Copper Country Architects

Erhard Brielmaier
E. Brielmaier & Sons

by Stephanie Trevino




Erhard Brielmaier (1841-1917), a Milwaukee architect with a wide practice in church architecture, designed one of the largest and most elaborate churches in the Copper Country.


Erhard Brielmaier was born in Neufra near Rottweil, Wurtemburg, Germany on January 7, 1841. In 1850, he moved to Cincinnati with his family.1

During this time, many German Catholics were immigrating to Ohio. The city of Cincinnati had particularly rapid growth. The neighborhood known as Over-the-Rhine became known as the German district.2 In this rich environment, young Brielmaier learned the art of altar-building.3 He became skilled at the arts of drawing and drafting. He worked under his father, planning and building residential and commercial properties. It was during this apprenticeship to his father that he gained his initial experience with planning and building churches.4

On November 27, 1860, he married Theresia (nee Haag). Together they had 13 children.5 Brielmaier moved with his wife and children to Milwaukee in 1873.6 Here he established his architectural firm. By 1881, he employed more than a dozen men.7 Eventually, five of his sons came to work at the firm. To reflect this, he changed the business’s name to E. Brielmaier & Sons in 1887.8

Brielmaier & Sons had a nation-wide practice, specializing in churches. He reportedly designed more than 800 churches, including St. Josaphat’s Basilica in Milwaukee (1896-1901).9

His daughter Clothilde became a successful artist, specializing in painting portraits and church murals. In addition to many other works, she did the paintings in the chapel of St. Francis Convent in Milwaukee, which was designed by Brielmaier’s firm. She died two years before her father, in 1915.10

Brielmaier died in 1917,11 and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Milwaukee, for which his firm designed the gatehouse and chapel.12