St. Leo’s Catholic Church by Nancy Watts

The first St. Leo’s Catholic Church was built in 1887-1888 on Miller Street. When the Milwaukee Railroad decided to build a depot on Dawes Street (where the Yogo Inn is now) they wanted to close Janeaux Street. Since this would block access to the Catholic Church, Father van den Broeck protested and he reached an agreement that the railroad would pay the church $15,000 for the property. Some of the conditions of the agreement were: “the Catholic congregation would continue to use the church building free of charge” until a new building could be built, “that the building would remain the property of the church,” and “that before the closing of Janeaux Street, Miller Street would be made passable for easy access to Main Street.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” Feb.25, 1913).

Later in 1913, using the money from the sale of the former Church,  the plans for the second Catholic Church were started:  “Father V. J. van den Broeck last week closed up the deal for the purchase of a site for the new Catholic Church on Brooks island [Spring Creek had created an island which was owned by Brooks at the end of Washington St.]. The consideration was $15,000 but of this sum John Brooks, the owner, made a contribution of $10,000. From the Chamber of Commerce Railway Committee Father van den Broeck received the first payment of $5000 on the purchase price of the present church property. Plans for the new church are out having been drawn up by Link and Haire, and work will be started on the structure during the present year.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” April 15, 1913).

“Final plans for this church were completed last week the structure will stand on the Brooks island site with the tower at the corner of Broadway and 2nd Ave. It will be built of brick, terra cotta and stone and will cost about $60,000 although the work of beautifying the interior will continue for many years.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” Dec 16, 1913).

“J. L. McKeen and G. L. Friedlein have brought suit against John Brooks to recover $1,547, the action arising over a contract in connection with the lease on Brooks island held by the plaintiffs. The ground was leased in 1912 for 3 years and a ballpark was created there by the plaintiffs who claimed that a contract was entered into under which Mr. Brooks might terminate the lease upon sale of the property, but was to reimburse the plaintiffs for the cost of the improvements made by them. The ground was sold to Bishop Lenihan, a sole corporation for the Catholic Church and written notice was served on the plaintiffs to vacate. They now ask for judgment for the improvements made by them. (“Fergus County Democrat,” May 5, 1914)

“Stanton and Smith poured the entire concrete floor in one day and such rapid progress has been made that the work is going along at schedule time… is expected that the structure will be under roof by December 20. (“Fergus County Democrat,” September 16, 1915).

“Excellent progress is being made on the brickwork… Local brick, the dark vitrified variety, is used in the building… No bricklaying lime is used, cement being the material… The roof is of steel construction… The interior walls are also a brick and no wood construction is used except for the windows doors and a portion of the roof… Work is proceeding nicely on the tower, which will be near the corner of Broadway and Second Ave and which will be 98 feet from the street grade to the top of the cross. The ceiling in the main room of the church will be 40 feet high. From the inside entrance to the altar railing the distance is 76 ½ feet. The width at the transepts is 63 feet and the main building is 43 feet wide. The pew seating capacity is 440 but this is increased to 600 if the transepts are used…The brick work will be finished by December 10, if storms do not interfere. The building will be under roof by December 20 and will be ready for occupants by March 20 [1916] according to the original plans. (“Fergus County Democrat,” November 25, 1915).

“Contractor Frank L. Pierce Friday completed the removal of the big bell from the old Catholic Church building to the new one. The Bell weighs 1800 pounds and is exceedingly well toned. It was quite a task to place it in the tower… the big galvanized crosses that are to be placed on the three towers [will be made locally by] J.B. Hevelin. Later on the entire pieces will be gold leafed at a large cost, the work being likewise done locally.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” Feb 24, 1916).

“The lofty tower of the new Catholic Church will soon be completed as the roof is now being placed thereon and the finishing touches are being applied on the exterior. The workmen are up in the air about 100 feet in doing some of the outside finishing on this high tower…” (“Fergus County Democrat,” April 6, 1916).

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