58. St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic, 1920

8685 North 76th Place (south of Brown Deer Road)
Architects: Herbst and Kuenzli

St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic
St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic

Like Salem Lutheran, St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church is located in the far northwestern portion of the city, in what was originally rural Granville Township. The City of Milwaukee annexed the township in the 1950s. St. Catherine’s Parish was organized in 1855 as a daughter of St. Anthony’s Church, located several miles to the west in what is now the Milwaukee suburb of Menomonee Falls. The original members of St. Catherine’s Parish were primarily German immigrants.

The parish built a stone church on the current property in 1859, which served for six decades until it was extensively damaged by fire in 1919. Rather than rebuilding the small church, the growing parish decided to erect a new and larger church on the property.

Completed and dedicated in 1921, the present church and school building incorporates stone salvaged from the 1859 church, with additional stone from one of the limestone quarries then operating in the vicinity. St. Catherine’s is one of only a few churches in Milwaukee built of uncut stone laid in irregular courses. The varying shapes and sizes of the stones and their random placement give the building a rustic character and the appearance of being possibly much older than it actually is. The stones at the building’s corners and at the top of the tower are cut to more rectangular shapes, but the only other stones cut to precise shapes and sizes are the window sills, buttress caps, and those forming the arched door and window openings. In addition to reusing stone from the 1859 church, the present building incorporates several windows salvaged from the earlier church.

St. Catherine’s is another church for which no common architectural style term clearly applies. It has no classical features or details, and while the round arches are suggestive of the Romanesque Revival, the building lacks other features associated with that style. The top portion of the tower appears to be Italianate, with its ornate brackets supporting the roof overhang. However, the Italianate is a nineteenth century style that had been out of fashion for several decades by the time this church was built. It may be that the architects were deliberately replicating some features of the 1859 church, in deference to nostalgic feelings among members of the parish for their lost place of worship. Whatever the style or design intent, the architects succeeded in crafting a charming country church for a parish that was still rural in 1920.

125 Years, 1855-1980. St. Catherine’s Congregation, 1980.

Bird, Miriam Y. A History of Granville Township. Miriam Bird, 1996.

Centennial Jubilee, 1855-1955. St. Catherine’s Parish, 1955.

Herbst and Kuenzli, architects. Drawings for construction of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church and School, dated August 26, 1920. Wisconsin Architectural Archive, Milwaukee Central Library, drawing set 158-82.