History of Schramka-Borgwardt Funeral and Cremation Services
Fred J. Borgwardt came from Germany to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1866 and began working as a cabinetmaker. After becoming a licensed embalmer, he opened a furniture store and funeral establishment in March 1884, on National Ave. and 4th.
When he first started, Borgwardt drove his horse and buggy with his wife assisting him on calls. Services were held in the family’s home or nearby church. Then in 1900, he erected a two-story brick building and chapel of Gothic architecture at what is now 823 West National Ave. Borgwardt’s grandson, Fred, stated that his grandfather established the funeral chapel to provide more room for mourning relatives and friends. When services were held in private residences, doors and windows often had to be removed to get the casket into the residence, especially if the residence was on a second level.
The first floor of the two-story brick building included one of the first funeral chapels in Wisconsin and a casket display room. The caskets were suspended in cabinets around the walls. Borgwardt lived with his family on the second level. The business served the south side and the outlying farm areas in Hales Corners, Tess Corners and Muskego.
Many of the services held at the chapel were conducted in German, Scandinavian or other European languages because the immigrant families or friends of the deceased did not speak English. In the early 1900s, a streetcar spur was laid directly to Borgwardt’s chapel. The casket would be laid on an open car and the family would board and proceed directly to Forest Home Cemetery for burial.
Fred J. Borgwardt died in 1908 and his sons, George and Fred, ran the establishment with the addition of Erwin in 1931. Later, the firm was run by another grandson, William, and a great grandson, Randall Borgwardt.