Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Buy A Brick at Pompeii Square

Downtown plaza that honors demolished church being redeveloped.

By - Aug 20th, 2020 02:56 pm
Pompeii Square memorial. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Pompeii Square in 2019. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Want to have your name written in stone in downtown Milwaukee? Now’s your chance.

Two non-profit groups are fundraising to complete the rehabilitation of the monument at Pompeii Square, a county-owned park located at the site of the former Blessed Virgin of Pompeii church. The Catholic Church, known as the “Little Pink Church” was built in 1904, and was a central gathering place in the Historic Third Ward for the city’s Italian community. A bigger project will redevelop the surrounding landscaping.

Blessed Virgin of Pompeii. Image from the City of Milwaukee.

Blessed Virgin of Pompeii. Image from the City of Milwaukee.

The church, located at 419 N. Jackson St., was demolished in 1967 to make way for Interstate 794. A memorial, dedicated in 1977 by the Pompeii Men’s Club, was built across the street on a small slice of land left vacant after the elevated freeway’s construction. The Van Buren Street off-ramp today covers the footprint of the church and serves as the northern boundary for the plaza.

In 2019, the city advanced a $100,000 allocation from increased property tax revenue expected to be generated by the completion of the nearby Huron Building to support the plaza’s redevelopment. “Part of the funding is to finalize what this would look like,” said Department of City Development economic development specialist Dan Casanova in July 2019. “Right now there is not even a path from the sidewalk to get to the memorial, so there are some basic things that could be done.”

The Pompeii Men’s Club and Pompeii Women’s Club, two groups formed to honor the legacy of the church, are selling engraved brick pavers. A four-inch by eight-inch brick with up to 39 characters costs $50, an eight-inch by eight-inch brick with up to 78 characters goes for $100. The pavers will be installed in the redeveloped plaza.

“It’s one of very few gateways to Downtown,” said Matt Dorner of Milwaukee Downtown, business improvement district (BID) #21. The BID has been assisting in planning the broader project. He said the project’s timing coincides with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation doing other streetscaping work nearby. Over 25,000 people pass the site each day, either on foot or in a vehicle.

The proposed plan for the redeveloped plaza is a layout of six overlapping circles that mirrors the stained-glass window that was located in the front facade of the former church.

InSite Landscape Design created the design. And KEI is scheduled to build it.

The current plaza features two benches and a memorial stone, with a small scale version of the stained-glass window embedded.

A modern replica of the church was recently constructed on the city’s Lower East Side as part of the St. Rita Square senior housing complex. The new church will be used by the Three Holy Women parish, which sold its land, including the St. Rita Church building, for the development. Artifacts from both churches, Pompeii and St. Rita, including stained glass windows, are being installed in the new church.

Those seeking to purchase a brick are encouraged to contact the Pompeii Men’s Club or fill out the spreadsheet-based order form. Construction on the new plaza is expected to begin in 2020.

Pompeii Square – 2019

Site Plan

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