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Raze order issued for 140-year-old Kewaunee church; owner seeks to save it

Local News

KEWAUNEE, Wis. (WFRV) — The old Immanuel Lutheran Church has stood at the corner of Dodge Street and Miller Street for almost 140 years.

For the past five of those years, Steve Sigrillo has owned the building.

He lives in the attached school house, which has been converted into a living space.

“It’s a package deal. It’s all one property,” Sigrillo explained.

The church was built by German immigrants in 1882.

According to a raze order issued by the City of Kewaunee, the church must come down by December 18th.

“The raze order came in December when the inspector walked through the interior,”Sigrillo said. “I guess he didn’t like what he saw.”

Mike Boris, a former member of the city’s plan committee and an advocate for the old building acknowledges that the raze order has been a long time coming.

“This has been an ongoing issue,” Boris said. “The primary problem we have right now, that Steve is facing is the financial ability to restore the roof of the church.”

Boris says the church would be a big loss for the city.

“Architecturally it’s a beautiful building,” he said, “and it has a lot of history with the city in it. It’s one of the oldest structures in the city.”

Sigrillo says finding someone who can repair a building that old hasn’t been easy.

“I’ve gone through about 50 contractors and about 80 some phone calls to try to get someone out here, it’s just too difficult to do,” he told Local 5.

Sigrillo says he’d like to transform the space into a gathering center of some sort, but time is running out.

“They haven’t seen enough progress on the building to warrant a bye on it,” he explained of the city’s decision.

If nothing changes by January 18th, the building will have to come down.

“We’re losing the character of the town,” Boris said, “so from a cultural perspective, it’s very important to try to maintain this building.”

Sigrillo has started an online petition to save the church.

You can view the petition by CLICKING HERE.

Kewaunee Mayor Jason Jelinek released a statement to Local 5 about the situation:

“Kewaunee has many historic buildings and places of interest and we value their appeal as part of the community’s charm. Years of discussion with the owner and multiple attempts to give them a window of opportunity to comply with the ordinance came with no results on the owner’s part. It is gravely unfortunate that the owner waited for the final hour to try and find help or a solution. It is the City’s responsibility to affirm Kewaunee is a safe and appealing place to live and we thank the multiple other property owners who have complied and made efforts to work together to keep our city looking great over the past few years.”

Mayor Jason Jelinek

The mayor added that, “the presiding judge gave the property owner an extension of time that produced no change in the situation.”

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