Originally a monastery?

One of our friends sent a note to me in recent weeks about a home that is for sale on Fremont Street and in the description advertising it there was mention that the home was originally a monastery.

Our good friend, Ken Riedl, a Watertown historian and key member of the Watertown Historical Society and the Dodge and Jefferson County Genealogical Society, contacted me to see if I had any knowledge. Ken did a little research, but didn’t find anything.

We’re wondering if any of our readers know anything about the possibility of this home, located at 103 Fremont St. had at one time been a “monastery.”

The home is just across the street from the campus of Maranatha University and is the second house from Main and Fremont streets.

One thought that immediately came to the forefront of our discussion was whether the home was originally part of the college campus back when it was known as a Catholic college.

Back in those days, dating back to the 1870s, Sacred Heart occupied the property and it was entirely possible some members of the faculty lived in the building in question on Fremont Street, but we have no documentation to prove that.

Many of Watertown’s oldtimers will remember the era when Sacred Heart owned the facility. It was operated by Catholic religious orders until the late 1960s when it was closed and put up for sale. In 1968, it was acquired by Maranatha Baptist Bible College and remodeled and renovated into the college. Over the years, Maranatha has added a number of educational facilities as well as student housing, athletic fields and much more.

Today Maranatha is an integral part of Watertown and a major contributor to its economy. It has a modern and extensive campus in the heart of our community.

Sacred Heart has a rich history in Watertown and we’ll touch on some of it here.

The current university property was originally owned by Patrick Rogan, an early Watertown settler and community leader.

Rogan then sold the property to Col. Henry Bertram and he, in turn, sold the 65-acre site to the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame back in 1871. The 65-acre parcel included a large two-story home of white brick and several smaller buildings.

It only took one year before that home became the original school. It opened on Sept. 9, 1872, as the University of Our Lady of the Sacred Cross. Enrollment that first year was 27 students and the first president of the school was the Rev. William Corby, C.S.C, who was also one of the original founders of this educational endeavor.

Corby was a familiar name in Watertown history in that at the same time he was also pastor of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, just a few blocks east of the campus at West Main and Church streets. It was at that same time that St. Bernard’s landmark church was being constructed.

The school was an immediate success and by the end of the first semester in 1872 the enrollment had increased to 66 students.

Within a year, a large addition to the main building on the school campus was authorized and construction got underway.

The addition was 100 by 50 feet and two stories in height. The cost was about $7,000, but remember, this was nearly 150 years ago. It was designed so that further additions could be added as the school enrollment increased.

The cornerstone for this addition was laid on June 16, 1873.

The next big step in Sacred Heart’s long history came on May 25, 1874, when the university was chartered by the state of Wisconsin. This made the college a fully recognized institution with the privilege of conferring degrees in science, arts and commerce, according to historical society records.

We’ll continue with more information on the early years of the Sacred Heart campus another time, but in the meantime, if any of our readers recall anything about the monastery use for the home at 103 Fremont St., they can pass the information along to me at tomschultznews@gmail.com.

It will be interesting to see if an oldtimer might be able to shed a little light on that topic.

Football takes center stage

This has been a fairytale year for the Green Bay Packers. They were originally written off by lots of people before the season even started, and although some of their games were a bit shaky, here they with a 13-3 record and facing Seattle Sunday in Green Bay.

Most all the TV sets in Wisconsin will be watching that game which has a 5:40 p.m. kickoff.

Who knows how the game will come out, but don’t count the Green and Gold out!


Recommended for you

Load comments