Decision to close St. Mary’s Nursing Home hasn’t shut out fond memories

St. Mary’s Convent stood proud and mighty at the corner of 35th and Center Streets for almost 100 years. Its eastern-most section was built in 1900 using Milwaukee’s distinctive cream city brick, and it became a much-needed replacement for the crowded convent on 2nd Street.

St. Mary’s Convent sheltered novices, young sisters, aging sisters and elderly neighborhood residents. It served as a home for sisters, of course, but also as a prep school, outreach meal site for the homeless, retirement community for sisters and a nursing home. Over the years, St. Mary’s underwent five expansions and was well loved by all who walked its halls. Once our novices and elder sisters left the premises in the early 2000s, the entire building was turned over to St. Mary’s Nursing Home.  Before long, the age of the building began to challenge our religious community to stay current with ever-changing state regulations for nursing homes.  The financial pressures became more and more overwhelming as the patient census continued to drop. Hiring adequate staff also became more and more difficult. When we saw the situation as a potential threat to proper care for the residents who remained, it was clear we faced a difficult decision.  Hard as it was, our religious community leaders began the process of letting go of a treasured century-old apostolate and with it, a building that held many precious memories.

We assisted St. Mary’s Nursing Home residents in their moves to other facilities, and began the search for a buyer who would continue to be a caring presence in the neighborhood.  On April 25, 2002, the old building was sold to Faith Works, a non-profit, faith-based organization that helped fathers develop parenting skills after release from prison. After Faith Works eventually left Milwaukee, the building changed hands a number of times and was finally acquired by the City of Milwaukee.  Left standing empty, the building was subject to vandalism and became a hazard to the neighborhood it had so faithfully served for more than a century.  Failing to find any developers to take on the building, the city demolished St. Mary’s Convent in 2013.

In partnership with Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Office, the SDS Archives contributed content for a website to ensure safekeeping of St. Mary’s history, architecture, expansion, and ultimate demolition. To experience the cherished memories recorded in the brick and mortar of St. Mary’s from 1900-2013, click here:

Our 125 Year Celebration

As we look back on our 125th anniversary of coming to the USA, we invite you to reminisce with us. We've launched all 5 time lines with historical milestones and stories that bring to life the experiences of our sisters who came before us.

Era 1: 1895-1920
Responding to Immigrant Needs

The missionary response of hearty immigrant women religious characterizes the first 25 years of Salvatorian Sisters’ presence in the United States ...

Era 2: 1920-1950
Expanding in an “American” Church

By 1920, life for a Salvatorian Sister in the USA was radically different than it had been 25 years earlier. World War I ....

Era 3: 1950-1970
Embracing Renewal

Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic, The Times They Are A Changing, captures the high energy of this era.  Change was afoot both outside and inside the Salvatorian convent walls...

Era 4: 1970-2000
Building Collaboration

Events of the mid-1960s renewed the collaborative energy that had always characterized Salvatorian life. Cloistered living ...

Era 5: 2000-2020
Searching for New Footing in a Changing World

When the new millennium arrived on January 1, 2000, Salvatorian Sisters were already five years into our second century on USA soil.  Our ...