St. Josaphat is undergoing an ongoing restoration.
St. Josaphat is undergoing an ongoing restoration. (Photo: St. Josaphat Basilica Foundation)

St. Josaphat gets a lift with new sandstone

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.

Rufus King IB Middle School opens in its new home at 121 E. Hadley St. on Sept. 1.
Rufus King IB Middle School opens in its new home at 121 E. Hadley St. on Sept. 1.

First Look: King IB Middle School's new home at Malcolm X Campus

After a couple years of work and even more time and energy expended on controversy, the former Malcolm X Academy – built in 1961 As Fulton Junior High – is ready to swing open its doors and welcome kids back.

The school, at 121 E. Hadley St., will officially reopen on the first day of the traditional school year, Thursday, Sept. 1, as home to the Rufus King International Baccalaureate Middle School at the Malcolm X Campus.

Malcolm X Academy closed in 2007. A church school in the voucher program launched a campaign to compel MPS to sell it the building, but the district demurred and instead prepared a plan to move King Middle School into the campus and renovate, expand and redevelop a later addition to the building into a retail component.

King IB Middle School, which has an enrollment of about 450, was previously housed in the former McNair Elementary, which is was outgrowing.

While that building officially has a capacity of 567, it’s meant to be 567 younger children. As such, rooms like the gym and cafeteria were especially challenging for a middle school population.

Beginning this year, the former McNair/King MS building will house Milwaukee Excellence Charter School, a district charter school.

Last week, we got a look inside the Malcolm X campus, where King students will eat in a lunchroom roughly three times the size of its previous one and which has a gym that was built for middle school-aged children, as well as a smaller secondary gym that can be utilized in a number of ways.

The entrance to the building is now on Hadley Street, instead of on 1st Street, and there are many upgrades throughout, according to MPS facilities planner Michelle Lenski.

"We repainted all the walls, including the ceramic tile (with a special paint from which graffiti is easily removed)," Lenski said. "We redid the entire gym. We sanded and resealed the floor, repainted. We put in all new windows. All new doors."

The building – which feels vibrant with a focus on exciti…

Michail Takach's "LGBT Milwaukee" is due in shops on Monday, Aug. 22.
Michail Takach's "LGBT Milwaukee" is due in shops on Monday, Aug. 22.

Advocate: Milwaukee is the most underappreciated gay Mecca in the U.S.

This morning, respected national gay magazine The Advocate posted a glowing blurb and slideshow of images from "Images of America: LGBT Milwaukee," by OnMilwaukee contributor Michail Takach.

That's cool, of course, because Takach's book is a comprehensive illustrated look the city's LGBT history. The headline is bound to really garner some attention.

"What's the most underappreciated gay Mecca in the U.S.?" the headline queried, then answering its own question with the post, which called Takach's book, "beautifully researched and (with) very moving text.

"This book, consisting mostly of photos and detailed captions, takes us from the bad old days of the deep closet to drag queens most glorious, to mega-discos, and beyond."

Congratulations, Michail.

Stay tuned for an interview with Takach about the book around the time it hits shops on Monday, Aug. 22.

The author is donating all proceeds to Milwaukee Pride, Inc. to support the Wisconsin LGBT History Project and education programs.

St. Wenceslaus Parish, on 14th and Scott since 1883, merged with another parish in 1999.
St. Wenceslaus Parish, on 14th and Scott since 1883, merged with another parish in 1999.

Urban spelunking: St. Wenceslaus time capsule

When I was about 10, my fourth grade class put together a time capsule and we buried it out in a grassy patch of schoolyard out in front of the building. Since then, I’ve always been a little fascinated by the idea of leaving things in the hope that someone in the future might find them and get a little insight into our lives.

There’s a drum at my kids' school that was nicely painted and filled with who knows what on the 100th anniversary of the building. I’m kinda dying to know what’s in there. And once, when visiting a church, I got to view the contents of a time capsule unearthed during repairs. In it, there were some pretty amazing photos of the church’s construction.

This is a roundabout way of saying that when my friend Mary Ziino contacted me to say she’d found a time capsule at Notre Dame Middle School, where she works – in the former St. Wenceslaus Church, 1420 W. Scott St. – I jumped at the chance to go take a look.

St. Wenceslaus was founded on 14th and Scott in 1883 as the second Bohemian (Czech) parish in the city. To do this, the members of a South Side Czech fraternal group asked Father Suchy of St. John de Nepomuc in Haymarket to help.

Suchy, realizing just how many members of his community now lived in the area, obliged and served as pastor of both parishes for three years, until he went to the South Side full-time, in 1886.

The 43 families in the parish built a combination church and two-room school was built, with a little bell tower at the top, and room for three nuns to live in the basement. A parsonage sat behind it.

Within a year, the parish had more than doubled, encompassing 116 families. With that kind of growth, expansion was inevitable and in 1914, the current building was erected.

In 1939, a new school – an interesting art deco building with gothic elements – was built and still stands. In 1957, a new entrance was added to the front of the church.

A 1961 fire required renovation of the school, which was …