Historic Milwaukee basilica begins emergency phase of restoration project

Posted at 5:15 PM, Aug 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-22 18:42:00-04

MILWAUKEE -- One of Milwaukee's historic landmarks is beginning an emergency restoration that’s part of a multi-million dollar project. The Basilica of St. Josaphat is in need of $7.5 million worth of improvements.

As the first replacement stone took to the air Monday morning and was placed onto a Milwaukee masterpiece, it marked the beginning of a facelift to cracked and crumbling sandstone that has turned into an emergency for the Basilica. The Catholic church is more than a hundred years old.

"The engineer told us that they had deteriorated so much that they couldn't be preserved anymore," said Basilica Foundation President Susan Rabe. 

The breathtaking architecture on the outside preserves one-of-a-kind artwork on the inside that’s now in danger of being damaged.

"That's one thing we're trying to avoid," said Rabe.

If this $300,000 emergency phase of the restoration process didn't come this year; pristine gold leafing, stained glass and paintings inside the church would be at risk for water damage.

Bobby Hughes visited the church all the way from Texas on Monday. He calls the preventative updates a "no-brainer."

But this emergency phase is less than one percent of what leaders hope to restore to keep the educational and cultural landmark around for another century. The problem is the project is only about 16 percent funded.

"People should pony up for that, whatever denomination or religious persuasion they might be," said Hughes.

The Basilica Foundation’s current goal is to raise a total of $7.5 million for all of the exterior restorations. If that goal is met, leaders hope to have this project completed in a couple of years.