Architecture and Furnishings
The Gothic Revival church building was designed by Edward Townsend Mix, a noted Milwaukee architect, and constructed in 1868. In the 1980s, the blackened exterior of the cathedral buildings received a thorough cleaning, revealing the original “Cream City” brick coloring, a distinctive Milwaukee feature.
The exterior entrances once had Gothic-styled colonnades with archway tracery. The steeple cross, once one of the most graceful and distinctive in the city, standing atop a huge gold sphere and embellished with delicate iron filigree, was reduced in 1952 to its present appearance, and is strangely mounted out-of-line with the façade, slightly angled towards Lake Michigan.
The interior wooden ceiling is not original to the building. It was installed in 1897 and covers a buff-colored plaster ceiling. The wooden ceiling was cleaned and refinished to a lighter color in the early 1960s. In 1908 the entire original back wall was removed to enlarge the sanctuary by fourteen feet. The sanctuary was extended an additional eight feet into the chancel area in 1944. The distinctive brass communion rail was then replaced with the present dark oak, Gothic-style rail.
A great deal of woodwork has been removed from the building over the years. The “Ritualists” movement was particularly influential during the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the earlier Cambridge Camden Society’s ecclesiastical furnishings were removed to create a less English, more “Romish” interior.
Many of these alterations, most of them irreversible, are now considered unfortunate, but indicative of the “taste of the time.” The restoration of some lost architectural features is presently being considered.
An eight-by-four-foot “Guardian Angel” window, produced by the Tiffany Studios of New York, was installed in an opening on the second floor of the Guild Hall in 1891. At some point it was removed and placed in storage. The window is now on exhibit in the Guild Hall Dinning Room. Plans are underway to restore a damaged portion of the window.
The Tower and Steeple is approximately 210 feet tall. Six historic bells are housed in the belfrey. The "Bells of Remembrance and Hope" dedication and history. Although the cathedral itself has had some form of exterior lighting for a number of years, the present illumination of the Guild Hall, Cathedral Church, tower and steeple with sodium vapor flooding was accomplished in 1994.
The entire complex: Cathedral Church, Guild Hall, and Nicholson House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a Milwaukee City Landmark in 1973.
The great rood screen with its extensions separating the chapels from the nave, and the framing around the windows, was removed. The elegant walnut column capitals in the nave were shaved back or removed when the arcades were reshaped and simplified. The deep moldings of the doorways and the wainscotting below the windows were taken out in the 1950s, along with the decorative half-trusses at the end of the side aisles. Elaborate stencilling and guilding that once embellished the walls, window borders, and doors disappeared at an early date. The dark oak pews now a century old, replaced the first walnut pews in the fall of 1900.
Most of the STAINED GLASS WINDOWS in the cathedral were designed and produced in England. The side-aisle, and two narthex windows were made by Lavers and Westlake of London. The two large sanctuary windows, eight of the clerestory windows (four on each side extending from the chancel into the nave), plus the rondel window above the organ case, were made by Heaton, Butler, and Bayne, also of London. The eight remaining clerestory windows were produced domestically, the last being installed in 1946. Two eighteen-foot tall diamond light windows, flanking the organ case, and the four tracery arch windows in the second floor tower room, are all that remains of the building’s original glass. They date from 1868 and were created by the Charles Belcher Company of Newark, New Jersey.
A "Columbarium" is a place designated for the inurnment of the
ashes of the dead. Since the earliest days of the Christian Church, disciples
have been concerned with the reverent disposal of the remains of the faithful
departed. These were typically placed in cemeteries, crypts and columbaria
set apart and blessed for this purpose. The most treasured location has
been within the church grounds.
At All Saints' Cathedral the place chosen for this focus of reverence is the Narthex, or entryway of the Cathedral, ensuring proximity to the sacred space of the church and thus encourages an atmosphere of prayer and recollection around death.
Preparation for a reverent facing of death should not be regarded as morbid or inappropriate. In fact, such preparation is fully consistent with our understanding of the faith journey and is a sign of effective Christian stewardship.
The Cathedral Church of All Saints, Milwaukee, WI © 2012