Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"Roots in Faith" Party and Final Mass at the circa 1902 St. Cecilia Catholic Church, Wisconsin Dells

St. Cecilia Catholic Church is on the verge of building a new church to host its parishioners and the droves of guests that frequent the Wisconsin Dells. A necessary part of this process involves taking down the current church building, built in the early 1900s. The last Mass at the old church will be celebrated at 5pm on Sunday, May 17th, with a "Roots in Faith" party afterward. At that gathering, historic photos will be on display, hogs will be roasted, and a celebration of the faith history in the Dells should ensue. If you are connected to St. Cecilia's in some way or are otherwise interested in the event, check out the parish's announcement here.

In anticipation of this project, I stopped at the church last weekend to take photos, a couple of which are included in this post. Fr. Eric Sternberg, who granted approval of my photo shoot, and the parish have made an effort to keep the glow of Easter season decor alive in the church up to the day that the last Mass is given. I hope to share highlights of my visit soon.

St. Cecilia Catholic Church

Thursday, May 7, 2015

St. Joseph Catholic Church, Waukesha, Part 1 - Exterior

St. Joseph's in Downtown Waukesha is one of the oldest churches in this historic, now largely suburban area, to the west of Milwaukee. A co-founder of Milwaukee, Solomon Juneau, donated land that this parish complex thrives on today back in 1843, five years before Wisconsin was admitted into statehood[1]. This Gothic Revival structure is the third church building for the parish.


According to Parish history text, this building was completed in 1890, with the cornerstone (above, left) noting construction of the parish moving ahead two years prior. At right is a marker denoting the church as an official city landmark, a designation the church earned in 1983 [2].

The prominent steeple draws the visitor's eye upward, its alternating bands of colored slate adding a nice touch. The Wisconsin Historical Society's record for St. Joseph's remarks that the church is specifically a fine example of High Victorian Gothic [3].

The arched windows continue to mark the Gothic style. The firm of Adolphus Druiding designed St. Joseph's. Just a few years later, the Druiding team designed another church visited by the blog, St. John Cantius in Chicago. The limestone chosen for the church and some of its partner buildings on the parish campus make for a pleasing exterior.

As a cartographer by passion, I was thrilled to see a map of the parish complex, although I found it slightly odd that the map is located squarely in the center of the campus (see the faint "you are here" label in the center of the map)! The church, chapel and parish activity center that I photographed are all in the upper left-hand (northeast) corner of this map.

The front doors to the old parish school, now parish activity center. Part of this building was actually built from the church that preceded the current St. Joseph's Church, built roughly in 1848. If I had realized this fact while taking photos, I would have examined this building in more detail.

Core to the vitality of this parish is its Hispanic community.

A quick note for context: These photos were shot awhile ago, in June 2014, with plans to make a more-intensive church architectural and historical review.  I chatted with the parish priest, Father Bill Key, who offered a wealth of parish history and gave me a tour of the church before leaving me to shoot photos.  Furthermore, a friend of mine put me in touch with the Wisconsin Historic Society who also has a treasure trove of information about Wisconsin's historic churches.  With other projects and the need to get other posts online, I finally started putting this post, the first of three, together this winter. This post and its forthcoming partner posts rely heavily on the histories shared with me by the parish and state historical society.

St. Joseph Parish

Additional Sources:

[1] History of St. Joseph's Parish. Written approximately 2006. Provided in photocopy by Fr. Bill Key.
[2] Waukesha Comparison National Register of Historic places (NHRP) Local Landmarks List.
[3] 818 N East Ave, Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory.,Nrc:id-4294961467-dynrank-disabled,N:4294963828-4294963814&dsNavOnly=N:1159&dsRecordDetails=R:HI16808

Monday, May 4, 2015

Roamin' Catholic Churches Talks That Milwaukee Talk

A quick post while I get ready to release another multi-part series of church photos: Last month I was asked to write about Doors Open Milwaukee (which I discuss on this blog here and here) for, an online newspaper that is all about those happening things in the Cream City. The article came out on April 30th.

Over roughly 1,800 words, I explain the importance of residential neighborhoods and the special places inside of them, including churches. Specifically I referenced St. Stanislaus Catholic Church on Milwaukee's south side and St. Casimir Catholic Church (pictured above) in the north side's Riverwest neighborhood. St. Casimir's along with being a wonderful Gothic Revival church building was also likely the parish of choice for my Polish great-grandparents who spent at least a little time living in the second house from the left in the photo above.

Many thanks to my dear friend and Doors Open Milwaukee Program Manager Amy Grau for giving me the opportunity to chime in with my thoughts of Doors Open and Bobby Tanzilo, editor at for his help in getting the article online!

Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! While looking Bobby's bio at for this blog post, I came across an article that he released on April 28th on "Mad Man" Michaels, a Milwaukee disc jockey best known for his handful of Polish Christmas story records. I've known of these records since my mother introduced the stories to me in the late 90s. Bobby's article includes all of the recordings of the "Bard of Mitchell Street," who I think I have heard was actually Irish. Give them a listen (I have nothing to say about the copyright rules involved here)!

St. Casimir Catholic Church - Our Lady of Divine Providence Parish