Yesterday, St. Josaphat Basilica, 601 W. Lincoln Ave., got some new sandstone to replace exterior stone that had deteriorated.
Though the basilica is 115 years old, the materials used to build it – right down to the doorknobs and light fixtures – were salvaged from the old U.S. Post Office and Custom House in Chicago, which was completed in 1880, but partially occupied the year before. So, much of the stone was quarried in the 1870s. Everything arrived in Milwaukee on 500 railroad flatcars.
It must've been fun for architect Erhard Brielmaier to assemble those pieces into a new building of completely different design.
As part of restoration work that’s been ongoing since 1991, five crumbling stones were replaced Monday with new 9,000-pound sandstone blocks quarried in the same quarry in Sciota, Ohio, as the original stones used to build the Chicago Post Office.
Using stone from the same quarry was not only a cool idea, but also a requirement for maintaining the church’s landmark status.
According to a statement issued by The St. Josaphat Basilica Foundation:
"These replacement stones are a portion of the first ‘emergency phase’ of the basilica Foundation’s current capital campaign to raise $7.5 million for restoration of the basilica. Several masonry areas are in need of immediate attention, so the project is taking place this summer rather than waiting for the funding to be completed. The local Landmark is in need of the Milwaukee community’s support to complete its fundraising campaign and finish the critical restorations.
"The stones need to be replaced to slow the loss of building ornamentation, prevent water infiltration, improve safety from falling pieces and restore the decorative elements. It will also prevent further deterioration and damage of the priceless artworks on the interior ceilings and walls of the basilica."
Climb up to the top of the basilica with me here.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.