Historical Churches Walking Tour, Milwaukee

Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Milwaukee

A comprehensive exploration of the spiritual side of Milwaukee's historical landscape will open your eyes to the number of beautiful historic temples, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city's religious makeup is diverse, from Catholic to Jesuit, and there is a multitude of architectural marvels – churches and cathedrals – matching this variety.

Among the venerable institutions that grace Milwaukee's ecclesiastical pantheon, St Paul's Episcopal Church emerges as an embodiment of Gothic splendor.

The Cathedral Church of All Saints, a bastion of Anglican tradition, beckons the faithful and the curious alike with its regal facade and solemn aura.

In the heart of this constellation stands the neoclassical Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, a testament to architectural prowess and divine devotion.

The enduring testament to the city's Catholic heritage, the Old Saint Mary Church features a spartan yet poignant design that echoes the simplicity of devotion.

The annals of Milwaukee's religious past find expression in the walls of St James Episcopal Church, while the Calvary Presbyterian Church, a bastion of Protestant identity, stands tall with its proud architectural bearing. Its austere elegance speaks of a faith founded on simplicity and sincerity, an ideal mirrored in its stately design.

Gesu Church, a living testament to Jesuit devotion and architectural elegance, captivates the discerning eye with its Gothic-style aesthetics.

Finally, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, a paragon of German heritage, represents an emblem of spiritual continuity. Its stone facade and meticulous craftsmanship encapsulate the dedication of a community bound by faith and culture.

All these hallowed edifices stand as silent sentinels of time, each brick and arch bearing witness to the faithful congregations that once gathered within their sacred confines. If you are a seeker of heritage and wisdom, venture forth and immerse yourself in the embrace of Milwaukee's historical churches – for within their walls, the past comes alive to guide our present and inspire our future.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Milwaukee (See other walking tours in Milwaukee)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: StaceyP
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church
  • Cathedral Church of All Saints
  • The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
  • Old Saint Mary Church
  • St. James Episcopal Church
  • Calvary Presbyterian Church
  • Gesu Church
  • Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
St. Paul's Episcopal Church

1) St. Paul's Episcopal Church

St. Paul's Episcopal Church is located in the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. Noted for its Tiffany windows, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated Milwaukee Landmark. Founded in 1838, St. Paul's parish is the oldest Episcopal parish in Milwaukee and the third established in Wisconsin. It is located in the wealthy downtown east neighborhood of Juneautown.

Members included many prominent citizens of the time, which helped the church to become the most influential Episcopal congregation in the state. The building was designed by local architect Edward Townsend Mix in Romanesque style and built in 1884 using Lake Superior Sandstone, a dark red sandstone found near the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. It features wrought iron by Master Blacksmith Cyril Colnik. St. Paul's Church also has the largest collection of Tiffany stained glass windows in the state. This includes the largest window ever made by Tiffany Studios of New York. Spanning 30 feet long, 24 feet high and up to two inches thick, it is a copy of Gustave Doré's masterpiece "Christ Leaving the Praetorium." It is believed that the building closely resembles one which was designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson, whose plans were published in the Architectural Sketch Book, but never built.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Cathedral Church of All Saints

2) Cathedral Church of All Saints

The Cathedral Church of All Saints is the bishop's church of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. The current parish is a descendant of a small mission by the Right Reverend Jackson Kemper. It is located in Milwaukee's downtown Yankee Hill neighborhood.

The Gothic Revival church building was designed by E. Townsend Mix, a noted Milwaukee architect, and constructed as Olivet Congregational Church in 1868. The building was sold to the Episcopal diocese in 1871 when the Olivet congregation faced bankruptcy, and was consecrated as a cathedral in 1898. The cathedral complex, which includes the church, an attached guild hall and nearby bishop's manse, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a Milwaukee City Landmark in 1973.

