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In 1978, the city reconfigured the intersection at Washington Avenue, State Street and Jefferson Street to improve traffic and create a pedestrian plaza.
In its current condition, you may be wondering why William Waters Plaza is part of your tour, but what you’re seeing now is only the first phase of its extreme makeover. To better understand, travel back to June 7, 1980, when the plaza honoring acclaimed Oshkosh architect William Waters was formally dedicated. Waters was a well-known architect and charitable man who designed more than 150 buildings during his 50-year career, including Oshkosh Public Library across the street. The plaza honors his character and contributions to society. Thanks to the recent efforts of several local organizations and the City of Oshkosh, William Waters Plaza is undergoing a multi-year renovation. Over time, the area around you will include new lighting, landscaping, benches, game tables and a beautiful gazebo, which will be a venue for outdoor concerts, exhibitions and other social events. Once again, it’s an exciting time for the Washington Avenue corridor.
Born in Franklin, Delaware County, New York in 1843, Waters studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York for two years. He spent the next two years employed as an assistant engineer on the Midland Railway. Because of the many opportunities following the great fires, he "came west" after the Civil War to seek his fortune. Waters met and married Catherine Follett, daughter of Oshkosh's second mayor, and by 1872 they had three children - Libbie, Willie and Katie. Tragically, Katie perished in 1873 at 10 months old, and in October 1875, young Catherine died suddenly. Waters' first two buildings in Oshkosh were the Oshkosh Normal School, which later became the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and the Brooklyn Firehouse, which still stands today.
Never limiting himself to one type of project, Waters designed hotels, commercial structures, residences, government buildings, and churches throughout Oshkosh and the Fox Valley.
His versatile style adapted to changing trends, the needs of the project and his clients. Examples of Gothic Revival, Neoclassical, Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Tudor styles can be seen in Waters' designs.
The highlight of his career came when he was chosen to design the Wisconsin Building for the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago (also called the World's Fair).