Historic Plaque for the Fluor House

Plaque

This past month I applied for a plaque for our home through the Oshkosh Landmarks Historic Plaque Program. Molly and I had no idea when we bought our home that there was some history behind our home. I applied for the Wisconsin Historical Society Historic Home Tax Credit program, but we were denied. The WHS said that our home does not exhibit enough architectural character to be accepted into the program. Most of the Craftsman features of the house were lost when the house was re-sided in the 1970s. However, I did not agree with the society’s decision to reject us based on historic significance.

Fluor Bros Construction Co headquarters on Otter Ave, Oshkosh

Our home was constructed for Casper R. Fluor. Casper served as a president of the Fluor Brothers Construction Company formerly of Oshkosh. He also served as the vice president of Peoples Brewing Company in Oshkosh for several years.  I investigated the property at the Winnebago County Register of Deeds office and discovered that Casper purchased the property in August 1919. According to city tax records, the property assessment shows a significant increase in the year 1921. The 1922 Oshkosh directory also shows the Fluor family at this address in 1922.

Born February 26, 1875, Casper R. Fluor was one of four children of Ralph and Jennie Fluor. Ralph with brothers Simon and Casper started a construction business together in 1870 after they emigrated from Switzerland to Oshkosh. The Fluor’s are credited as building some of this city’s first industrial plants. Casper and Simon left the business in subsequent years and left Ralph and two of his sons, Walter and Casper R., to run it. Simon Fluor moved to California and started a company which continues to thrive today as Flour Corporation. Ralph passed away in 1913 leaving Walter and Casper R. to co-manage the business. Some of the more notable structures built by the company included: Morgan Co., Buckstaff Co., Paine Lumber Co., St. Paul’s Church, Winnebago County fairgrounds barns and grandstand, Wisconsin National Life Insurance, Mercy Hospital, Theda-Clark Hospital, and many other residential, commercial, industrial, and civic buildings.* Casper R. Fluor passed away in our home on April 27, 1955.

I was excited when the Oshkosh Public Museum informed me that they had blueprints for our home. I went in and took a look at them, but was disappointed to discover that it was not my home. However, the prints did say they were for Casper Fluor and dated 1919. These blueprints had to be a preliminary design for the home, but Fluor changed his mind on the design. The architect of the house was Frank A. Thew who also worked for the company. I was surprised to see the blueprint of another one of Thew’s designs hanging on the wall at Parkview Health Center in Oshkosh.

It’s always fun to uncover history associated with your home and the occupants. It seems like every time I do more digging I come up with more information. Someday I hope to come up with the blueprints of our home. It would also be great to find some early photographs of the home and the Fluor family in it. I guess for now the hunt continues, but at least now the city’s Landmark Commission recognizes the significance of the home and the importance of the owners. If you are from Oshkosh, have you considered applying for your plaque? It is great way to learn some history and have your building recognized locally as a historic property.


* “Flour Brothers Started in 1870.” Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, June 18, 1953. Accessed August 30, 2015.
http://access.newspaperarchive.com/us/wisconsin/oshkosh/oshkoshdailynorthwestern/1953/0618/page64?tag=Casper Fluor.  

 

Eight Rural Culture Elements

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on how to kickstart some change in Markesan. I ran into a very interesting article done by the Kansas Sampler Foundation and what they called the eight rural culture elements. What seems to be a problem, which the same problem about 10 years ago when a movement like this was started, is people don’t see what the community has going for it. When people ask what our community has and what we can do the answer is almost always “nothing” and “we can’t do anything.” Those people are always wrong. Markesan does have unique qualities going for it, we just need to sit down and write them out.

Tourism is what can save our town. If we can get people into our city and get them buying from our local stores we are on a good track. Tourism brings in money. When entrepreneurs see that we have some traffic, they are going to want to set up shop in Markesan. Bring in tourists, bring back prosperity. This should be priority no. 1 as we move forward.

