Consecrated on All Souls' Day in 1857 by John Martin Henni, Milwaukee's first Archbishop, Calvary Cemetery is the oldest major Milwaukee Archdiocesan Catholic cemetery. The cemetery consists of 130 acres of rolling land. Three buildings of historical and architectural significance grace the landscape: the 1897 gatehouse, a wooden structure in the Victorian Gothic style; the Cream City brick, Queen Anne Style maintenance building; and, our focus, the Romanesque style Calvary Chapel.
Designed by Erhard Brielmaier, the chapel was intended for services, prayer, private contemplation, and also, as a mausoleum for clergy. Built in 1899 on one of Milwaukee's highest elevations, the chapel stands as a powerful and majestic testament of Milwaukee's early Catholics to their faith in Christ's promise of Resurrection. In 1903, the coffin of Rev. Idziego Tarasiewicza was interred directly beneath the High Altar.
In 1981, Calvary Cemetery, including chapel, gatehouse and maintenance building, family mausoleums, intricate carved statuary, and graves of early clergy as well as both famous and common pioneers, was declared a Milwaukee Historical Landmark under the former Milwaukee Landmark Commission. Being merely an honorary gesture, later, on December 8, 1997, under Milwaukee's current Historical Preservation Ordinance, the cemetery received local historic designation and now has protection from inappropriate alterations and demolitions. Since 1899, Calvary Chapel has remained the treasured jewel and centerpiece of Landmark Calvary Cemetery.