Historic Structures

Calvary Presbyterian Church, Milwaukee Wisconsin

Date added: November 5, 2009 Categories: Wisconsin Church

This was the first Presbyterian congregation and Presbyterian church edifice west of the Milwaukee River, and the third Presbyterian church in Milwaukee, Calvary is one of the city's older surviving churches and an important, relatively well-preserved local example of the Victorian Gothic style. It was constructed at a cost of $60,000 and dedication was held March 3rd, 1872.

Although church historian Elizabeth Ells states that Calvary was enlarged in 1887, this was not the case. The church was redecorated and refurbished in that year, but saw no new construction until 1910, when a two-story brick addition, 18 feet X 18 feet x 20 feet, housing the pastor's study and church office, was erected on the southwest corner of the building. Architect for the addition may have been Garret van Pelt; mason and carpenter were William Winter and Charles Kleppe, respectively. During 1836-37 Calvary was restored and again redecorated. A fire on January 8, 1947, caused considerable damage at the south end of the church and necessitated rebuilding the sanctuary as well as extensive repairs to the nave and nave roof. E, W. Grossman was contractor for this $20,000 project, completed by March 17, 1948. Finally, under the direction of Milwaukee architect Fritz von Grossmann, a two-story brick church school wing was constructed on the southeast corner of the building and a small elevator wing near the northeast corner in 1957-58. Structure:

Calvary extends the full 150-foot depth of the lot from north to south lot lines and is 70 feet wide from the facade to a point near the rear where the wing of 1957-58 extends an additional 30 feet to the east.

Above its high limestone basement, the original church was built of cream-colored Milwaukee pressed brick trimmed with pressed brick and Cleveland sandstone. Walls and masonry trim about basement level are now painted red. Both additions are also of brick construction, that of 1910 painted red, that of 1957-58 unpalnted cream-colored brick.

On the main level of the church proper are, from north to south, the narthex--extending the width of the facade; the auditorium--an unobstructed, nearly rectangular space with very shallow transepts; and the elevated sanctuary--the area rebuilt after the fire of 1947. Above the narthex is the gallery, now closed. Below the narthex is the kitchen suite, and beneath the auditorium and sanctuary are, from north to south, two meeting rooms and a parlor (all separated by sliding doors), a small nursery, and a corridor at the rear of the building. This corridor now joins the original fabric and the two later wings. That of 1910 includes two rooms--the church office on grade level and the pastor's study above--and a stairhall. The two-story wing of 1957-58 houses a chapel, church school facilities,and rest rooms.

Calvary Presbyterian Church, Milwaukee Wisconsin