Chapel at the St. Joseph Orphan Home, Superior, WI

Thanks to commenter Steve for posting this.
Since I was at the Wisconsin History.org site I remembered some postcards that show the interior of the Chapel at the St. Joseph Orphan Home in Superior.
These will BLOW YOUR MIND when you see what people once built in a small chapel in an orphanage.
They might also bring tears to the eyes when you see what Catholics used to design for their churches and how far away from that ideal we have fallen.
Check out the pictures below.  Let's find out what happened to this priceless heirloom of the Badger Catholics. 


From Architectural Antiques LLC
Architectural Antiques conducted this salvage of the Chapel of the Angels which was hidden on the top floor of St Joseph’s Children’s Home in Superior, Wisconsin

Quick Facts from one of our favorite Salvages to date.

Designed by Cleveland architect, Emile M. Ulrich, the orphanage was completed in 1917. The chapel, a gift from the Bishop of the Diocese of Superior, was not completed until 1919.

The children's home operated until 1963 when foster home programs eliminated the need for such a facility.

After that, it was used for other social programs (refugees, day care and handicapped center) up until 1984.

Changing needs and the inability to find new uses for a building are the first steps toward its demise.

St. Joseph's stood empty for over a decade when a decision was made to gut the building for remodeling.

While the rest of the building was not as significant and had been substantially changed over the years, the complete destruction of the virtually unchanged, two-story chapel would have been a great loss.

While the orphanage itself was Neoclassical in style, the exception was this chapel, truly this was a chapel of and for the Angels.

Baroque-rococo design & Style.

Artisans from Italy and Czechoslovakia crafted many of the stained glass windows. Italian marble, ornate plaster work, gilding, carved oak pews (undersized for children), and statuary made up much of the chapel's interior.

Salvage efforts by Architectural Antiques successfully removed a majority of all items that could be reused.

The firm attempted as complete a salvage as possible, spending numerous man-hours on scaffolding painstakingly removing the ornamental plaster work, much of it covered in gold leaf, from the walls and ceiling.

Much of the plaster work, light fixtures, paintings & bishop chairs featured cherubs & angels, a consistent theme throughout the chapel.

Those pieces as well as marble alters, stained glass and the oak pews were all saved and have been integrated into other homes or offices.
Unfortunately Architectural Antiques LLC did not take more pictures.  There are only a few and none of the chapel in total.

A church in Spokane, Washington states it has obtained many of the furnishings.  I'm glad they found a good home.
Many of the present furnishings were obtained from St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Superior, Wisconsin.
The Sisters of St. Joseph ran the orphanage until its closure.

Photos courtesy of WisconsinHistory.org

Why can't we build churches like this any more (and why are we gutting the ones we have)?

19 comments:

  1. I guess there were multiple salvage contracts. I removed the 11-foot diameter ceiling medallions and much of the ornate plaster work from the chapel, as well as all of the altar tile, cast iron newel posts, built-in cabinets from the rectory, doors, hardware and many light fixtures.

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  2. Thank you for the information John! I know it's been a while but do you know who else we could try to contact to get more photos of what it looked like prior to the salvage? It's hard to believe that this was an American church, a remarkable structure.

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  3. I'll do a bit of footwork and see if I can hustle up any older photos.

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  4. Thank you for these beautiful photos. My father lived at the orphanage from about 1919 to 1924. His recollections of the chapel were filled with affection and a sense of tranquility.

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  5. All I can say is "wow". I haven't seen anything nearly as beautiful in a Catholic Church in a long time. I pray for the day when people wake up and say "What do we need to do to make our local parish church beautiful rather than adequate and utilitarian?".

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  6. I have just posted some beautiful color pictures of the chapel on the Facebook Page "You know you're from Superior, WI when..." I did not take these pictures. I don't even recall how I came to have them but if you are looking for some pictures of the chapel these are stunnning.

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  7. THANK YOU ANON! I am posting them this week.

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  8. Hi;
    Is it possible for you to end me the color pictures refered to by Anonymous?
    Thank you very much.
    jes
    jeschmidt_ch(at)hotmail.com

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  9. I was in the orphanage between ages 5 and 7. I don't remember much about the experience with the exception of Sister Mathew and THE CHAPEL.
    WHAT A SHAME THAT IT WAS NOT SAVED!
    Anthony (Tony) Miller

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  10. I remember you Tony.. and your brother Bill. I was at St Joe's from June 1949 until July 1959.

    Steve Rutkowski

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  11. And the whole chapel was scaled to child size - even the pews! So beautiful.

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  12. Beautiful it was, and I regret so very much that a better more detailed photographic record was not made. I lived there for about 9 years. and I recall the place with true friendship and consideration. Thank you, Sisters Mary Mathew and Sister Gabriel, as well as the bus driver and the bells and the relic of St Stephen in the alter. The place lives in me to this day...

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  13. MY MOTHER LIVED HERE FROM 1949-59.
    I HAVE PICTURES.

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    Replies
    1. If you would like to share them, please email me at matt@badgercatholic.com

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    2. I would love to see those pictures. I was there the same years as your mother.
      Steve Rutkowski
      Pahoo@q.com

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  14. I have a crazy connection to this building. My brother attended the handicapped school in the late 70's early 80's. Fastforward to 1995, my family had moved to SW Florida (in 1985), I met my husband to be and upon traveling to Sterling Heights, Michigan to meet his parents, his mom starts telling me her connection to my home town or superior. apparently her grandmother was a widow with children and was able to work at the orphanage in the earlier 1900's. One of the sons became a priest. Fr John. Wittner was the family name I believe. I have the exact dates and some photos. I would love to find some relic of piece of St John to have in our home in FloridA, to remember and appreciate this connection.

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  15. Any ideas as to who the man inside the main alter is? what saint it is?

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  16. I'm shocked at the praise everyone is giving to this place. The nuns abused my mother, her three sister and numerous other children for decades!! Not to mention that pedophile priest Irving Klister worked here as well.. unfortunately, long before he was ever arrested for child poem and rape!!!

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  17. Let me correct myself, I meant PORN!

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