The tower and steeple, approximately 200 feet tall, houses a bronze bell cast in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1867, one year before the church was built. It measures almost 40 inches in diameter at the mouth, weighs approximately 1,200 pounds and is tuned to an A. Since renovation in the 1950s the steeple cross is mounted out-of-line with the facade, slightly angled towards Lake Michigan. The Sienna marble altar and triptych was designed and built by Eugene W. Mason, Jr. of New York City, and is of Italian Gothic styling. Most of the stained glass windows in the cathedral were designed and produced in England, most by Lavers and Westlake of London. Today's church features a liturgy in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. The congregation is small, including only around 250 members.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

3) The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is the episcopal see of the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, located just east of Cathedral Square Park. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Milwaukee Landmark. Archbishop John Henni purchased land for the cathedral in 1844. The cornerstone was laid on December 5, 1847, after nearly $30,000 was raised for construction. It was completed in 1852 and dedicated to John the Evangelist.

The building was designed by architect Victor Schulte in the nineteenth-century Zopfstil style and built using Cream City brick, a distinct light colored brick found locally. A fire partially destroyed the church and most of its contents in January 1935. Only the tower remained fully intact. Rebuilding was completed in time for midnight mass on Christmas Eve of 1942. St. John's Cathedral features thirteen large hand-cut stained glass windows made by T.C. Esser Company of Milwaukee. A large tomb-shaped baptismal pool and marble font is also situated prominently in the center of the sanctuary. In 2001 a gated garden and atrium were added at the north end of the building.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old Saint Mary Church

4) Old Saint Mary Church

Old Saint Mary's Church is the oldest church building in Milwaukee. The original structure was built in 1847 from a design by Prussian architect Victor Schulte. It was designed in the Zopfstil style, a traditional German architecture. The interior was redecorated after a fire in 1893, but the exterior still stands very much as it did right after the 1867 remodeling, two years after the Civil War. A painting of the Annunciation behind the altar by Franz Xavier Glink was donated by King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

The church's tower gained a clock in 1860 and three bells in 1868. These bronze bells were cast in Munich. St. Mary's was modified fairly extensively from 1866 to 1867, again under direction of Victor Schulte. The east end was extended and the west facade was reworked, with a new spire added in 1866.

This church has since become the basis for a number of other church buildings in the city due to its clean lines and reflection of the community. Those on walking tours may also stop by the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and Cathedral Square Park. Both of these spots are within two easily walkable blocks of the Old Saint Mary's church. The church is also near Milwaukee City Hall. It is only three blocks east of the Milwaukee River.

The Old Saint Mary Church continues to hold services on Sundays as well as daily mass Monday through Friday. The church is also open for confession on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Visitors are welcome to attend church service or explore the church grounds.
St. James Episcopal Church

5) St. James Episcopal Church

St. James' Episcopal Church is a Gothic Revival-styled Episcopal church built in 1867 - once a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. In 1979 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The church building is believe to be the oldest stone church in Milwaukee.

St. James parish was founded in 1850 as a mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. In 1851 the congregation bought the land where today's church stands, which had been the site of Kilbourntown's Spring Street Burying Ground - the first cemetery on the west side of what would become Milwaukee. Many of the early settlers were Yankees, and many prominent people were members, with the first Episcopal service held in Increase Lapham's store, and Alexander Mitchell serving on the parish's building committee.

In 1867 the congregation built the stone church of today. It was designed by Gordon William Lloyd of Detroit in an English Gothic Revival style. The main block was built first, in 1867–68, with walls of Wauwautosa limestone, tall lancet openings, and clerestory windows above the side aisles. The square corner tower was added in 1870 to 1871, with corner buttresses and a wheel window that match those on the main block, and a tall broach spire topped with a cross.

A fire on December 31, 1872 destroyed the buildings interior, leaving only the walls and bell tower. The church went through a rebuilt and it was reopened on April 19, 1874. In 1899 a parish house was added.

The church is adjacent two other historical places in Milwaukee, the Saint James Court Apartments next door and the Central Library across the road. Both sites are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Over the years, the congregation dwindled until the church closed and the building was sold on November 30, 2017. In 2020 it reopened as a venue for weddings and other events.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Calvary Presbyterian Church

6) Calvary Presbyterian Church

Calvary Presbyterian Church (Calvary Church) is a Victorian Gothic church located in the Marquette University district of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.

The first Presbyterian congregation in Milwaukee was started in 1837, and eventually became First Presbyterian. In 1849 North Presbyterian split off. In 1869, the Presbyterians on the west side wanted their own church, and some left each of the previous congregations to form Calvary.