Here is what the Kansas Sampler Foundation says we need to identify in our community:

Eight Culture Elements

Architecture
Art
Commerce
Cuisine
Customs
Geography
History
People

They suggest that every small town has certain traits that fit into each of these categories. They even list out how to go about identifying them. So let’s try to identify some of the traits of our community.

Architecture

  • Victorian Homes
  • Bridge Street business district

Art

Thought Markesan isn’t really connected with art in any way, we certainly have a famous person from community’s past that has been influential. Arthur Matthews was born in Markesan, he moved away when he was 6, but could we incorporate his time in our community to bring in some art tourism?

Commerce

Agriculture has been the cornerstone industry in our community since our humble beginning. We have been noted for a the fertile land that surrounds our community. That should remain a cornerstone of our community.

Cuisine

Going along with commerce, we celebrate Dairy Month (June) in big fashion with a big weekend full of activities and events. We also have Harvest Fest in August that celebrates the end of summer with a corn roast and other games.  Markesan also has a huge green bean processing plant, who doesn’t like green beans?! We have Amish bakeries nearby that attract a lot of people.

Customs

As I said in the last category, we have June Dairy Days, Harvest Fest and Homespun Holidays. Customs go farther than just events. What are some things that happen or are common practice in Markesan on a normal basis?

Geography

Markesan is in a very interesting geographic region. We have some the best soil in the state for agriculture industry. We have a 3 beautiful lakes nearby (Little Green, Big Green and Lake Puckaway). We have excellent hunting areas, beautiful scenic roads and much more.

History

I just had my first book published that outlines a small portion of our community’s history. We have a beautiful and hidden historical secret in our town, it’s our awesome museum. There have been several historical events that have made significant news. This should definitely be a resource that is utilized.

People

Who are the people who make/made our community what it is. Who are people of historical significance and so on?

These are just a few on a quick rundown of these categories. I know there are far more than I have listed. We are not a dead community and we do have things that are unique about us. We just need to take some initiative to identify them and understand how we can use them to promote and sell ourselves to potential visitors. What do you think? restoremarkesan@gmail.com

Facing the Problems in Markesan

It has been an issue that has been sitting in my crop awhile and it is time to take action. I know there will be ruffled feathers and unhappy people, but I’m going to grab the tiger by the tail and not let go. This community means too much to me to watch it wither away and die. I am trying to secure some support for the “Revitalize Markesan” campaign I am putting together. I have a page going on Facebook, which I hope will continue to grow. I am in the process of getting the word out via newspaper in Markesan of what my intentions are. There are things that are working in town and things that are not working.

What’s not working is the idleness and lack of motivation to do something. I hear the same thing: “There’s no money” or “It’s too much work and nobody wants to do it.” We don’t do things because they are easy, we do them because of the challenge! The hard work we put into may be a struggle, but you fight through it and you see it through to the end. The results are your reward! That was the foundation of this community to begin with, but we are losing that sense of pride and determination to face hard challenges.

What we need is to establish a solid foundation that will bring people in to visit and to live. We need to establish a unique catch in our community that will bring people our way. We need a farmers market, more festivals and events. WE NEED TOURISM! Tourists bring in money to spend and they spend it at our businesses. If business thrives then the community will thrive.

What are some of the unique things that we could use to our advantage? Here are a few:

  1. The Amish community
  2. Little Green Lake
  3. Big Green Lake
  4. Local farms (farmers markets and festivals)
  5. Hunting

I may have overlooked some, for that I apologize, but these are the top 5 I can think of off my head. The Amish communities nearby are the most valuable asset we have. People around the state come to Green Lake County to see and visit the Amish and their unique stores. Has there ever been an attempt by anyone to try to incorporate the Amish community with Markesan tourism? I am not talking about loading a bus up and driving through town on the way to these places. I am talking about approaching the Amish community and asking if they would have any interest in operating some of their businesses out of our city?! It would be a wonderful mutual relationship.

