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African American Churches

1983 photograph of the Lovell Johnson Quality of Life Center on W. Atkinson Avenue, operated by the St. Mark A.M.E. Church. It offers a wide variety of social services to the community.
  In Milwaukee, there is a heavy concentration of African American churches in the northwest corner of the central city, in an area roughly bounded by Locust and Brown streets on the north and south, and 7th and 29th streets on the east and west. The creation of this religious landscape is indelibly linked to…
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African Methodist Episcopalians

Photograph of a young Ezekiel Gillespie, prominent activist and founder of the AME church in Milwaukee.
Founded in 1869, St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church is the oldest historically black congregation in Milwaukee. Originally named the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Milwaukee, St. Mark remained the largest African American congregation in the region for decades. Church members played significant roles in the Civil Rights movement and leadership of Milwaukee’s…
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Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

Photograph featuring the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Milwaukee. Completed in 1961, the church was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Greek immigrants began arriving in Milwaukee in significant numbers in the early 1900s. Other ethnicities were larger in number, but the Greeks quickly made their mark on the city forming businesses such as confectioneries, restaurants, and taverns. Some worked in tanneries and breweries; others built railroads and bridges. These Greeks brought with them the faith…
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Bahá’ís

The Baha'i House of Worship located in a suburb outside Chicago is the only Baha'i temple in the United States. Wisconsinites donated to the temple's construction, which took over forty years to complete.
In 1894, Ibrahim Kheiralla, one of the first Bahá’ís in the United States, arrived in Chicago. This Lebanese-born entrepreneur, aided by new converts to the Faith, worked to spread this independent, monotheistic religion. Within five years Bahá’í communities had spread to Southeastern Wisconsin. The Kenosha Bahá’í community, founded in 1898, is the second oldest in…
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Baptists

Baptists were among the earliest faith communities in Milwaukee, holding their first meeting in 1836. As fervent believers in congregational self-determination, Milwaukee’s Baptists have become a diverse and multi-confessional group. In 2010, over 45,000 Baptists worshipped in the greater Milwaukee area as part of at least thirteen denominational bodies. The organizations with the largest number…
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Basilica of Saint Josaphat

Photograph of the Basilica of St. Josaphat over the lagoon in Kosciuszko Park.
St. Josaphat Basilica Roman Catholic parish church is located on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and 6th Street on Milwaukee’s historically Polish south side. The parish was founded in 1888, the fifth in its burgeoning Polish immigrant community. After the first church burned down and a second was too small for a parish of 12,000…
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Beth El Ner Tamid Synagogue

In 1923 Beth El Ner Tamid Synagogue, then known as Congregation Beth El, became the first Conservative Jewish congregation to hold services in Milwaukee. As the only congregation on Milwaukee’s West Side, the first synagogue was built at North 49th Street and Garfield Avenue. (The building still stands today.) By the 1940s, it became evident…
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Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church

Prior to its razing in 1967, the Blessed Virgin of Pompeii was an institution central to Milwaukee's Italian community and a popular landmark because of its colorful exterior.
In the aftermath of Milwaukee’s most devastating fire in history in late October 1892, significant portions of the Third Ward’s Irish population migrated west toward the Tory Hill and MERRILL PARK neighborhoods. Replacing this first wave of immigrants was a second contingent, generally from Italy and more particularly from Sicily. Their numbers grew steadily, from…
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Buddhists

The formal introduction of Buddhism to America occurred at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, when a Japanese Zen monk named Soyen Shaku (1860-1919) came as an envoy. Ninety years later and ninety miles north of Chicago, the formal practice of Buddhism began in Milwaukee under the guidance of Japanese Soto Zen monks at the…
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Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

Photograph of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist as seen from across Cathedral Square Park.
This historic church, often used as an emblem of the city of Milwaukee, is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The cathedral was the work of the first bishop of Milwaukee, Swiss-born John Martin Henni, who served as head of the local Catholic Church from 1843-1881. When Henni arrived in Milwaukee in…
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Christian Scientists

