Yesterday’s Milwaukee

County Courthouse, Early 1870s

It was built by architect Leonard Schmidtner, who also built St. Stanislaus church. His courthouse would stand for 66 years.

By - Dec 4th, 2014 12:41 pm
Milwaukee County Courthouse, 1870s. Photo courtesy of Jeff Beutner.

The second Milwaukee County Courthouse, 1870s. Photo courtesy of Jeff Beutner.

In 1873 the new Milwaukee County Courthouse opened, located where Cathedral Square is now located. It replaced the city’s first courthouse, which had been built in 1836.

The new courthouse was constructed of brick and red sandstone and the architect was Leonard Schmidtner. His birth name was Leonard Kowalski, but he was among the first Poles in the city and adopted the name Schmidtner to help establish himself. A multilingual scholar and a descendant of a noble Polish family, he also designed a clock tower for Holy Trinity Church (1862) on 4th and Bruce streets in 1862 and in 1873 completed the imposing St. Stanislaus Church on Mitchell St., easily visible from I-94 south of Downtown.

This photo by W. H. Sherman shows Schmidtner’s courthouse shortly after its completion. The park area in front of it was a rarity in this city at that time. It would become very appealing to local residents. The second courthouse was replaced by the new one on 9th and Wells streets, which was constructed in 1931. But this building wasn’t torn down until 1939. The city used the land to widen Kilbourn Ave. and add additional parkland for Cathedral Square.

Cathedral Square Nowadays

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner.


3 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Milwaukee: County Courthouse, Early 1870s”

  1. John Cooper says:

    I’ve often wondered exactly where the old courthouse stood in relation to today’s square. The last posted photo seemed to show the cathedral off the “right” end of the courthouse and south of it. So with today’s detail about the widening of Kilbourn, the courthouse seems to have stood off the north end of what is now Cathedral Square with its entrance facing south. Is that correct?

  2. Dear John Cooper —

    This 1894 map clearly shows the location of the Courthouse on its site.

  3. John Cooper says:

    Thank you, Michael!

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