By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 24, 2022 at 10:28 AM

After years of hard work and $8 million, Katie Crowle is finally is finally ready to celebrate the official grand opening of St. James 1868, an event venue in the beautiful former St. James Episcopal Church, 833 W. Wisconsin Ave., built in 1868.

The opening event, a Derby Party on Saturday, May 7, comes two years after the completion of the renovation and after Crowle’s planned opening, which was, of course, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to host this celebration at the St. James 1868,” said Crowle. “Renovation of the event venue was completed when COVID-19 shut down the world.

“It couldn’t have been a worse time to open a new event space, but we were cautious, careful and incredibly patient and now we are ready to celebrate!”

I visited the church in its waning days for this story on its history. Four years later, it announced it was closing.

I then returned a few years later as Crowle was knee-deep in construction for this article, which shows some of the work in progress.

With the project completed but unable to open, I got another look in summer 2020, when Crowle was allowed to begin hosting limited-capacity weddings and events.

“As restrictions were reduced in 2021, our event bookings doubled. As we slowly get back to normal, our venues are becoming incredibly popular and are booking well for 2022, 2023 and beyond,” Crowle said.

“We are happy to become a top wedding venue for the region and are excited to share this space with the community.”  

Now you can experience it, too, at the grand opening Derby Party, which will encompass the entire venue. Tickets are $95 and include watching the Kentucky Derby on giant screens, live music, food and cocktails.

There will be Instagrammable moments, Derby-themed decor and more.

A portion of the proceeds benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Tickets are available here.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to get dressed up and celebrate some of our favorite traditional events,” said Crowle.

“The Kentucky Derby is a perfect way for us to dive back into fun, fashion, and entertainment. We hope attendees grab their hats and bowties and come dressed to have a great time.”

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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.