Church & Building History
The site of The Angel Museum was first chartered by the Diocese of Milwaukee to St. Paul Catholic Church as a mission to serve Italian immigrants in Beloit, Wisconsin. It was one of the first Catholic Churches in Beloit.
The building, constructed of brown brick in simple Romanesque style, is typical of churches seen in small Italian villages in the 1900’s Remarkable are its peaked roof, Roman arch, bell tower with parapet and highly placed round stained-glass tower windows. Throughout its history, St. Paul’s remained a unique Roman Catholic parish. Under the terms of its charter, St. Paul’s was allowed to operate without parish boundaries. This enabled the parish to welcome new members regardless of where they lived; the parish reflected its immigrant identity and the principles of the American Dream.
St. Paul’s was the first church in Beloit to initiate the Ecumenical Movement. For 20 years, the parish welcomed those of other faiths to join in its dinners and programs.
When the Diocese of Madison closed the parish in 1988 after the death of its long-time pastor, the Reverend Joseph DeStefano, the parish was sold to Beloit College. Former members become organized as Father DeStefano’s Knights of St. Paul, and continued the tradition of its annual spaghetti dinner benefit for Beloit Catholic High School, the largest and longest running ethnic dinner in Southern Wisconsin.
In the mid-90’s, Beloit began a new renaissance and major redevelopment along the riverfront. As a result, many buildings were scheduled for demolition including the former church where the Angel Museum now exists.
At the urging of some former church parishioners, the demolition plans were changed by action of the Beloit Historic Preservation Commission. St. Paul on the RiverFront, a non-profit 501(c)(3), was established and parishioners were then charged with finding a proper usage for the building.
The renovation began using City funds, community fund-raising efforts and grants. With over 30,000 volunteer hours by many individuals and service organizations, the building was restored to its original appearance when it was built in 1914.
Unique features of the historical building include the original stained glass windows, interior beams, lanterns and grottoes. More Angel Museum renovation pics here.
Birth of The Angel Museum
During this same time, Joyce and Lowell Berg were looking for an appropriate home in which they could share their extensive collection of over 10,000 angels with the public.
The former parishioners of St. Paul Catholic Church and the Bergs began to explore the idea of an Angel Museum. After much research and planning, the building was saved for the purpose of an Angel Museum.
The New Angel Museum
This amazing angel collection began in 1976 when the Bergs were on vacation in Florida and came upon an angel they both fell in love with. The piece was an Italian sculpture made of bisque porcelain and the couple just had to have it. This was the start of an angel phenomenon for the Bergs and they began to go on actual angel hunts collecting angels that just spoke to them. The angels might have been exquisite or just hand-made, but they spoke to the Bergs and joined the Berg Family of angels.
The renovation began using City funds, community fund-raising efforts and grants. With over 30,000 volunteer hours by many individuals and service organizations, the building was restored to its original appearance when it was build in 1914.
St. Paul on the RiverFront, a non-profit 501(c)(3), was established to do business as The Angel Museum, opening May 1, 1998.
The building is owned by the City of Beloit and is now on the National Register for Historical Landmarks.