By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 07, 2024 at 12:27 PM

Anyone driving past the blue Gothic Revival gatehouse at Calvary Cemetery – resting place of Milwaukee founder Solomon Juneau and many other notables – can attest to its sorry state.

But now, the wood frame structure, built in 1897 to designs by Erhard Brielmaier – architect of many Catholic buildings in the city, including Basilica of St. Josaphat and the now-demolished Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis, among others – is getting a lifeline.

On Monday, May 13 at 3 p.m. at City Hall, the City of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission will approve a plan by the Archdiocese to stabilize the structure at 5503 W. Bluemound Rd.

The HPC has already signed off on the work and now just needs to officially approve the Certificate of Appropriateness required to begin the work, according to Senior Planner Andrew Stern.

Gatehouse rear
The rear of the gatehouse.

The plan calls for replacing the leaking roof and flashing; boarding up the doors and windows to secure the gatehouse; supporting and boarding up the screen porch area to keep out vandals and animals; winterizing the plumbing and heating; tuckpointing masonry as required and replacing missing masonry; replacing rotted downspouts that have been causing damage; and somewhat more vaguely, repair, “or rebuilding of building elements to prevent further deterioration or damage.”

The work is to be done by Kelmann Restoration.

The gatehouse – which was not yet built when Juneau’s body was interred at Calvary in 1866 – is built over the main entrance to the cemetery and served as the cemetery office.

It also has an attached residence for a cemetery groundskeeper and his family. The wood structure atop a raised stone foundation is capped with a bell tower.

“According to newspapers from 1897, ‘the residence consists of two stories and a basement. The basement is planned for store rooms and a laundry. On the first floor are offices, waiting rooms, and two private parlors. The second floor will contain three bedrooms’,” notes the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Architectural Inventory.

“After it was expanded, an additional room was added to the second floor. Currently, only the enclosed porch and the recently updated kitchen are used by the workmen of the cemetery. The first and second floors remain intact, though some carpet has been added. Almost all the original hardware, floors, and moldings are in place.”

Brielmaier, who was born in 1841 in Neufra near Rottweil, Württemberg, Germany, emigrated to the United States with his mother and siblings in 1850 to join his father, a carpenter, in Ohio.

Married in 1860, Brielmaier and his wife, Theresia Haag, moved their 13 children to Milwaukee in 1873 and he worked as a carpenter and sculptor, eventually becoming an architect.

With three of his sons, he launched Erhard Brielmaier & Sons Co., Architects, and in addition to churches and convents, they designed universities (including at Marquette), schools and hospitals (including at the Mayo Clinic) around the U.S. and in Canada. The firm even had a second office in Chicago.

The gatehouse is among Brielmaier’s most recognizable projects in Milwaukee. Let’s hope this new work helps keep it standing long into the future.

(NOTE: This post was updated to state that HPC has already approved the COA on the project.)

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.