Tourism has got to be our foundation for making change and breathing new life into Markesan. I think something I have learned is that Markesan will NEVER go back to what it was, you can’t look at the past and expect to go back. You look to the past to see how our ancestors did it and then you use that to move into the future. We can work with what we have to progress our town into the future. There is still hope and opportunity. The community has to come together and work together as one to get the job done.

What are your thoughts, ideas or concerns? I want to hear from my readers.

restoremarkesan@gmail.com

Revitalize Our Hometown

Our creative logo for the cause.

Markesan, Wisconsin, is my hometown and things are not what they used to be. Many people may not believe it, see it or want to admit it, but Markesan is heading down a road of destruction. I want to get a movement going to challenge the community to step up and make change. This isn’t something that can be done by one person or overnight. It will be a community effort that will take time. I don’t think it can be done…. I KNOW it can be done!

There are some crucial questions we have to ask ourself of our community. I think the first and foremost one is, are we happy and content with the status quo of the community? Also, do you think we have enough to offer for those living in Markesan to be content and enough to offer to bring people to our community!? The answer to those questions, in my opinion, is NO. Our downtown is in disrepair and offers nothing for people to come to our town. The buildings there are owned by an individual who, instead of promoting business to come in,  has converted the buildings into substandard apartment complexes, barring any interested businesses from moving in. Some argue that the old buildings are not suitable for todays kind of significant commercial interests, which is half-true. Does that mean we leave the gem of our city in disrepair and not try to promote more local shop keepers from potentially renting a space there? We lack other commericial and industrial bases as well.

Contact Mayor Richard Slate of Markesan and tell him you want him to revitalize Markesan and make it the Grand Community it is supposed to be! We don’t want excuses, we want results!

Richard Slate- Mayor of Markesan
MayorSL8@AOL.COM
920-398-3031

I know our city is capable of much more, and its citizens are too! We need to come to terms with the limitations and work around them to get Markesan back to prosperity!  Like us on Facebook and post your comments, questions and concerns!

Let’s Revitalize Markesan!!

Revitalizing Markesan

Markesan,Wisconsin is quaint little town in central Green Lake County. This past year I had the pleasure of working with the Markesan Historical Society to put a book together, Images of America:Markesan, to depict the history of our town through pictures. The reader can travel back in time to see what Markesan looked like in its younger years and what made it prosper.

While conducting my research and putting my book together, two things became apparent to me. The first was there were a plethora of businesses and jobs in the area. Canning factories, hemp mills, movie theater, jewelers, restaurants, car dealerships, and even a cigar factory! Our town had about anything you could think of. The second was that where are all of these things now? Obviously times change and things close or move out, but why hasn’t Markesan moved with the times?! We lack industry, we are lacking retail and the city is not doing anything to bring people in. These are major barriers that are not allowing our town to thrive like it once did.

Here is an overall map and shaded areas that I would like to address as possible solutions to Markesan’s troubles.

The areas shaded are as follows:

Dark Blue– Hein Park

Light Blue– Bridge Street Business District

Yellow– Industrial Park

EVENTS

The first area of concern, which is correlated with Hein Park in the dark blue, is how Markesan can utilize space to create events to draw in visitors. What does Markesan have that brings in people? Well, we do have some celebrations that bring in large crowds. June Dairy Days is for sure an important event that gets some area attention and some people making their way into town for the tractor pulls, street dances and the parade, but that is 3 days out of the year! There are a couple other celebrations throughout the year, but June Dairy Days is an important one because it does celebrate of community’s strong history in agriculture. What else can we, as a community, do to bring people in and get them into our great city. Surrounding communities have some great things going for them. Princeton has a flea market every Saturday from April to October.Green Lake has a farmers market and Ripon has various things planned all throughout the year too. Why can’t Markesan tap into these kinds of ideas to get people moving through town? Why couldn’t we have a farmers market during the summer to sell produce, or fall harvest fairs to sell pumpkins, gourds and other products? A park would also be a good place to host summer night dances. The possibilities are endless really! It just takes some planning. I found another page that gave some tips for organizing events and step by step process. Check by clicking HERE. It’s about making something that sets Markesan out from other places and attracting people in.

