It is without a doubt that Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a number of amazing “hidden treasures” all over the city, both secular and religious. Me being me, I’ll obviously have a primary focus on the religious ones, since that’s what I enjoy the most, but a few secular ones might pop up here and there (the summertime beer gardens come to the top of my list, along with the Central Library, but I’ll save that for another post!). But, all over Milwaukee, and it seems, particularly on the South Side (represent!), the Polish and German Catholics left us grand edifices and a wonderful heritage to enjoy and utilize for the salvation of souls. One of those masterpieces includes St. Francis de Sales Seminary, founded in 1845 (three years before Wisconsin became a State and ten years after Milwaukee was founded), and I imagine that many people are aware of the beautiful campus across the street from a Milwaukee County Park and the Great Lakefront of Lake Michigan.
What many may not know about is the storehouse of knowledge, the treasure of learning, the athenaeum nestled amongst the Cream City brick and chestnut trees – Salzmann Library.
Salzmann Library is named after Fr. Joseph Salzmann, and is one of the oldest seminary libraries in these United States of America. Fr. Joseph Salzmann (1819-1874) was a co-founder of the Seminary (and second Rector, 1868-1874), and he came to Milwaukee after hearing Bp. John Martin Henni’s appeal “ripened his long-felt desire to [devote] his life to the foreign missions.” After coming to Milwaukee and experiencing the scarcity of priests, Fr. Salzmann thought of founding a new seminary for the region, and went from state to state raising funds for the establishment of the Salesianum. Fr. Salzmann would also establish Pio Nono College, the predecessor to the present day (St.) Thomas More High School.
On the inside, there are two stories worth of books to check out and read. On top of that, there are a number of theses from the past seminarians available for folks to read and check out. If you want a huge selection of titles (80,000+), with most of them being predominantly religious-related, swing by the campus and visit Salzmann Library! The library is open on Wed, Fri, & Sat from 10am – 4pm, and Tues and Thurs from Noon – 8pm. Anyone can check books out from the library, and once you get a (free) library card from Salzmann Library, you also can have access to seven other libraries in the Southeast Wisconsin area (which include Sacred Heart School of Theology, Alverno College, Mount Mary, Wisconsin Lutheran, Concordia, Cardinal Stritch, and Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design), which are a part of a consortium called “Switch”.
Having spent more than a few hours in the Library already, I can say that if you’re looking for pretty much ANY book on any topic in the Catholic Church, you are almost certain to find it at Salzmann Library. The staff are also very helpful and willing to help you find what you’re looking for. The Library also hosts semi-regular Lecture series, which seem to be worthwhile (I attended one given by Msgr Olszyk on the Cause for canonizations). Just off the top of my head, they have a great selection of Catholic theology and philosophy texts, a large canon law section, old liturgical books, histories of a wide ranging number of orders, societies, and institutes, and a number of books on local interest/Catholic history (along with the occasional books donated by our former bishops and archbishops, including Archbishop Frederick Katzer and Archbishop Sebastian Messmer!).
If you’ve got a few hours to burn and want to check out a great Catholic resource in the Brew City, I definitely recommend making the trip on down to Salzmann Library and check out what they have to offer. I doubt you’ll walk away disappointed!