The congregation of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church first assembled in 1848. With the growing German immigrant population, the church experienced growth enough to support the building of one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic style architecture found in the United States.
Built of Milwaukee's famed cream bricks in 1889, the two spires can be seen from many points throughout the city. I have stopped by on several occasions to take photos of the exterior, but never finding the building unlocked to visitors. With the DO Milwaukee event, however, folks were encouraged to come take a look at this treasure of our city's German heritage.
When I entered through the expansive entrance, the ornate beauty was striking. The intricate alter, striking blue ceiling above and stained glass windows were breathtaking. I had to stop and just soak it all in, before venturing any further. While I definitely wanted to take some photos inside, which were not only allowed, but encouraged, my first inclination was to just enjoy the beauty that surrounded me.
The church was built in a theater style, with seating not only on the ground level, but also the U-shaped balcony that also housed the huge pipe organ and choir loft. Throughout the church, more than 800 lightbulbs are used to illuminate the vaulted interior, a lighting technique most often used in theater marquees and amusement parks. The lighting system was installed in 1909. The fuse box was pretty remarkable in its own right.
As I walked about the church taking photos, I could not help but to be impressed that the stained glass windows were almost all 100% undamaged. I only saw one that had apparently had a rock or something thrown into it. Other than that, however, the windows were in immaculate condition.
The hand carved wood railings and paneling in the two staircases to the balcony are also worth exploring. As I was walking up, a gentleman heading back downstairs encouraged me to go further on up the bell tower to ring the bells. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to head up the next flight of stairs, there wasn't anyone around to escort me up there.
I was so very thankful to Historic Milwaukee, Inc. and their organizing of the Doors Open Milwaukee event. I have wanted to see the inside of this church for more than a year and since the current state of their congregation is in disarray, it was good to have this opportunity.