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Calvary Cemetery

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1857 consecrated; 1897–1899 gatehouse and chapel, Erhard Brielmaier. 5503 W. Bluemound Rd.
  • Gatehouse (Photograph by Paul J. Jakubovich, courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

A castle-like, wooden Gothic Revival gate-house marks the entrance to Milwaukee’s oldest remaining Roman Catholic cemetery. Stepped gables, crenellated parapets, and dentiled cornices give the building a sense of upright angularity. But a subtler curvilinear motif softens the building in the Palladian window and the gatehouse’s round-arched entranceway. Inside are seventy-five acres of parklike rolling hills and mature trees, planned according to the romantic ideals of nineteenth-century landscape design. Like nearby Forest Home Cemetery (MI79), it served as a popular picnic spot before the establishment of city parks in the 1890s. The stone monuments scattered throughout comprise one of the state’s best collections of nineteenth-century funerary art. Many of Milwaukee’s early civic leaders are buried here, their tombs often marked by handsome monuments, such as the pyramidal mausoleum for druggist Lawrence McMahon and his wife. Among the beautiful crypts and grave markers are a rustic wooden cross atop a pile of stones rendered in marble for ice-cream maker John Luick (1938), a granite obelisk marking the grave of brewer Frederick Miller (1888), and the simple granite marker honoring the tragic sinking of the Lady Elgin steamer (1860), which drowned hundreds of Irish and German members of ethnic Milwaukee militia units.

A brick Romanesque Revival chapel tops “Jesuit Hill,” a knoll rising a hundred feet above the surrounding terrain. Crypts beneath the chapel were reserved for important Roman Catholic clergy, although only one burial took place there. Instead, local Catholic clergy were interred on the hillsides around the chapel, giving Jesuit Hill its name. The chapel’s octagonal tower is the cemetery’s focal point. The gatehouse and chapel were designed by Brielmaier, whose firm designed more than eight hundred churches nationwide between 1880 and 1920, and who designed the Basilica of St. Josaphat (MI76).

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "Calvary Cemetery", [Milwaukee, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 114-114.

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