Be Our Special guest
Visit Beloit’s renovations continue the historic legacy of
656 Pleasant Street
A new event space is coming to the beautiful downtown Visit Beloit office, with renovations set to start by mid-2023. Once completed, the event space will feature a glass wall with views overlooking the Rock River and a stage for performers, wedding party, or speaker.
Perhaps the two most special features that will remain after the renovations are the circular stained-glass windows, and a beautifully preserved hardwood floor, which are both original to the building from when it was first built in 1914. The space will be open for public bookings once completed, and after this first set of renovations, the next includes an expansion for office spaces, outdoor patio, and a new Visit Beloit experience center, as pictured below.
Rendering of the future Visit Beloit offices and event space.
We want to hear your story!
While we are excited about the new chapter for our building, we want to keep its history alive in its ongoing story. We often hear visitors tell us they were married here, or worked here during the last 100 plus years. Those stories, and your story is important to us, so we created a digital guestbook for you to share yours through! Please add your story through the link below, and a photo if you have one, so we can keep it as a special memory of our building for years to come.
History of the Building
Our building, located at 656 Pleasant Street in Beloit, Wisconsin, has a long history in the city dating back to the early 1900s. Beloit’s first Italian-speaking Catholic families were parishioners at nearby St. Thomas Catholic Church. As the population of Italians grew in Beloit, primarily due to the industrial and manufacturing boom of the city, the needs to have a Catholic church where their Italian language was spoken was in high demand.
Therefore, residents decided to lay the foundation for their own church in 1914 which was the original use of the structure we own today. It was formed as St. Paul’s Catholic Church and dedicated on October 25, 1914. Miss Alice Broder, a prominent Beloit woman, donated a large sum of money for the construction of the church. The church was named after the name saint of her brother, Paul.
St. Paul’s Catholic Church, pictured below, was originally built in 1914.
The builder was William Fitzgerald. Its gabled roof is flanked by a truncated square “tower” with a flat roof trimmed with battlements. The front red brick gable wall includes wall buttresses, inset crosses, and a rose window with four keystones. The side walls each contain a series of four round stained-glass windows. The first priest of St. Paul’s was Father Alfredo F. Giovannoni. The parish served not only those of Italian descent, but all Catholic residents of Beloit for 74 years. After the death of Father Joseph L. DeStefano, the Diocese of Madison made the decision to close the parish on September 7, 1988.
The building, owned by the city of Beloit after the parish’s closure, sat relatively dormant for ten years as neighboring riverfront development projects built great momentum. In 1994, the building was locally landmarked as a historic structure, but does not exist on the state or federal historic registries.
Local interest in the building was renewed when it became the home of The Angel Museum as of May 1, 1998. The world’s largest angel collection began in 1976 when Beloit residents Joyce and Lowell Berg were on vacation in Florida. When visiting an antique store, they fell in love with an Italian bisque figurine of two angels on a seesaw. It captured their hearts and angel collecting soon become a passion for the couple. In the late 2000s, the Berg Angel Collection numbered more than 13,000. The museum was home to angels and angel artifacts of more than 100 different materials and from more than 60 different countries. Additionally, the museum was also home to more than 600 Black angels that were donated by Oprah Winfrey. The angels were gifts from her fans. The museum was open for twenty years until it closed on September 29, 2018, when the Berg Angel Collection was sold at auction.
The Angel Museum, pictured below, operated from 1998- 2018.
The city of Beloit had continued ownership of the property from the time of the parish dissolution through its days as a museum. In 2019, the city of Beloit sought a developer to purchase the property to preserve the historic structure. Visit Beloit, the official tourism entity for the region, was successful in acquiring the property. The organization officially purchased the building on January 29, 2020. It significantly rehabbed the building to move its offices to the property on March 1, 2021. Future construction plans include completing a new events venue and a building expansion for additional offices, meeting spaces, and an experience center for visitors and residents.