The Milwaukee Sentinal: Guardian Angels

Museum idea may be blessing for old church

By Kathleen Ostrander – Sentinel correspondent, Dec-1994The Milwaukee Sentinal: Guardian Angels

Beloit – Angels brought an early Christmas present to a group of Beloit residents trying to save a historic Catholic church from demolition. St. Paul’s Church on Riverside Drive was built in 1914 and recognized in April as one of the city’s historic landmarks. The building is slated for demolition, but some residents have proposed using it to house a one-of-a-kind museum for an internationally recognized collection of angels and angel memorabilia owned by Joyce and Lowell Berg of Beloit.

The Beloit City Council Monday unanimously backed an initial feasibility study for the museum. “We were just absolutely thrilled,” Barbara Pellegrini, a member of the four-person citizen feasibility study team, said Tuesday. “We were surprised because we thought we wouldn’t hear anything for another 30 days — until the council’s next meeting. This truly was a wonderful Christmas present.”

The feasibility study was the first step in establishing the museum. A site study committee will be appointed to determine the exact cost of the museum, which has been estimated as $286,00. The committee also will look for funding sources, including grants, Pellegrini said. She said she already has received call from people wanting to volunteer their labor, which will cut the original cost estimates, as well as calls from people volunteering landscaping and marketing skills. “We are really excited about this.

I have to say, ever since the diocese closed the church, we’ve been hoping to find something to do with it,” said Patricia Casucci, another member of the feasibility study team. The diocese closed the church in 1988. St. Paul’s was established by the Catholic Diocese in 1913 to serve the needs of Italian-speaking immigrants in the city, but the historic building is in the middle of a planned park by Beloit 2000. Beloit 2000, a public-private development group, bought the church and wented it torn down to make was for Heritage Park on the river. Citizens circulated petitions and won a temporary reprieve. Theyh were asking to develop a profitable option for the building that would fit into the Beloit 2000 development plan.

The Bergs suggested the church would be the logical place to display their renowned angel collection and create the world’s first angel museum. The collection had been featured in national and international publication and contains 10,928 artifacts. Casucci and other study team members researched other museums, the potential tourist draw of the proposed angel museum, whether or not the museum fit into the Heritage Park theme and estimated costs. “I like history, and I like to save lovely old buildings.

I feel this museum idea will really boost tourism, and it is so near the downtown it would be logical people would be going there and it would boost business there,” Casucci said. Beloit City Manager Daniel T. Kelley said he thought the feasibility team put together a very comprehensive, professional study of the idea.