This gorgeous expression of Victorian elegance was built from a pattern book. The prototype appeared in May 1885 in a supplement to the National Builder, a house-building trade journal edited by Chicago architect George Otis Garnsey. He had established his reputation among builders and architects in 1881 when he published the American Glossary of Architectural Terms, a standard reference work in the late nineteenth century. But the National Builder offered a way for Garnsey to promote his practice. The monthly periodical offered advice to builders, advertised architectural services and supplies, and provided full plans and specifications for his designs, including that of the Shearer-Cristy House.
Garnsey clearly liked the multitude of forms, patterns, and textures that made up the Queen Anne style. He used towers, porches, and bow windows to constantly interrupt the house’s wall planes. Most impressive is the three-story circular tower to the west of the entrance, which has an ornate gabled hood that looks somewhat like a fancy birdhouse. A second turret, on the eastern corner, terminates with a two-stage onion-dome roof, surmounted by a fleur-de-lis finial. Like others working in Queen Anne, Garnsey eschewed smooth wall surfaces, so fish-scale shingles run underneath the hipped roof, rectangular panels run along the base of the walls, and a circle-in-square motif embellishes the gabled porch and the balustraded balcony above. Details like these and the elaborately carved wooden window head with its knob finial and stained glass transom over the front parlor window are unusually lavish for a pattern-book building. Inside, the front vestibule opens onto a grand staircase with carved newel posts, paneled walls, and a balustrade that repeats the exterior circle-in-square pattern. The first-floor parlor, sitting room, dining room, and alcove correspond to the house’s bays, towers, and beveled corners.
The house was built for Caleb Shearer, who owned a planing mill and a lumber company. That may explain the richness of the wooden details. But apparently after experiencing financial troubles, Shearer left Waupaca around 1900. The house, vacant until 1907, was bought by Joseph Cristy, owner of a local dry-goods store.