Built in 1886, from 1890 to 1954 the upper floors were home to the Oshkosh Business College. Founded in 1867, it taught penmanship, telegraphy and bookkeeping to future railway express agents and station masters. As time passed, stenography and typewriting became more prominent. Courses in advertising, banking and commercial law were added. In the 1920s the Business College had sports teams, sometimes in conjunction with the Normal School.
The Bent Block, like Market Street, also housed intriguing basement business space accessed by an areaway in the sidewalk on the Merritt Street side of the building. Basement businesses were very common in the downtown business district where every part of a building’s space was utilized. Covered over today by newer sidewalk, prismatic or pavement lights in iron frames flush with the sidewalk surface are still visible. The presence of pavement lights and coal holes always indicate hollow space underneath the sidewalk.
The entrance to this subterranean business space as of recently reflected the best example known in Oshkosh of how elaborate these spaces were constructed. The areaway had a central platform where one could walk down in two different directions on the Merritt Street side of this building. Effective were large pavement lights flush with the sidewalk above, which drew light to these otherwise hidden, underground spaces. Descending to the entrance of the buildings basement business, large windows in the foundation of the building brought light and ventilation to the basement space.
A business was not always listed in the city directory as being in the basement and for the years 1895-1922, basement businesses were hard to trace for this building, however, beginning in 1891-1942, a variety of businesses are recorded as occupying his basement space from C. & J. H. Miracle, barber shop, 1891-93; Salvation Army, no date only a photograph c. 1890’s; Marvin Small, sign painter, 1924-26; Clarence Marx & Weatherwax, billiards, 1928-30; Clarence Marx, restaurant, 1932, Aunt Bess (Bessie Neubauer) Restaurant, 1934-42. The “Hub” a teenage club started as a gathering place in 1944 according to Oshkosh resident Audrey Gorwitz was one of the last known entities to occupy this intriguing basement space.