46. Mount Olive Lutheran, 1922

5327 West Washington Boulevard
Architects: Kirchhoff and Rose

Mount Olive Lutheran

Mount Olive English Lutheran congregation was founded in 1894. At that time, Redeemer Lutheran was the only other church of this denomination in the city that conducted services entirely in English. The congregation initially purchased a former Episcopal church on the North Side, on 4th Street just north of Walnut Street. That building was replaced by a new church on the same property in 1904. The small Gothic Revival church constructed in 1904 is still standing, and is now used by a Pentecostal congregation.

In the early 1920s, Mount Olive congregation decided to build a new and substantially larger church about three miles to the west, in the newly developing Washington Heights neighborhood. Groundbreaking for the present church took place in November of 1921, with the cornerstone laid in May of the following year and dedication of the completed building in the spring of 1923. Many of the furnishings from the older church on 4th Street were removed and installed in the new church, including the altar, lectern, pulpit, and baptismal font.

The church commissioned the Milwaukee architectural firm of Kirchhoff and Rose to design its new place of worship. The original partners were Charles Kirchhoff and Thomas L. Rose, who established the firm in the 1890s. Charles Kirchhoff died in 1916, but his son, Roger C. Kirchhoff, became a partner after his father’s death and the firm continued under the same name. Thomas Rose (1867-1935) served an apprenticeship with the Chicago architect James Egan, a noted designer of Catholic churches. Kirchhoff and Rose had a varied practice, but were particularly noted for their theater designs. The firm designed at least nine theaters in Milwaukee from the late 1890s through the 1920s, of which only the Riverside Theater of 1928 remains, at Wisconsin and Plankinton Avenues downtown. They also designed the legendary Palace Theater on Broadway in New York City, built in 1913.

Mount Olive Lutheran is one of the largest of a type of Gothic Revival church design that was popular from about 1905 through the 1920s. The church has a broad Tudor arch on the façade and a tower with a castellated top, but no steeple or clock. There are a dozen other churches in Milwaukee that fit this general description, including Epiphany Lutheran of 1905. They were designed by several different architectural firms, all using a common set of forms but varying in their materials and details. Some examples have one larger and one smaller façade tower, while others have just a single tower. Mount Olive Lutheran is unusual in that the tower is not on the façade, but instead is pulled back to the front of the west transept.

Mount Olive Lutheran
Mount Olive Lutheran

Mount Olive, 1894-1994: Remembering, Rejoicing and Renewing. Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 1994.

“Mount Olive Church Shows Remarkably Steady Growth,” Milwaukee Sentinel, April 30, 1927, page 19,
column 5.

“New Mount Olive Church Home,” Milwaukee Sentinel, March 18, 1923, feature section, page 6, column 2.

Widen, Larry, and Judi Anderson. Milwaukee Movie Palaces. Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1986.