When Edgar Sawyer donated his magnificent home on Algoma Boulevard to the people of Oshkosh in 1922, he stated that he was giving it “for the benefit of the public.” Mr. Sawyer’s generosity was the foundation for the creation of the Oshkosh Public Museum, which until that time had been housed in a cramped second floor space in the Library.
Now, Mr. Sawyer’s donation to the city will be commemorated in a decorative wrought iron arch on the grounds of the Oshkosh Public Museum. Across the top of the arch will be Sawyer’s words: “for the benefit of the public,” a visual acknowledgement of his gift.
The arch will be located on the northeast corner of the grounds, facing the Paine Art Center. It will lead to a walkway that winds its way through the grounds and to the Museum entrance.
The decorative scrollwork and other elements are based on the beautiful Tiffany-designed bronze grills found on the front doors of the 1908 Sawyer home. The ironwork is also a connection to Oshkosh’s industrial past. In the 19th and early 20th century, Oshkosh had many highly skilled iron workers, machinists, and blacksmiths, and today still retains a skilled workforce.
“When discussing possible designs for the landscape plan, we wanted a way to publically acknowledge what Edgar Sawyer did for this community,” said Museum Director Brad Larson. “This arch is a decorative element that generation after generation of citizens will walk through. The arch will be a reminder that one person’s generosity can have a lasting impact.”
The arch is being bid as part of the first phase of the Museum’s landscape plan that was adopted in 2012. Relatively few blacksmiths do this type of specialized work and it is possible the arch will not be completed until 2016.
“Because the Museum is on a prominent gateway corner, making a creatively landscaped and aesthetically pleasing site greatly enhances this 90 year old public asset,” explained Museum Board President Gary Haffeman. “It will also encourage pedestrian traffic on this cultural corner, making it appealing for visitors to both explore the Museum grounds and to cross to and from the Paine Art Center.”
The Museum Board adopted the conceptual design for the decorative arch at the Museum Board meeting on March 5, 2015.
The landscape plan was developed by Jim Schafer of Schaefer Land Design in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Landscape work is being funded through the City’s capital improvement program.
The Oshkosh Public Museum, located at 1331 Algoma Boulevard, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 4:30 pm. For more information about the Museum, visit oshkoshmuseum.org, call 920.236.5799 or email email@example.com.