Downtown

Downtown Markesan 1940s
(wiroots.com)

The next area of inquiry is our downtown business district on Bridge Street. When you look through my book at Markesan’s downtown, it is long gone from its glory days. A few buildings are vacant and no businesses occupy them. Another shame is that siding and other cheap looking building materials have been cobbled onto the buildings taking away from their late 19th & early 20th century charm. This is the gem of our city, and it is looking a little tired. A few of those buildings are pictured in my book are from 1897! The nearby city of Ripon, Wisconsin is undergoing a revitalization of their downtown. Building codes have been put in place to bring back the nostalgic look from yesteryear and to make the town look more historic and appealing. These are the goals of that revitalization:

Goals:

  1. Market and promote downtown Ripon as a clean, safe and friendly destination.
  2. Position Ripon Main Street, Inc. to provide leadership for collaborative efforts to significantly improve the quality of life and eliminate blighted property.
  3. Provide a positive, productive and nurturing environment that will attract new business and retain existing business downtown.
  4. Promote physical changes to make downtown a more comfortable and exciting place.

If Ripon can do it, why can’t Markesan? With that being said, it is also important to have businesses in town for people to shop in so that a revitalization project would be worth the time and financial input. I wonder if people knew that Markesan once had a movie theater, ice cream store, a jeweler, meat market, bakery and lots of other places on Bridge Street. How can Markesan get some more specialty stores in our downtown?  I found this link which talks about small towns in Pennsylvania, and how they are able to revitalize business downtown. I think we need to ask ourselves what kind of businesses would strive and attract local and visiting patrons. Art, bridal, unique dining and other specialty stores help attract people. Something unique that can set our city apart from others is key and getting businesses to move in to suit those needs is also important. We have a lot of Amish stores in the area! Has anyone ever thought of encouraging the amish communuty to open up an Amish bakery downtown, or a woodworkers shop or something?!

Industry

Industry is an important factor in any city, big or small. This is where people work and make their living. This is also what brings people to our city to live. We have a couple in town that helps sustain the community. The Markesan School District is a big employer in town. When a referendum vote was held a few years back the argument was that the city’s survival was dependent on the schools survival. If you look on the map I provided above you will see the yellow shaded area as our industrial park. Once you zoom in on it you will notice something else….it is virtually empty. An automotive shop, medical clinic and snowmobile club garage occupy lots in our industrial park. Where is the industry at?! What are we offering industry as an incentive to set up shop in Markesan? I am not talking big dirty factories either. We are in the 21st century with new high-tech industry and manufacturing. We need to bring them in if we can. We have the farming heritage going for us, but is there a way we can base more industry off of that? The canning factory is a start, but a lot of the workers are migrant and don’t stick around year round.

Final Thoughts

While going through my book, readers will see that it was hard work and toil that built Markesan from the ground up. It took tough decisions and sometimes chances to improve and build Markesan. The people who accomplished it with hard work and determination. Sadly, that evidence of hard work is slowly fading away as time goes on. Markesan is nothing like it used to be. Markesan is standing still watching everyone else propel into the future. City leaders, citizens and business owners need to come together and need to make a plan of action. Younger people are not moving in and the ones that are already here are moving out because the town has nothing to offer for them in terms of jobs or a future. Markesan is not attracting industry that brings jobs which then brings people to make business possible. It might hit a nerve to say this, but some people in the community just flat-out hate change and refuse to take action. Well, sooner or later standing still is going to cause more harm to the community than progression would and the younger generation will be left to pick up the pieces. My biggest hope is that my book will fuel the flames for change in Markesan, so people will want to change the direction of our city. The time is now or never to put aside petty excuses for change saying “we don’t need change, things are fine” or “things will never change”. Change starts with a positive and can do attitude for the future. It’s time for Markesan to live up to its words on the chamber of commerce website that says “Markesan, a great place to visit and even a better place to live!” Get involved in the community, make suggestions and make change!

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~Walt Disney~