The Basilica stands alone. The year was 1896. Polish immigrants were pouring into the Southside of Milwaukee. Parishioners numbered more than 12,000. Rev. Wilhelm Grutza had a vision – build a grand church, one the community would be proud of, would honor the Polish heritage and be a destination by people from around the world.
The original plans of architect Erhard Brielmaier was a building made of brick and terra cotta trim. But that was not to be. Rev. Grutza learned the U.S. Post Office and Custom House located in Chicago was slated for demolition. To save the poor parishioners $30,000 of material costs, the entire building — carved stone, wooden doors, ornamental bronze railings, light fixtures, door knobs and more — were purchased. It was dismantled and loaded on 500 railcars. The granite pillars were salvaged from the courthouse.
Visitors to the Basilica will experience inspiration beyond their imaginations. A chance to step back to a time and learn how the energy and passion of our founding brothers and sisters erected an “ignored wonder of the world.” Docents will tell the captivating story of faith, sacrifice and triumph that is the Basilica’s history.