East Troy parish works to keep 140-year-old church on solid ground
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The Rev. Larry Chapman, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in East Troy, said parishioners have raised about $30,000 toward an estimated $80,000 tuck-pointing project needed for church, which was built in 1872. Terry Mayer photo.
EAST TROY -- Long before they reach East Troy, drivers heading into the village from the south on Wisconsin Highway 120, or from the east on Wisconsin Highway 20, can spot St. Peter the Apostle’s steeple, topped by a metal cross that glints in the sun. The stone church on Beulah Avenue has been a presence here since it was built in 1872.
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The Catholic parish community of St. Peter, however, dates back to 1854 and an earlier wooden church (called St. Thaddeus), now gone, but once located a few blocks away on Division Street.
In 19th-century rural Wisconsin, circuit-riding priests made the rounds of churches on horseback to celebrate Mass and minister to members. Forty-four years before St. Peter got its first resident pastor in 1916, parishioners wanted a permanent structure that would hold a growing congregation, and built the stone church on donated farmland.
“There was this population explosion of immigrants at the time,” said the Rev. Larry Chapman, St. Peter’s pastor for the past 10 years. “Churches were being built and then 10 or 15 years later, being added on to. It was amazing, the amount of building going on. You wonder today, ‘How did they manage to do all that?’”
Chapman can pick out traces of the stone church’s evolution over the decades, from brick-lined fire pits in the basement where heat once came up from two large grates in the church floor, to a room-sized coal bin, to the compact boiler that was installed in January 2011.
For a building that’s 140 years old, St. Peter has remarkable staying power: original stained glass windows, a slate roof and an exterior of stones that were harvested by hand from nearby Potter’s Lake and hauled to the building site.
But a recent building inspection revealed cracks and gaps in the stones where mortar is deteriorating. Chapman and St. Peter’s building and grounds committee decided to hire contractors to tuck-point the church’s exterior.
“We were told the building is structurally sound, but if we wait much longer for the tuck-pointing, then there may be some questions on the structural integrity of the building,” Chapman said.
While the church steeple is in fairly good shape, thanks to a repair project about 12 years ago, some work also needs to be done to the church roof, including removing a chimney. Total costs for the entire project come to $80,000.