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Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

119 W 7TH ST

Architecture and History Inventory
119 W 7TH ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:St. Mary's Catholic Church (and School)
Other Name:St. Mary's Catholic Church
Reference Number:51696
Location (Address):119 W 7TH ST
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1898
Additions: 1933
Survey Date:19832014
Historic Use:church
Architectural Style:Neogothic Revival
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Architect:Druiding (Chicago)
Other Buildings On Site:0
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: St. Mary's Catholic Church
National Register Listing Date:3/29/1984
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989
National Register Multiple Property Name:Multiple Resources of Kaukauna
Additional Information:A 'site file' (Kaukauna Historic Properties) exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation-Public History.

"St. Mary's Church is distinguished by its cruciform plan and Gothic elements including pointed arch ribbed vault ceiling, omnipresent lancet window openings, and stained glass. A pointed arch portal with sculpture and a large lancet window with quatrefoil tracery dominate the front of this brick building located at the southwest corner of Seventh and Hendricks Avenue. Two smaller entranceways (also with sculpture and tracery) flank the portal. Above the double doorways are plate tracery windows. The central portion of the front facade and the two end towers have pyramidal roofs. Crosses mark the peaks of these roofs while a small steeple distinguishes the crossing of the nave and transept (which are covered by a hip roof). Three clerestory windows with clipped gable roofs are located above the side aisles.

Had it been constructed according to the original 1897 plan of the Chicago architect, Druiding, St. Mary's would have been the largest church building in the Green Bay dioceses. Three soaring steeples (with louvred openings contained within lancet arches) were never built, thus diminishing the height of the intended plan. However, even without the steeples, the size of the building is immense with a seating capacity of 1000.

The interior plan of St. Mary's is typical of most Gothic churches. A multi-storied central nave with a pointed arch ribbed vault ceiling is flanked by side aisles and is crossed by a transept. A gallery and choir are located above the narthex,. The clerestory and side aisle windows have stained glass. At the south end of the building, the apse displays lancet windows with stained glass and a richly carved altar-considered to be the most ornate in the state when the church was built.

The older St. Mary's Catholic School is located near the church at the southwest corner of Seventh Street and Main Avenue. This two story red brick building has undergone alterations in recent years including the reduction of the window openings (originally six over six sash). Two new concrete block buildings were recently erected to provide additional space for the school. A modern rectory and a convent are also located on the church grounds. None of these buildings will be included in the nomination.

Although the three steeples were never completed, St. Mary's Catholic Church is an imposing structure and a good example of late Nineteenth Century Neo-Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. Like medieval Gothic churches, the immense size of St. Mary's reflects the intension of its congregation to erect a building that would surpass any structure in the City. The interior is also unusually opulent for the area with its richly carved altar, ribbed vaulted ceiling, and beautiful stained glass windows.

St. Mary's Church is historically significant as the focal point of the community of Ledyard, now south Kaukauna. When the Milwaukee, Lakeshore, and Western Railroad moved its division yards from Manitowoc in 1881, the population of south Kaukauna boomed. A combination church and school was built in 1885 by the newly formed St. Mary's parish on land partially donated by the railroad. A high school was added in 1891 and the construction of the new church in 1898 freed the original parish building for use entirely as a school. The Franciscan Sisters of Alverno have taught in St. Mary's School since its founding. The role of St. Mary's was a cohesive one for the development of the south side of Kaukauna, as the community traditionally has had about a 70% Catholic population, and the Irish and German stock of south Kaukauna were linked by their religion to the original French Catholic Church on the north side, Holy Cross. Michael Donohue and Joseph Klein, among the incorporators of St. Mary's, well represent the Irish and German groups who were important in the development of the water power and railroad which built Kaukauna's south side. Joseph Klein also platted a large addition on the south side. The St. Mary's parish was first led by Father Joseph Rhode as a mission from Holy Cross, as the older north side community actively supported religious continuity in the development of the south side. The third parish priest, Rev. Francis X. Steinbrecher, guided construction of the 1898 church, deliberately introducing European and grand influences into the design to reflect the ethnic heritage of the new Kaukauna residents and their expectations of being a major Fox River city for the foreseeable future, based on the rush of industrial, territorial, and population expansion in the 1880's and 1890's. St. Mary's Church, though built by a daughter parish of Holy Cross, is now the oldest church in the community and expresses the optimism of the boom period of the former village of Ledyard and the present south side of Kaukauna in tangible brick and stone." Walking Tour Through Old Kaukauna: Two Self-Guided Historic Tours Kaukauna, Wisconsin, City of Kaukauna, 1983.
Bibliographic References:(A) Lion of the Fox River Valley (title page missing, believed to have been compiled by Kaukauna Sun newspaper, 1891) p. 23, 55. (B) Rummel, Rev. Leo O., O. Praem, History of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin, c. 1898, Knights of Columbus, Wisconsin Council, p. 652-654. (C) Bubolz, Gordon A., Lillian Mackesy, et al. editors, Land of the Fox, 1949, Appleton, WIs., Outagamie County State Centennial Commitee, Inc., p. 198. (D) Beers, J.J. & Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of the Fox River Valley, counties of Brown, Outagamie, & Winnebago, 1895, Chicago, Wilson Humphrey & Co., p. 651. (E) Cornerstone. (F) Kaukauna Times, June 4, 1897. "Supplemental/Addendum Information to FCC Package, Kaukauna Tower, East 9th Street and Boyd Avenue, Kaukauna, WI 54130." WHS Project #14-0410/OU June 2014. Prepared by Lena Hoffmeyer. Walking Tour Through Old Kaukauna: Two Self-Guided Historic Tours Kaukauna, Wisconsin, City of Kaukauna, 1983.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, State Historic Preservation Office, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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