Br. Adrian (Anthony) Wewer, O. F. M. (1836-1914), Carpenter-Architect
Brother Adrian Wewer was born Antonius Wewer, April 14, 1836, to Maurice Wewer and Catherine nee Rolf in Harsewinkel, diocese of Muenster, Germany. He received the name of Anthony in baptism. Wewer received the habit of a tertiary brother in Holy Cross Province on December 3, 1858, and entered the noviate of the First Order on July 14, 1860. He made his simple profession on July 16, 1861. Wewer emigrated to the United States in 1862, and pronounced his solemn vows on July 17, 1864 at Teutopolis, Illinois.
A skilled carpenter by trade, Wewer soon was employed as an architect of churches, friaries, and other religious buildings. He planned and superintended the construction of churches, schools and friaries in Chillicothe, Quincy, Chicago (St. Augustine’s), Indianapolis, Teutopolis, and in Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin. His reputation quickly grew, and soon he was sought after to design churches and monasteries not only for the Franciscans, but for the Benedictines and the Jesuits as well. His first project was the design of the altar and other furnishings for St. Francis Church in Quincy, Illinois, 1864. He began his first church design that year as well, for St. Patrick’s in Trowbridge, Illinois.
Following a substantial career in the Midwest and Great Plains states, Wewer went to San Francisco in 1906 to restore the church, friary, and school he had previously built there. After a short sojourn again in the Midwest, he returned to Sacramento to superintend the church he designed there, St Francis Church. The final years of his career were spent in the west wherever he was needed, from Phoenix to Hood River, Oregon, building churches as well in Los Angeles and Oakland. Wewer died in San Francisco on March 15, 1914.
“Among the architects and carpenters who helped to build befitting temples of God, schools, etc., [in Nebraska, the] Ven. Brothers Adrian Wewer, Damian Bueschgens, Ildephonse Lethert and Leonard Darscheidt deserve special mention.”[4:571] Harmon documents that by 1900, Wewer had designed and superintended more than one hundred churches, including nearly all of the buildings for the Sacred Heart Province. Wewer must now surely be considered a major national figure in the religious architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Buildings & Projects in Nebraska
St. Francis of Assissi Catholic Church I (1882-1883), Humphrey, Nebraska.[4:444-446]
First addition to St. Bonaventure Catholic Church II (1891), Columbus, Nebraska.[i]
St. Mary’s of the Angels Catholic Church II (1892-1893), Grand Prairie Township, Platte County, Nebraska.[4:311] (PT00-012)
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church II (1893-1894), southwest corner Elm & 5th, Humphrey, Nebraska.[4:449][a] (PT05-001)
Holy Family Catholic Church I (1894-1895), Lindsay, Nebraska.[4:508]
Immaculate Conception Church-School-Convent (1896-1897) , 2708 S 24th St, Omaha, Nebraska.[4:548-549]
Sacred Heart Church (1907-1908), Cornlea, Platte County, Nebraska.
Selected Other Principal Works
St. Francis Solanus Catholic Church (1885-1886), Quincy, Illinois.
St. Augustine’s Catholic Church (n. d.), Chicago, Illinois.
Franciscan College (n. d.), St. Bonaventure, New York.
Benedictine Immaculate Conception Abbey Basilica and Monastery (1889-1891), Conception, Missouri.
St. Anthony Church (n. d.), Evansville, Indiana.
St. Boniface Church (ca. 1902; rebuilt 1910), Jones & Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, California.
Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church (1907), Benedictine Monastery, St. Meinrad, Indiana.
St. Francis Church (n. d.), San Francisco.
a. Brother Ildephonse Lethert, O. F. M., directed the construction of the church.[4:449]
b. In addition to designing the structure, Wewer, along with Br. Damian Bueschgens, Mr. Engelbert Lethert (later Bro. Ildephonse, O. F. M.), and the Fathers assisted in building the friary.[4:226-227] Harmon has the friary here complete in 1877. Casper’s history states that Wewer arrived “to take charge of construction of the new monastery,” but that Bishop O’Connor blessed the “new friary, school, and church” in 1878, suggesting that the building was multi-functional, like others designed by Wewer.[5:217]
c. Harmon has documented that this construction episode was for a combination school and convent.
d. Harmon has documented this attribution through Brother Adrian’s papers. Other sources attribute the building to Bro. Adrian’s colleague, Bro. Leonard Darscheidt; cf. the listing on Darscheidt’s page. The timing is approximately the same as the St. Joseph Church in Los Angeles, which is documented as the work of both Brothers Adrian and Leonard.
e. Wewer had the plans ready in 1877, but construction did not occur until 1882-84.
f. Construction supervision was provided by Br. Damian Bueschgens.[4:275]
g. Brothers Darscheidt and Damian Bueschgens assisted in the construction, cutting frames for the brick arches. The church was finished in 1913-1915 to plans prepared by Brother Darscheidt.
