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Architecture and History Inventory
100 S CHURCH ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Reference Number:7132
Location (Address):100 S CHURCH ST
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1873
Additions: 1974
Survey Date:1999
Historic Use:church
Architectural Style:High Victorian Gothic
Structural System:Masonry
Wall Material:Cream Brick
Architect:JOHN BONNEYPatrick Charles Keely
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Saint Bernard's Church Complex
National Register Listing Date:11/26/2003 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:7/18/2003 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:
Additional Information:A 'site file' 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 State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation. This building was the second church constructed for St. Bernard's Catholic Church. It was built in 1873-76 and has served the English speaking Catholic community ever since.

Fr. Martin Kundig, a pioneer church organizer in the Wisconsin Territory, said the first mass in Watertown in 1843 and organized the St. Bernard's conregation. It was a mission church until 1846. The congregation built a small frame church building at the present site, and in 1847 a rectory was built and in 1857 a school building was constructed. The parish came under the control of the Holy Cross Fathers in 1872 and between 1873 and 1876 the congregation built a new and impressive church building designed by Patrick Keely and having as its cornerstone part of the Rock of Cashel from Ireland. Buckley and Strathern of Milwaukee was the contractor. St. Bernard's was the English-language Catholic church in Watertown and had a heavily Irish ethnic population. The church building has continued to serve the congregation until the present time.

St. Bernard's Church is an important local institution, serving the religious needs for a large group of Catholics. Its heavily Irish membership was not untypical for many Catholic churches, and the church did not reflect ethnicity as did other churches in the community. The church is, however, an important local architectural landmark, and is one of the oldest churches in the community, founded in 1843.

Designed by the noted architect Patrick Keely in 1873 in the Victorian Gothic style, St. Bernard's Church is a steep gable roofed building featuring a square central entrance tower with tall polygonal steeple projecting from the facade, a five-sided apse with an attached hip roofed sacristy on the north side and gable roofed sacristy and shed roofed entrance at the rear. The cream brick surfaces are articulated by stepped buttresses on the side elevation and the corners of the building as well as the entrance tower and pointed arched stain glass windows. The cream brick surfaces are ornamented by brick voussoirs and white keystones inset into the surface around the pointed arched windows and doors as well as red brick patterns in the shape of points and arches on the tower and upper facade. The entrance tower, which also functions as a bell tower, is further characterized by bracketed eaves and clock faces ornamented with small gables and spires. Steep gables of brick over the side entrance project from the facade. The three pointed arched entrances have double leafed doors.

Originally built at the cost of $100,000, St. Bernard's Church was rennovated and restored and the steeple rebuilt after it was damaged by fire in 1974. The original interior space remains but the original interior decoration has been removed for the most part.

St. Bernard's Church is significant under criterion C as an example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture and as the design of a nationally important architect Patrick Keely. One of two excellent examples of 19th century Gothic Revival church architecture remaining in the city, St. Bernard's exhibits characteristics typical of the Victorian Gothic style such as the bichromatic exterior, decorative bands of red brick highlighting the points of construction, pointed arched openings, and heavy mouldings.

The other significant example of 19th century Gothic styled church architecture is St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 413 South 2nd St. (42-30). Other significant examples of the 20th century are the Moravian Church at 510 Cole (49-22), the United Pentacostal Church at 315 So. 5th (41-8) and the Bethesda Chapel (59-33)

The church was completed and dedicated on 12 November 1876. The church building was paid primarily through the contributions of the Irish parishioners. The complex as a whole consists of the buildings related to the function of a Catholic parish: a church, a school, and a rectory.

While not directly related to the parish, the Watertown Irish Relief Association drew is membership from St. Bernard's. This organization sought to provide aid to the Irish National Land League based in Dublin In the 1880s, the organization had as its regular meeting place in the St. Bernard's School after mas. Other organizations associated with the parish or its congregation include the Catholic Total Abstinence group. The temperance and Irish Nationalist groups sponsored lectures or presentations held at the church. St. Bernard's was also noted for its musical talent. Local newspaper articles indicate numerous concerts held at the church. The church also had the usual Catholic parish organizations, including a Holy Name Society, ladies' societies, an ushers group, and others.
Bibliographic References:(A) Cornerstone. (B) Watertown Daily Times 8/7/1996. (C) Watertown Democrat Sept. 11, 1873. (D) George T. Meagher, A Century of St. Bernard's, (Milwaukee: St. Bernard's Church, 1946), pp. 6-137. (E) Watertown Republican June 21, 1876. Architecture and History Survey. August-September 1999. Prepared by Daina Penkiunas, Museum Archaeological Program, SHSW.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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