Not Always a Happy Ending


Oshkosh's Coles Bashford House (constructed in 1854/no longer extant) was the residence of Wisconsin's first Republican Governor, who was known for his strident anti-slavery stance. Elected in 1856, Governor Bashford served a single term. He later moved southwest and was the first appointed attorney general, and held a number of other positions, in the territorial government of the Arizona.

Bashford's Oshkosh residence, which reportedly had been constructed in a Greek Revival style, was modified by subsequent owners into the Gothic Revival residence seen in the circa 1887 photo (above) provided by the Oshkosh Public Museum. In 1911, the residence was purchased by the Elizabeth B. Davis Trust to be used as an orphanage for girls.

Continuously maintained by the E. B. Davis Foundation, the house later was used as a half-way house for boys. It was functioning as a daycare center in 2004, when the foundation built a new facility and vacated the residence. Despite the efforts of a group formed specifically to save the house, which included a successful fund-raising effort and its listing on the 2006 Wisconsin Trust's "1o Most Endangered" list, the house was demolished that same year. As one of the oldest houses in the community, and one that also had a significant association with a prominent Wisconsin citizen, this was a big loss for the City of Oshkosh.

It is part of the mission of the Wisconsin Trust to impart the idea of historic preservation as a core community value, and that demolition (as opposed to rehabilitation) be considered only as a last resort for much of our historic building stock. This is especially true for our historically and architecturally significant structures, such as the Coles Bashford House.