An interior photograph of the former First Church of Christ, Scientist located on Prospect Avenue. Built in 1907, the building is now used as a venue for weddings and other events.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder and discoverer of Christian Science, published her landmark book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in 1875. Four years later, Eddy founded the Mother Church in Boston, and within five years, Christian Scientists began practicing their Christian healing faith in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Christian Science community is one…
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Church of the Gesu

1991 photograph featuring the north facade of Gesu Church. Dedicated in 1894, its two towers are a unique feature to this landmark building.
In 1894, along Milwaukee’s most elegant of boulevards (Grand Avenue, now Wisconsin Avenue), arose an imposing, twin-towered Gothic church whose façade was reminiscent of the cathedral at Chartres. The Church of the Gesu was designed by H.C. Koch who also served as architect for Milwaukee’s city hall, then still under construction. It named after the…
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Congregationalists

Photograph of the Grand Avenue Congregational Church. After serving the Congregationalist community for 150 years, the church closed in 1997 and is now the headquarters of Milwaukee Irish Cultural Center.
Descended from New England Puritanism, Congregationalism arrived in Wisconsin in 1830 with a mission to the Stockbridge Indians. Congregational ministers soon multiplied, aided by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS). Although Wisconsin’s early Congregationalists cooperated with their better-funded Presbyterian counterparts, local Congregational churches quickly asserted their…
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Eastern Orthodox Christians

Photograph featuring the front entrance to Sts Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church located in Waukesha.
Eastern Orthodox Christians from Eastern and Southern Europe endured centuries of wars in an attempt to gain freedom from powerful, conquering countries. In these regions there was a great deal of political oppression that led to unstable governments. The outcomes of these wars not only changed national boundaries, but changed the nationality of citizens. There…
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Elmbrook Church

With over 3,200 members and more than 5,500 people attending any one of four weekend services, non-denominational Elmbrook Church in suburban Brookfield is the largest unaffiliated religious congregation in the state of Wisconsin. What began in 1956 with five families gathering for prayer in hopes of starting “a gospel-preaching church,” initially operated as the First…
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Episcopalians

Originally a city mission, the Episcopal Social Center opened in 1945 on 27th Street and evolved into the non-profit agency Neighborhood House.
The Episcopal Church traces its establishment in Wisconsin to the early 1820s, when the Oneida Indians of New York were relocated to a reservation at Duck Creek, Wisconsin—very near Green Bay. Accompanying the Indians was Eleazer Williams, who in 1826 was ordained a deacon in the church and who ministered to the Duck Creek community.…
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Hindus

Over 6,000 Hindus worshipped in the greater Milwaukee area in 2010. Thanks to increased immigration from India in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Milwaukee’s Hindu community has rapidly expanded. While the Milwaukee Hindu community includes congregations of converts, the majority of the region’s Hindus are first or second generation immigrants from India. For…
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Holy Hill

Aerial view of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill, a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill, more commonly referred to as Holy Hill, is a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church and is located in southwestern Washington County. Holy Hill is perched in the Kettle Moraine at one of the highest points in southeastern Wisconsin, an…
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Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee

Approximately a dozen leaders of major faith traditions in the metro Milwaukee area founded the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee in 1970. This religious diversity—Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Quaker, and Unitarian-Universalist—was unusual at a time when most ecumenical efforts were Protestant-only in their composition. Initially called the Greater Milwaukee Conference on Religion and Race, and…
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Jacques Marquette

Photograph of the Jacques Marquette statue in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) was a Jesuit missionary best known for exploring the upper Mississippi River with Louis Jolliet. Born in Laon, France, Marquette became a member of the Society of Jesus at the age of seventeen. He was assigned to the missionary outpost of Quebec in 1666. Having envisioned being a missionary since boyhood, Marquette…
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