Oshkosh Public Library

106 Washington Avenue Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Domed, Neo-classical building with an Ionic colonnade and bronze lions guarding the portico.


Original Library Building, Looking Northeast

The green cornice (probably copper?) identifies the original Waters building, the rest is the 1993 addition. The addition is U-shaped and wraps around the original structure. The main entrance is now located on the north side of the new addition, the old main entrance in the portico is no longer used.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in August 2012




The original William Waters building is Neo-classical with a raised main floor and broad steps to the (no longer used) main entrance from Washington Avenue. The entrance is inside a portico with six Ionic columns, guarded by two Gaetano Trentanove lions named Sawyer and Harris. The central interior room, originally known as the delivery room, is beneath a dome that rises forty-six feet above the floor.

Built in 1899-1900, the building eventually became inadequate and was expanded in 1967 with an L-shpaed addition that wrapped around the original building on the south and north sides. By 1990, the building again had outgrown its requirements and another addition was needed. A referendum failed, but an annonymous donor offered a $5 million matching-funds grant to expand the library. Eventually, the terms were met and a new expansion program began in 1n 1993.

In the 1993 expansion, most of the 1967 addition was removed, exposing the original Waters building once again. The new addition is U-shaped, wrapping around the original building and preserving much of its outward appearance. The original outside walls are exposed inside the new addition.

The original front fašade is preserved on Washington Avenue, including the two Trentanove bronze lions that were placed on guard in 1912. The lions, near mirror images of one another, were placed on October 7, 1912 and unveiled on October 8, 1912.

The original library construction was funded by donations from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Harris and U.S. Senator Philetus Sawyer. Their names are carved into the stone of the building's fašade, behind each lion. The lions have come to be known as Sawyer and Harris and were officially named after a 1977 contest. The names carved into the building are not those of the lions, but the original donors, but the lions are the beneficiary of the carvings.

Update Log 

  • August 18, 2012: Added by J.R. Manning


  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net