i. The attribution to Wewer here is provisional, based upon the period of design, Wewer's documented hand in most of the design on site, and the design of this particular work. Hagedorn does not mention Wewer's involvement, stating only that Br. Ildephonse Lethert assisted or superintended the construction.[4:235-236] Note that this church was extended once again in 1909-1910, including the construction of the steeple; that work appears to have been Charles Wurdeman's, a Columbus architect known to have superintended much of Wewer's work.[4:239]
j. The editor (DM) registers provisional attribution to Wewer for this project, based upon the period of construction, Wewer's history of involvement in the region, and upon the design of this particular building.
k. The attribution for this building very provisional. It had been entered into the file without any citation. Wewer was present in the community at about the time this building was planned, but it is not characteristic of his work. Hagedorn, in The Franciscans in Nebraska, [4:447], states only that Frank Brockhaus was awarded the contract for carpentry work; the building was frame with brick veneer.
l. This is the west addition to the old St. Bonaventure School, built in 1877-1878. Again, the work, sans any citation to this effect, appears to be Wewer's work. With completion of this addition, the St. Francis Academy was born. More additions were made, in the same style, ca. 1886, 1890, and in 1904.[4:266-267, photo 227] A large new addition to the west side was built in 1909-1910. This addition also followed the style of the original building and additions, but was the work of Charles Wurdeman (1871-1961), Architect, of Columbus.[4:269; photo 247]
1. Anon. “Friars of the Past: 201. Bro. Adrain Wewer,” in Lesser Brothers: Quarterly Chronicle of the Franciscan St. Louis-Chicago Province of the Sacred Heart 6:3 (July, 1972): 184-86.
2. City of Omaha Planning Department, Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission, Database, Query on Architects, May 20, 2002; courtesy of Lynn Meyer, Preservation Planner.
3. Lynn Bjorkman. “St Joseph Parish Church Complex (DO09:0116-003),” National Register of Historic Places, Inventory-Nomination Form. Omaha: Omaha City Planning Department, April, 1986.
4. Eugene Hagedorn, O. F. M. The Franciscans in Nebraska. Humphrey, Nebraska: Humphrey Democrat and Norfolk Daily News, 1931.
5. Henry W. Casper. History of the Catholic Church in Nebraska. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1966, 216-17.
6. James A. Harmon. “Bro. Adrain Wewer, O.S.F. (1836-1914): Provincial Architect, Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart,” 2001. Sacred Heart Province Archives: Originally at http://184.108.40.206/archives/items/adrian.htm and http://www.thefriars.org/archives/items/adrian.htm but neither link has remained active; accessed via http://www.slashdocs.com/mpzqmi/bro-adrian-wewer-osf.html June 10, 2013. Harmon's attributions are from Brother Adrian's files in the provincial archives. For a more extensive biography of Wewer, sans the chronology of buildings, see Harmon's "Life History" essay on the "Build My Church": Br. Adrian Wewer OFM Centennial Celebration website at http://adrianwewer.org/readingrm.php Accessed May 16, 2014.
7. Phil Hoebing. “Build My Church,” Missouri Folklore Society website: http://missourifolkloresociety.truman.edu/hoebing/adrianwewer.html Accessed June 10, 2013.
8. “History of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception,” Conception Abbey website: http://www.conceptionabbey.org/basilica/history ; and “History of Conception Abbey,” Conception Abbey website: http://www.conceptionabbey.org/monastery/history Accessed June 10, 2013. See also James A. Harmon. “A Swiss-German Abbey at Conception, Missouri: Its Establishment and Its Century-Old Basilica and Murals—The Fate of a Prime Example of Medievalism in America,” Yearbook of German-American Studies 26 (1991): 203-229.
9. “St. Francis Solanus Catholic Church,” Quincy, Illinois Photographs and Memories. Online: http://quincyillinoisphotos.blogspot.com/2012/06/st-francis-solanus-catholic-church.html Accessed June 10, 2013.
10. “Shrines and Holy Places: Missouri,” Catholic Places website: http://catholicplaces.org/shrineMO.htm Accessed June 10, 2013.
11. “Archabbey Church,” Saint Meinrad Archabbey website: http://www.saintmeinrad.edu/the-monastery/art-and-architecture/archabbey-church/ Accessed June 10, 2013.
12. Jim Baum. “An Architectural Diamond in the Rough: St. Boniface Catholic Church,” 2010. Accessed June 10, 2013 via http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=wewer%20architect&source=web&cd=20&cad=rja&ved=0CFwQFjAJOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stbonifacesf.org%2Fa_church_architecture_history.doc&ei=Swq2UZaPLIreigKBzoCwBA&usg=AFQjCNFD1xKpZ5hUoRyvUsfPTNcnXFrpLw
13. “History, Art & Architecture,” St. Boniface Parish website: http://stbonifacesf.org/stboniface_tenderloin_2008_008.htm Accessed June 10, 2013.
14. “Church Crew: 1902” Shorpy website: http://www.shorpy.com/node/4581 Accessed June 10, 2013.
Return to Top of Page
D. Murphy, “Br. Adrian (Anthony) Wewer, O. F. M. (1836-1914), Carpenter-Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, October 28, 2015. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, March 28, 2020.
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