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First United Methodist Church

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1898, Henry F. Starbuck. 121 Wisconsin Ave.

Henry F. Starbuck’s church offers a forward-looking interpretation of Richardsonian Romanesque. The rock-faced masonry walls are borrowed from Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh and the plan from Trinity Church in Boston. The church’s simple geometries focus less on applied ornament than on the play of solids and voids. Starbuck’s subtlety is evident in the rectangular, corner bell tower rising four stories from its battered base to its pyramidal roof. While its individual elements recall Richardson’s courthouse tower, Starbuck stripped detail from the lower stage, widened the belfry openings, squared the turrets, and trimmed them with grids. The result is paradoxical: the tower expresses mass while also seeming light and transparent. On the church’s northwest corner is a boxier entrance tower. The cross-gabled nave with a wheel window spanning the space between the two towers is reminiscent of Trinity. But Starbuck added a circular sanctuary, lit from above by an octagonal belvedere with a dramatic stained glass arcade. He also bowed the side walls slightly and pierced them with square windows instead of arched lights.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "First United Methodist Church", [Waukesha, 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, 198-198.

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