Third Street just hasn't looked the same for a year and a half.
Protective fencing has sealed off St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church from members and visitors alike. Two Village Lights events and Christmas celebrations went by without the hospitality of the iconic landmark at 684 S. Third St. in German Village.
The spire of St. Mary Church can be seen throughout the Village and from downtown high-rises facing south where it has beckoned for more than 150 years. The summer rose bushes, usually spilling over the iron fence, and its tidy lawn have been blocked off since a catastrophic lightning strike revealed substantial building fatigue and the building was condemned.
The German immigrants who worked in the brewery district -- from the brew masters to ordinary laborers -- sacrificed mightily to raise $5,000 between 1864-65 for the first building.
They raised the gigantic sum of $40,000 to build an architectural gem of German Gothic design between 1866-68. They eventually also sacrificed to erect a large school, a Rectory, and a convent. The time to rebuild/renovate for the next 150 years is here -- and it will take a Village.
The church, a center of community life for many Villagers, was a showcase for art and architectural design features from the beginning.
There are stunning woodcarvings on the reredos, visible behind the main altar and standing 45-feet tall and 20-feet wide, carved from white walnut by Allard Klooter.
Flanking either side of the sanctuary are two 1867 oil paintings by Wencelaus Thein and William Lamprecht of Cincinnati; and paintings by Munich native Gerhart Lamers date from 1930-35.
Original stained glass windows are still to be found on both of the stairways leading to the choir loft, on either side of the organ, in the sacristy, in the vestibules and over the doors entering the church.
Original Lang Stone steps descend to Third Street and a 1901 pipe organ with 2,250 pipes by the William Schuelke Company of Milwaukee, all speak to the value placed on craftsmanship by the original local builders.
As of today the structure has been stabilized and the rebuilding from the inside out has commenced.
But to restore and preserve the art and architecture of the landmark that graces the main street of German Village will take a $5.5 million effort and the support of a whole community.
St. Mary Church is the largest building in the Village still used for its original purpose and continues as an integral member of Village life.
It participates in Village Lights and Oktoberfest; it hosts special events and community concerts, and opens its doors to throngs of tourists.
Check out details, pictures of the work, and a way to contribute at stmarygvcampaign.org/
St. Mary Capital Campaign Steering Committee member Pat Molony submitted the Village Notebook column.