Since the mid-nineteenth century, Algoma Boulevard has been home to Oshkosh’s upper crust. By 1847, the first local mills began reducing Wisconsin’s Northwoods into the planks and beams that built Chicago and the Midwest. Within thirty years, Winnebago County had emerged as the heart of Wisconsin’s wood products industry, and Oshkosh, the so-called Sawdust City, stood at the industry’s center. Many of those who made Oshkosh an important manufacturing center lived here along Algoma Boulevard.
The historic district encompasses more than five blocks of large two-story residences. Most were designed by architects, primarily in Queen Anne and Tudor Revival modes, although nearly all of the styles that enjoyed popularity among the nation’s well-to-do can be found here. The two-and-a-half-story Jesse and Benjamin Hooper House (1888; 1149 Algoma) by William Waters is a rare Wisconsin example of Shingle Style. Broad expanses of wooden shingles—octagonal, segmental, square, and staggered—create a variety of interesting textures. On one cross-gable, the shingles undulate in scallops; on another, they roll in a circular pattern. The gables, along with beaklike hoods, oriel windows, and round arches, add a lively asymmetry. Jesse Hooper was a suffragist who helped make Wisconsin one of the first two states to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, and was a leader in the movement for world peace. In 1917, Hooper’s fellow pacifist Frank Lloyd Wright designed the modest Prairie Style Steven Hunt House at 1165 Algoma for a lumber executive who had owned an earlier Wright-designed house in La Grange, Illinois. Stuccoed walls under a low-pitched roof, wide overhanging eaves, parallel bands of wooden trim, and a ribbon of windows at one corner give the building Wright’s characteristic horizontality. This design grew out of the American System Built series Wright developed in Milwaukee, but it also incorporated custom features, such as leaded-glass windows.
William Waters planned at least nine buildings in the district. The most notable is the Algoma Boulevard Methodist Church (1892; 1174 Algoma), a handsome Richardsonian Romanesque building that resembles Waters’s Trinity Episcopal Church (1887; 203 Algoma). The quarry-cut stone building’s focal point is a massive square corner tower, which rises to a round-arched belfry with a pyramidal roof. Other Waters designs in the district include the Moses Hooper House (1884; 842 Algoma), Read School (1879; 1120 Algoma), and the Allison Ideson House (c. 1897; 1304 Algoma).
The Oshkosh firm of Auler, Jensen, and Brown is reputedly responsible for several buildings along Algoma Boulevard, including the Glen and Emma Converse House at number 1212. Built in 1926, this two-story Renaissance Revival brick residence features a one-story portico with pairs of fluted Doric columns around the central entrance. A one-story wing has classical details. Among the eight Tudor Revival houses in the district is the Waters-designed residence for Phil and Caroline Sawyer (1908; 1301 Algoma), a two-and-a-half-story cross-gabled house with false half-timbered walls at the upper level and brick walls below. Next door, Phil Sawyer’s father lived in the Jacobethan Revival Edgar P. Sawyer House (1908; 1331 Algoma) designed by Waters. The house has brick walls topped by Flemish gables, hexagonal bays trimmed in stone, semicircular openings, and pointed-arch and quatrefoil ornament. The barn-sized carriage house is equally ornate with false half-timbered cross-gables, a curvilinear Flemish gable, and a pyramidal belfry crowning the steeply pitched pyramidal roof. In 1922, Edgar Sawyer donated his estate to the City of Oshkosh for use by the Oshkosh Public Museum.