecture is represented in the proposed district mainly in the form of the bungalow. Exposed structural elements associated with the Craftsman style such as exposed rafter ends and knee-brace brackets under the eaves in the gable end were used to characterize the frame bungalow built at 207 West Cady Street. A more modest interpretation of the style, the brick bungalow constructed for H. Miller at 208 North Church around 1935 is characterized only by plain brick surfaces and an open porch.

Historical Background

The first Yankee settlers came to Watertown in 1837. These Yankees quickly developed the first farms, mills, and stores in and around Watertown. During the 1840s and 1850s, Watertown developed into a thriving industrial and commercial center in southeastern Wisconsin. And by 1855, Watertown was the second largest community in the state. Important industries in the community were sawmills, grist mills, wood products mills, an iron foundry, and a woolen mill. There were also many small industrial shops producing goods such as wagons, barrels, leather goods, boots and shoes, and cigars. Watertown's commercial district centered around Main Street, included an abundance of general stores, dry goods stores, groceries, drug stores, jewelry stores, and saloons.

During the 1840s and 1850s, Watertown developed residential neighborhoods on both the east and west sides of the Rock River and extending north and south of Main Street. In fact, Watertown's residential neighborhoods can be divided primarily into four quadrants. There is the area that is west of the river and north of Main Street, the area that is west of the river and south of Main Street, the area east of the river and north of Main Street, and the area east of the river and south of Main Street. This residential pattern continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, with twentieth century expansion occurring in all areas of the community.

While Watertown's growth stabilized during the later nineteenth and early twentieth century, the city continued to be the location of several important industries. But more significantly, Watertown continued to be an important regional trade center. Its downtown was large and generally prosperous and small stores became bigger stores during the turn of the century years . . .

What is interesting about residential development in Watertown is that no one particular residential neighborhood developed into the prestigious neighborhood, where the prominent citizens in commerce and industry and the professions lived. There is somewhat of a split between the north and south sides of the community, with the south side having more large houses of prominent residents, but in this area, too, they are relatively spread out. The result is that along several streets in the four quadrants of the community there developed prestigious 19th and early 20th century neighborhoods. In the northwest quadrant, a prestigious neighborhood developed along North Washington and North Church Streets. In the southwest quadrant, a prestigious neighborhood developed along South Washington and South Church Streets. In the northeast quadrant a small middle class and upper class neighborhood developed alongside of a working class neighborhood on North Fourth Street. And, in the southeast quadrant, two prestigious neighborhoods developed; one around Memorial Park, and one along Clyman Street and its immediate cross streets. Also, in the eastern part of the southeast quadrant, a nearly twentieth century middle class neighborhood developed around the Richards Octagon House.

The North Washington Street Historic District consists of a group of primarily nineteenth century homes of middle class and prominent citizens in commerce, industry, and the professions. It grew up around North Washington St., probably a fashionably quiet address in the 1800s and early 1900s. The neighborhood developed in a similar fashion to other prominent neighborhoods in the city. A group of high-style mid-nineteenth century houses were built in the district, and later additional high-style and more moderately styled houses were built as infill in the district. Typical of the residents of the neighborhood were merchants, skilled craftsmen, industry owners or executives, and professionals. The significance statement will discuss the most significant members of this district. The make-up of the neighborhood remained stable during the early twentieth century, with most of the prominent families remaining in the neighborhood, along with their middle-class neighbors.