Jeramey Jannene

Historic Cemetery Gatehouse Will Be Saved

At least for now. Repairs for Calvary Cemetery gatehouse will stabilize structure.

By - May 13th, 2024 04:57 pm
Calvary Cemetery gatehouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Calvary Cemetery gatehouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A westside architectural icon is being spared a possible date with a wrecking ball. However, much remains uncertain about its long-term future.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee will make stabilizing repairs to the vacant, deteriorating gatehouse at the entrance to Calvary Cemetery, 5503 W. Blue Mound Rd.

The Victorian Gothic structure has served as the entry point to one of Milwaukee’s most prestigious resting places since 1897. A four-story tower and triumphal arch make the wood-framed building stand out along the westside main street.

But starting in 2021, the city began issuing building code violations for the structure’s declining condition. It was fenced off last fall by the Archdiocese with signs posted that said “Danger Do Not Enter.”

The Archdiocese previously estimated repairs could cost as much as $3 million. But it will now spend far less than that to stabilize the structure, including replacing the leaking roof, boarding up windows and replacing other failing elements.

A full restoration could occur at a future date. But the Archdiocese has yet to come forward with a plan, including what the structure could be used for and how it would be paid for.

Stabilization will buy time and prevent further substantial damage. Wauwatosa-based Kelmann Restoration is to perform the work.

Any modifications to the building, including demolition, would require review by the Historic Preservation Commission. The property has been subject to local historic protection since 1987.

In a staff-approved certificate of appropriateness issued in April, senior planner Tim Askin approved the stabilization plan.

According to the designation report, the structure was designed by Erhard Brielmaier & Sons. It originally contained an office and apartment for the cemetery superintendent.

The approximately 60-acre cemetery is the oldest Roman Catholic cemetery in the city. Among its notable interments are Milwaukee founder Solomon Juneau, Frederick J. Miller, Patrick Cudahy, former Milwaukee mayor John Black, gatehouse and prominent Catholic architect Erhard Brielmaier, several Civil War veterans, the primarily Irish victims of the Lady Elgin shipwreck, victims of the Newhall House hotel fire and several Catholic church leaders.

The 1987 report said there are more than 80,000 people interred at the cemetery, which was established in 1857. But unlike what the report says, one of them isn’t former mayor David Rose, known for presiding over a period of great vice. His family is buried there, but Rose is interred in Darlington, Wisconsin.

The Archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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Related Legislation: File 231956

Categories: Real Estate

3 thoughts on “Historic Cemetery Gatehouse Will Be Saved”

  1. SusanDuality says:

    I live a block away from Calvary, and most of my walks are through there. Rotting wood kept visibly growing for 15-20yrs, with no attempt at repairs. Assume the deliberate irresponsiblity applied to roof and interior.

    Since the properties the church owns pay no taxes, they could have repaid the community by doing timely upkeep. It’s an outstanding historical building that adds grace to a drab street. Let the people who pay higher taxes enjoy it. Bigger question is why taxpayers are forced to support religions they don’t believe in.

  2. says:

    Years ago, the archdiocese thrived to hide their assets in their cemetery fund to protect them from the many lawsuits filed by victims of their predatory employees. Apparently they didn’t spend that hidden luchre on the cemeteries. I was visiting some relatives in Calvary couple of weeks ago and noted that the gatehouse was REALLY decrepit. Come on, Listecki, show some respect!

  3. SusanDuality says:

    Thanks for details. I was out of town during the years of the Great Reveal and subsequent bankruptcy.

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