I was especially disheartened by the news of the terrible fire that ravaged Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Church in downtown Milwaukee recently. While walking back to my car after participating in the March for our Lives event on March 24, I passed the church and its beauty and deeply aging majesty captivated me. The cream city brick is especially evident as an ornamental offset to the darker brick, lending the structure a distinctly Milwaukee character.
Trinity’s current location, known as Terrace Garden, was constructed in 1878, and designed by Fredrick Velguth in Victorian Gothic style. All interior woodwork was hand carved from Wisconsin Oak and Ash. The pulpit, also in wood, “is a creation of Gothic art.” One fears the fate of these virtually irreplaceable wood aspects (see last photo below of the interior).
When I took the group of photos below, I was heartened to see renovations ongoing for the sanctuary, as well as other apparent improvements. So I empathize with actual congregation members when the news broke recently. I see no symbolism in the accident. I only hope and pray this congregation is not compromising the moral and humane ideals of Jesus Christ, like all to many nominally Christian evangelical churches and leaders in the current climate of purely transactional, divisive, anti-immigrant politics that President Trump has fostered. Trinity is self-described as a “conservative, caring” congregation. It’s important to note that immigrants from Pomerania, Germany founded the church in 1847.
The neighboring community has responded accordingly. Church officials are looking for a more permanent temporary location but this Sunday, May 20, the faithful “will worship together at 10:00AM on the campus of the Milwaukee Area Technical College in the C Auditorium.”
Several friends have asked me what the source of the fire was. Initial reports said that heating equipment near the construction areas triggered the blaze, but the cause is still under investigation. The TMJ4 report linked here includes the troubling news that the contractors did not have the proper permit for the roof construction underway when I walked by. Their online report includes video of the consuming fire:
I hope my photos provided some lasting memory of the 140-year-old beauty of the church shortly before the fire. It’s worthy of rebuilding and preservation.
Interiors of Trinity Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Photos courtesy milwaukeetrinity. org. All photos of church exterior by Kevin Lynch