Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

822 E GRAND AVE

Architecture and History Inventory
822 E GRAND AVE | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
NAMES
Historic Name:Church of St. Thomas the Apostle (Catholic)
Other Name:St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church
Contributing:
Reference Number:80969
PROPERTY LOCATION
Location (Address):822 E GRAND AVE
County:Rock
City:Beloit
Township/Village:
Unincorporated Community:
Town:
Range:
Direction:
Section:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
PROPERTY FEATURES
Year Built:1885
Additions:
Survey Date:1981
Historic Use:church
Architectural Style:Gothic Revival
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Architect:J.J. Egan, Chicago
Other Buildings On Site:0
Demolished?:No
Demolished Date:
DESIGNATIONS
National/State Register Listing Name: Church of St. Thomas the Apostle
National Register Listing Date:1/7/1983 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:Multiple Resources of Beloit
NOTES
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. The Church of St. Thomas the Apostle is a rectangular gabled structure with a corner bell tower, built of cream brick walls with smooth stone trim and wooden porches. The pyramidal spire of the square tower reaches on hundred-fifty feet above ground and a canopied entry, with ornamental gable, leads to the vestibule. The simple massing underscores the heaviness and solidity of the structure rather than the delicacy of the Gothic detail. That detail, however, is seen in the pointed arched openings, the tracery in circular and rose windows, buttresses capped with stone trim, brick corbelling under the eaves, and pyramidal pinnacles. The tower and pinnacles have gablets. But nowhere is the ornament either lacy or light. Even the porches of St. Thomas feature the heavy and bold woodwork associated with the Stick style (itself based on Gothic Revival precedents), complete with brackets, braces, and bargeboards. The interior auditorium (measuring fifty-five feet wide by one hundred-eighteen fet long with a ceiling thirty-four feet high) features an arcade of pointed arches below sexfoils. The sanctuary is dominated by a round chancel arch and an elaborate stained glass altar window with arched and sexfoil tracery. The vaulted ceiling is supported by wooden trusses and divided into panels. The panels are ornamented with paintings commissioned in 1976. The pews are arranged in six rows with an aisle on either side and a large double aisle down the center of the room. In addition, several stained glass windows ornament the auditorium. The rectory and convent buildings (which share the parcel) do not possess architectural significance and are not nominated. The Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, built in 1885-1886 on the site of the first permanent Catholic Church in Beloit, is architecturally significant as the finest example fo late Victorian ecclesiastical architecture in the city, reflecting a free handling of Gothic detail and sensitivity to materials. The interior auditorium features stained glass windows and a vaulted ceiling supported by wooden trusses, creating a significant interior space. J.J. Egan of Chicago was consulted for the architectural plans. The structure was erected by Marshall and Sweet, masons; Cummingham Brothers, carpenters; and A.S. Jackson, stonecutter, all of Beloit. The rectory and convent buildings share neither the architectural character nor the historical associations of the church and thus are excluded from the nomination. The Church of St. Thomas the Apostle has been the historic spiritual home of Beloit's oldest Catholic parish and mother church for all subsequent Catholic churches in the city. Built on the ruins of the historic Stone Church -- the first permanent Catholic church in Beloit, which burned in December, 1884 -- the present edifice was completed after an intensive fund raising campaign led by the indefatigable Reverend M.J. Ward. Father Ward himself relinquished some of his duties to engage in a long series of temerence lectures in an attempt at building the church fund. Eventually some $15,000 was raised. By June of 1886, the church was formally opened and dedicated. In the intervening century, St. Thomas has served as a center for Catholic life in the community. Although the original parishioners were largely Irish, the church membership grew to embrace members of all Beloit ethnic groups. From the construction of the church until his death, Father Ward was the controlling influence and the physical symbol of the church's role in the community. A large and engaging man with a flowing beard, Ward not only led the construction of the church, he also campaigned actively against alcohol, became an advisor to civic leaders, established a Catholic hospital in 1903 (located in a house on the corner of Park Avenue and Broad Street) and closely supervised the physical and spiritual evolution of the parish. Although new parishes were established in Beloit shortly after the turn of the century, St. Thomas remained the most influential Catholic church. Father Thomas O'Reilly began a pastorship that was to last thirty-five years, and the role of St. Thomas in the community did not diminish.
Bibliographic References:(A) George Fliss, editor, One Hundred Twenty-Five Years of Faith, 1976. Book of Beloit, p. 116.
RECORD LOCATION
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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