Compiled by Amy E. Taylor using resources provided from the St. Charles, Burlington, archives.
First church: The formal planning for the new parish began in 1908. In March 1909, the present site on Conkey Street was selected, with the greater portion purchased from Elias S. Voorhees and George W. Fiske at a reported price of $4,800.
The new church building, to be built of brick, was to face Conkey Street and, according to preliminary plans, was to be about 76 by 144 feet in size. The front part of the building was to be devoted to school purposes, with four classrooms, each 25 by 34 feet, two downstairs and two upstairs. The auditorium of the church was to be 50 by 90 feet and have a seating capacity of 600. A balcony would seat several hundred more.
The preliminary plans also called for the building to be 85 feet in height from the basement floor to the cross on the spire (later reported as 78 feet from grade to the top of the cross). There was also to be a large assembly hall in the basement.
The corner stone of St. Charles, which bears the inscription “A.D. 1910,” was laid with “impressive” ceremonies on the afternoon of Sunday, April 24, 1910. The ceremony of blessing the stone was conducted by Fr. Joseph Rainer, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and rector of Saint Francis Seminary.
Ceremonies began with the blessing of the place where the altar was to stand, and then proceeded to the blessing of the corner stone, with the “Litany of All Saints” chanted by the priests in attendance. After the choir had sung the “Veni Creator,” Burlington native, Fr. Anthony Weiler, preached the sermon. The corner stone was then put in place in the foundation and the walls of the new church were blessed.
On Sunday, Nov. 6, 1910, two days after the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo, the church and school were dedicated in ceremonies led by Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer of Milwaukee. It is estimated there were 1,200 people within the structure, but many more outside, unable to gain admittance.
Current church: In 1980, major renovation of the church and basement began. The project was finished in 1985, and the basement area christened “Andre Hall.” In 1993 central air conditioning was installed in the church and Andre Hall, and in 1999 a new elevator was put in to make both the church and Andre Hall more accessible to parishioners and guests.
First pastor: Fr. Philipp Dreis (1908-1927)
Current pastor: Fr. Steven J. Amann (2006)
School: As the other Burlington schools started their fall terms during the first full week of September 1910, the children who planned to attend St. Charles school enjoyed a longer vacation as the school rooms were not yet finished. Finally, on Sunday, Sept. 18, 1910, at 6:30 a.m., the first Mass at St. Charles was celebrated in one of the schoolrooms. The next morning, Mass was celebrated for the school children, and school, with an enrollment of 112, was opened. It was expected that the enrollment would increase when fall work was out of the way and the children could be spared from the farms. The pupils were divided into three rooms with Sisters of the Dominican Order of Racine in charge.
In 1955, construction began on a new eight-room school addition, which opened the following year. In 2002 the computer lab and library in the school were combined to become the Media Resource Center, and a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Activity Center commenced. The center was to hold a gymnasium, locker rooms, stage and kitchen. In 2006 the school created a new science laboratory with seating for 30 students.
Worth noting: Enclosed in the corner stone before it was sealed were copies of the two local newspapers, the Standard Democrat and the Free Press; the Milwaukee Sentinel; and two church papers, Excelsior and Columbia. Also enclosed, after Fr. Philipp Dreis, St. Charles’ pastor, had read it in three languages, Latin, English and German, was a commemorative document which said “In the year of our Lord, 1910, on the 24th day of April, this being the 4th Sunday after Easter, under the pontificate of Pope Pius X, when the Most Rev. S.G. Messmer was Archbishop of Milwaukee, and the Rev. Ph. Dreis rector of St. Charles’ congregation, Mr. William Taft being president of the United States of America, Mr. James Davidson, governor of Wisconsin, and H. E. Zimmermann mayor of the city of Burlington, and the Rt. Rev. Joseph Rainer, vicar general of Milwaukee, was blessed and placed onto the foundation the corner stone of St. Charles’ church in the presence of a large number of priests and people.”