OSHKOSH, Wisc., (WFRV) – The city made famous by trucks, experimental aircraft, and dungarees B’gosh is also home to the burgeoning arts community.
Oshkosh is the namesake of the Chief of the Menominee who lived here first.
For generations, the Fox River beckoned immigrant entrepreneurs and became known as the sawdust capital of the world because of all the lumber mills.
In modern times, the craft beer community is giving Milwaukee a run for its money as a “Brew City” and the historic North Main District drew Hollywood star Johnny Depp here to film his gangster film “Public Enemies.”
For the latest edition of her Streed Cred series, Local 5 News Anchor Michele McCormack simply wandered along Main Street.
She followed her nose for the first stop and the smell of fresh-made coffee.
The New Moon Cafe is right across the street from the sundial fountain and is operated by a pair of brothers since around 2005.
“We wanted it to be like coffee shops used to be,” explains owner Aaron Baer. “The hangout, the music, the art and not have it be just a cookie-cutter corporate shop.”
The vast dining area is brought to life with the color of artwork lining the walls and plants in practically every corner.
The decor harkens back to the history of the building which is still standing after being destroyed a couple of times by fire.
“This used to be the Beckwith House a four-story grand hotel,” Baer says. “It burned down a few times. The last time was 1875 since then it’s been everything from a drug store to a men’s clothing store and now it’s this and I don’t think it’s going to change for a while.”
In the early days, the abundance of wooden structures and sidewalks fanned repeated fires including the great fire of 1875.
Many of the buildings from that reconstruction stand today.
Among those buildings is the Time Cinema building, acquired by a local theatre group back in 2004 and now a community theatre that still operates today.
Then there’s the Dimpsey building that once housed the offices of the Riddle Sister physicians and where the Northwestern Newspaper noted one of the first x-ray machines was used in the 1870s to confirm a mystery that a local attorney’s dog had in fact swallowed a silver dollar.
And then there’s the former Wagner Opera House that later housed the Oshkosh Boys and Girls Club which is now a specialty market owned and operated by restauranteur Mike Buckarma.
Most of the items are Wisconsin-based with specialties from all over.
“We make all our own sausage here,” says Buckarma. “Over a hundred different flavors. 700 different craft beers. Hundreds of cheeses and deli meats. We just decided that downtown Oshkosh needed a specialty market.”
And whiles there’s so much history attached to the buildings here, it’s when you venture inside you get a true sense of the community. For example the Jambalaya Art Cooperative.
“It’s a group of artists who collectively rent the space to exhibit their artwork and work on and collaborative projects like Art in the Alley,” Dan Weber tells Local 5 News. “A lot of us have been here for quite a while since the mid-’90s. It’s been an evolution of the art community that has brought us here.”
And it’s for this reason that those who are here along Main Street don’t worry too much about the empty storefronts that remain.
The city of Oshkosh has a history of rebuilding and that’s a fire that will never burn out.
“The thing I love about Oshkosh and downtown community is that whatever you want to do they’re into it,” added Baer while he roasted a new batch of fresh coffee. “So people have the ability to try something and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. Oshkosh is very good with making opportunities for people to try something.”