They built their grand church in Gothic Revival style in 1870. It sits on a foundation of ashlar limestone. The body of the structure is cream city brick, a light-colored brick kilned from local clay, with accents of Ohio sandstone. The exterior has since been painted a bright red color. The ridge of the nave is 85 feet high. On one side is a 105-foot tower with a spire clad in pressed metal. On the other side is a huge 202-foot tower with a slate-clad spire. Both towers are buttressed and topped with crosses. The main entrance stands between the towers, beneath a rose window within a larger window.

Calvary Church features an indoor prayer labyrinth laid into the floor. Its design was inspired by a 12th-century labyrinth found at the Cathedral of Chartres in Chartres, France, and has eleven circuits with a rosette center.

The Wisconsin Historical Society survey of 1986 noted that Calvary's building is "one of the best preserved Gothic churches in the city from the period immediately following the Civil War" and "one of Milwaukee's oldest [church buildings] in continuous use."
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Gesu Church

7) Gesu Church

Gesu Church is a Jesuit parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a Milwaukee Landmark in 1975. Although the church is not affiliated with Marquette University, through a 1991 partnership, it ministers to the downtown campus of Marquette and surrounding neighborhood.

Gesu, founded in 1849 as St. Gall's Parish, initially served English-speaking Irish Catholics from the near south and west sides of Milwaukee in what was the neighborhood of Tory Hill. As the parish grew, it built Holy Name Church in 1875, and by 1887 Jesuit officials combined the two parishes into one church. The Gesu name was chosen in 1893 to honor the Church of the Gesu in Rome where St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, is buried.

Architect Henry C. Koch designed the French Gothic building, drawing inspiration from the Cathedral of Chartres in France. It features landmark spires of unequal height and stained glass windows. The cornerstone was laid on May 23, 1893 with over 20,000 people in attendance. A dedication ceremony followed on December 17, 1894, to mark the formal completion of the church.

Hollywood actor Pat O'Brien served as an altar boy at Gesu while growing up near 13th and Clybourn streets. He attended Marquette Academy and later attended Marquette University.

Gesu Church holds daily Masses and attracts over 2,500 worshipers on weekends.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

8) Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated State Historic Site. The building was also declared a Milwaukee Landmark in 1967. Trinity's congregation was founded by German immigrants of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in 1847, and is the oldest church associated with the Synod in the city.

Members of the Trinity Church established St. Stephen Lutheran Church in 1853, in order to serve parishioners south of the Menomonee River. These two churches, along with members of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, helped to seed a number of other Lutheran churches in the area.

The building was designed by architect Frederick Velguth in German Romanesque/Gothic Revival style and built in 1878 using Cream City brick, a distinct light colored brick manufactured locally. It features a landmark 200 foot spire and sandstone details on the façade. Notable of the church's interior is the historic Schuelke organ in the rear gallery, containing some 1,600 pipes.

German architecture of this type is typical among the historic structures found in and around downtown Milwaukee, including parts of the neighboring Pabst Brewery complex.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Create Your Own Walk in Milwaukee

Create Your Own Walk in Milwaukee

Creating your own self-guided walk in Milwaukee is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Historical Buildings Tour

Historical Buildings Tour

Milwaukee's cityscape is richly adorned with an array of historical architecture, showcasing various styles and periods that have shaped its identity. These buildings represent remarkable achievements of craftsmanship and design, reflecting the skills of their creators and the eras in which they emerged. Here, the grandeur of Richardsonian Romanesque, the opulence of Beaux-Arts, and the...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Monuments and Statues Walking Tour

Monuments and Statues Walking Tour

Once in Milwaukee, you may be surprised by the diverse array of monuments and statues dotting the city. Indeed, Milwaukee is home to a multitude of sculptures of different purposes, from those honoring historic figures to entertaining ones to the memorials commemorating war and its heroes.

The Leif Eriksson Statue, a striking representation of the Norse explorer, stands as a symbol of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Milwaukee Introduction Walking Tour

Milwaukee Introduction Walking Tour

Mark Twain is said to have once humorously remarked on Milwaukee's pronunciation, saying: "Milwaukee is a beauty; I presume it is the largest in the world. They spell it Milwaukie and pronounce it Mlwaukay. Thus they have a rhyme in the middle of a word."

The city's name is derived from an Algonquian word "Millioke," which roughly translates to "Good or...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles