In Milwaukee History

This little church, tucked into a Tosa neighborhood just north of Wauwatosa East high school, is a gem.

Little landmarks: Neighborhood churches edition

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In this occasional series that looks at some often-unheralded gems of local architecture and history, we turn our eyes toward some small neighborhood churches around the city.

A couple of these have appeared in these "pages" before, but it seemed appropriate to include them here. I hope you won't mind. There are many more out there, so expect a Part 2 soon.

1. East Side Baptist Church
2409 E. Park Pl.

This is a favorite of mine, located on the corner of Park and Prospect on the East Side. While there are some "churchy" Gothic elements, like the pointed arches, this 1909 church – designed by Clare Hosmer, who designed at least one other similar church, in Stevens Point – is heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style. It slides nicely into the landscape.

2. Former Bethel Evangelical Church
2392 S. Woodward St.

I was lucky enough to live a block from this beautiful and unusual Romanesque Revival church for about six years and see it every day. Designed by Crane and Barkhausen and built in 1897 as Bay View Bethel Evangelical Church, it was almost demolished in the 1960s, but fortunately it escaped the wrecking ball. Now it's home to a Spanish-language Seventh Day Adventist congregation.

3. Zion Evangelical Church
1418 W. Greenfield Ave.

This one is a bit of a personal landmark, as my grandparents lived a block west of here and, as a kid, driving in from New York for family visits, I'd wake up groggy right as we'd exit 94 at Greenfield Avenue and first I'd see the A-B Clocktower. I would know we'd arrived when I saw the distinctive white steeple of this old clapboard church and school. Nowadays, I can see it from my office and it takes me back every time.

At that time, I had no idea that my great-grandparents were confirmed and married there, and my grandfather – like his mother – baptized there, too.

According to "Memoirs of Milwaukee County: From the Earliest Historical Times," published in 1909, "In 1884, Rev. Heinrich Noehren organized on the south side an Evangelical church (in the German Evangelical Synod of North America) which later came to be known as Zion church. The society first erected a schoolhouse on property it had purchased on Greenfield avenue between Ninth and Tenth avenues, and used the building for services until its resources allowed the erection of the present church edifice."

The balloon-frame Zion Evangelical Church was erected in 1887, and additions were made in 1905 and 1908. The school, mentioned above, just west, pre-dates the church by four years and it, too, had an addition in 1905, and again in 1948. Today, they are home to the Pentecostal Church of God.

4. Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church/St. George's Episcopal
1138 W. Center St.

Across the street from North Division High Schol sits a low, sprawling church that I always picture sitting on a green promontory above the sea in New England. Designed by F. Erdmann, this is a stucco-covered Arts and Crafts style church that, like Charles Malig's bungalow firehouses, aimed to fit nicely into a residential neighborhood.

The former St. George's Episcopal also boasts a rare lychgate that "The Encyclopedia Americana" says is "a roofed gate in a church yard under which a bier rests during the initial part of the burial service," according to "Places of Worship – Milwaukee," by Mary Ellen Young and Wayne Attoe.

5. Christian Union Missionary Baptist/Washington Park Presbyterian
2176 N. 39th St.

Built as Trinity Presbyterian and later serving as Washington Park Presbyterian Chapel and German Zion Baptist (since 1959), which was renamed Christian Union Missionary Baptist, this church "is representative of the small early 20th-century chapel-like churches. A clear departure from the previous cream brick spired edifices, its stucco wall finish and curvilinear Jacobean gables are of note." Like a few of the churches included here, it fits perfectly among its neighbors, having been designed in a style that was most often used for private homes in Milwaukee.

6. Latvian Evangelical Lutheran
1853 N. 75th St., Wauwatosa

This little neighborhood church tucked into a Wauwatosa neighborhood just behind Tosa East High School is a Gothic Revival gem dressed in cream city brick. Built in 1888 as a new home to to the First Baptist Church congregation, which had previously occupied a smaller building – built in 1852 at North and Wauwatosa Avenues – it was moved to the Wauwatosa Cemetery for use as a chapel in 1914. In 1953, the congregation moved to a new church nearby and, since 1961, this little beauty has been home to the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The congregation hosts rummage sales that are open to the public if you want to see inside.

Perhaps you'll be interested in this look at the former home of Ascension Lutheran, a small former church building in Walker's Point; this peek at the history of the medieval St. Joan of Arc chapel on the Marquette campus; or this story about a small backyard chapel on the South Side.

7. Westminster United Presbyterian/Epikos
2308 E. Belleview Pl.

I know, I already included a church from this neighborhood, but I couldn't resist mentioning the Gothic church – founded as a mission by Immanuel Presbyterian in 1876 on Cambridge and Kane and later moved to Thomas and Frederick – in red-pressed brick, built in 1895 to designed by W. D. Kimball. It was heavily altered in 1913 by Leenhouts and Guthrie and Gerrit DeGelleke made further changes in 1940, but still it's a beautiful 19th-century Gothic church snugged right into a residential landscape. If you find yourself in Berlin, Wisconsin, check out Kimball's stunning Stick Style church there.


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