Thursday, July 2, 2009

CMH Convent Clean-Up

On the northwest corner of the CMH property is the building simply, and fondly, remembered as “the Convent.” Under the title “Sanger House” the convent is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1886, it was first a vacation home for Casper Sanger, a wealthy tannery owner and former Milwaukee County Sheriff. In 1898 the building passed to the use of Dr. Byron Caples, a psychologist, in for use as a respite home (sanitarium) for patients visiting the Bethesda Springs bathes.

In 1944, Sanger House and it grounds were purchased by St. Joe’s Parish as part of their plan to establish a high school. The first group of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, from Manitowoc, moved to Sanger House in 1949, and the addition of a chapel, a new kitchen, and more residence rooms was completed in 1960.

Today, sadly, the building sits empty, and its status as a registered historic site proves to make updates and restorations difficult. But CMH treasures this part of its history, and is working to keep the convent presentable, safe, and useful to the community.

This summer, our CMH maintenance staff is working to spruce up the exterior of the convent, especially on the Hartwell Avenue side. The clean-up project will make the building look more presentable, and will make it easier to keep the building secure and less subject to vandalism or break-ins.

Like any head of a non-profit, I pray for the day when some generous donor makes it possible to fully refurbish this building for multiple uses by the school. Or, what about bringing it all up-to-date, and then I could offer it as convent again to a new community of sisters who could serve CMH and the surrounding parishes. Well, whatever the possible uses…I will keep praying.

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