Freewill Baptist Church

Also known as: Prospect Aid Meeting House, Muskego Meeting House
19750 W. National Ave., New Berlin, Wisconsin

Modest Greek Revival style frame church

Photos 

Overview Looking North

The church faces County Highway ES, the old Milwaukee-Mukwanago Road, which has an interesting history in itself. The road runs in a northeastly-southwestery direction and the church faces southeast.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2016

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Map 

Description 

"The Freewill Baptist Church is a striking example of the Greek Revival style. Although modest in size, containing a single room beyond the choir loft and entry hall, it displays an elegant finish and proportion, particularly in its finely detailed mouldings and the unusual sunburst design in its pediment. Built in 1859, the church has been a landmark building throughout its 138- year history, and was documented in 1936-37 by the Historic American Building Survey.

"The Freewill Baptist Church, also called the Prospect Aid Meeting House, and the Muskego Meeting House, in New Berlin, Wisconsin, is locally significant under Criterion C as a fine example of the Greek Revival style in a small church building, and under Criterion A, because throughout the period of significance it was the focal point of social life in the hamlet of Prospect Hill, one of the earliest settlements in New Berlin township. It is also significant to religious history for its association with Rufus Cheney, pioneering minister of the Freewill Baptist sect in the middle west, and as the only surviving site associated with this sect in the state. The New Berlin Freewill Baptist congregation was the first in Wisconsin, 'being founded July 11, 1840. 1 The period of significance of the building extends from its construction in 1858-59 to 1946, (50 years prior to this nomination) although its role as a focus of community activity has continued uninterrupted to the present. The building was listed in 1956 by the Waukesha Historical Society as an historic building. It was the first site designated a landmark by the New Berlin Landmarks Commission, in 1989. In 1985 the church was the victim of an arson fire, but has since been restored using HABS documentation originally prepared in 1936-37. The church is owned by the Prospect Hill Restoration Foundation, Inc."

Excerpted from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form prepared by Jane Eiseley, September 26, 1996.

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on June 22, 1998
Reference number
97001409
Architectural style
Mid 19th Century Revival: Exotic Revival
Areas of significance
Social History; Religion; Architecture
Level of significance
Local
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic functions
Religious structure; Meeting hall
Current function
Meeting hall
Periods of significance
1850-1874; 1875-1899; 1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant years
1859; 1925
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 2

Update Log 

  • May 20, 2016: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status, added description and added photos

Sources