Firsts & Landmarks
So you thought you knew all about Racine and all of its history...READ ON!
Note: When dealing with firsts many things can be questioned --
Remember the old clich
we will add to -- or change any listing.
All illustrations are from the Oak Clearing Museum Archives.
August 16, 1900 Racine witnessed its first automobile race. The competitors
were A. J. Horlick in a Locomobile and Robert W. Hindley in a Winton.
The race started at 11A.M. in front of the Grand Union Tea Co. store on
Main St. five doors south of 4th St. The course was over the 14 unpaved
miles to Western Union Junction ( Sturtevant) and back. About a mile
outside town Mr. Hindley overtook Mr. Horlick who up to that point had
been ahead but was then stalled. When Mr. Horlick was finally able to
resume the race it was too late for him to catch up with Mr. Hindley. Mr.
Hindley was declared the winner late that afternoon when he crossed the
finish line in Racine.
Rasmussen Diamonds was founded as Rasmussen Jewelers in 1900 and is still in operation today.
Wisconsin Business College incorporated in 1901 with a capitol of
$10,000.00 It was located at 403-405 Main St.
July 4, 1902 the cornerstone was laid for Luther College at W. Sixth St. and
The Life Saving Station was built at the mouth of Root River in 1903.
March 16,1904 the new Racine Public Library building at 7th and Main
opened. Which now houses the Racine Heritage Museum.
The first board of Park Commissioners was appointed by Mayor Peter B.
Nelson in 1905.
In 1906 Samuel C. Johnson made his son, Herbert F. Johnson a partner in
the firm and the company became S.C. Johnson & Son.
Western Printing was founded by E. H. Wadewitz in 1907.
The first bathing beach was established on Racine's north side in 1908 when
the city purchased shoreline property from James Cape & Sons for
May 31, 1909 the Spanish War monument was dedicated in Mound
In 1910 the first automobile was stolen in Racine. It was a 1909 Piggin's
car which was manufactured in Racine. The car was taken from the locked
garage of Solomon Haas in the rear of 1119 Park Ave. The auto thieves were
caught in Chicago and turned over to Racine authorities.
November 2, 1911 the first Vocational School in Wisconsin started in Racine.
The statue of Statesman Charles (Karel) Jonas was dedicated on Memorial Day 1912.
It was placed in a small park near Michigan Blvd. and Barker St.
In June of 1913 the "Made In Racine" expo was held at the newly completed
J. I. Case Threshing machine Company's South Works (Tractor Plant).
In 1914 the new Library Branch building was built at Washington Ave. and
Hamilton Ave. at the cost of $10,000.00.
June 26, 1915 the cornerstone was laid for the new Racine Y.M.C.A.
building at 4th St. and Wisconsin Ave.
From June 30th - July 4th, 1916 a homecoming and reunion of the Spanish
American Veterans was held in Racine.
May 29,1917 Racine Loyalty Parade drew 10,000 men and women marchers.
November of 1918 the final few horses were put out to pasture and the
Racine Fire Department became fully motorized.
The first T B clinic in Wisconsin opened in Racine in 1919.
On April 1, 1920 the Racine Business and Professional Women's Club was
organized. Helen Blythe was elected first President and 23 members signed
November 28,1921 the McKinley Junior High School opened. Its charter
classes were from Fratt, Jefferson and Knapp schools.
The Racine Community Chest began in 1922 when Herbert F. Johnson Sr.
called together a group of prominent citizens and outlined its purposes.
In 1923 the new Masonic Temple ( Egyptian Revival ) was built at 1015
Wisconsin Ave. The Temple was designed in the year of the excavation of
the tomb of Tutankhamen and illustrates the affect of Egypt-o-mania on
On May 11, 1924 Racine's Patent Medicine King Dr. C. I. Shoop died in
Hollywood, California at the age of 73. The restored Shoop building still
stands at 215 State St.
In 1925 the first Ajax automobile was built by the Ajax Motors Company of Racine.
Nash Motors Company announced that the Ajax Motors Co., a subsidiary,
had been completely absorbed by Nash in 1926.
October 1,1927 E. C. Styberg Engineering Co. was founded.
In 1928 four new theaters opened in Racine. The Venetian (Downtown),
Capital (West Racine), Majestic (Uptown) and Granada (North Side)were all
completed and opened with in the year. The largest was the Venetian with a
$1 million price tag.
THE VENETIAN THEATRE
On October 19,1929 the Alice Horlick Memorial Maternity building at St.
Luke's Hospital was dedicated. The building and dedication plaque still
St. Patrick's School at 1109 Douglas Ave. was built in a early modern style
with overtones of Art Deco in 1930.
In 1931 three new public buildings were built in Racine and Racine county .
August 2, 1932 Racine's first aerial funeral took place at four o'clock.
Ashes of Christ Peterson were scattered over Lake Michigan.
Fredric March (Racine Native) wins his first Oscar for Dr. Jekyell and Mr.
Hyde in 1932.
In 1933 John Dillinger and his gang robbed
The American Bank & Trust Co. at Main and 5th St.
In 1934 Racine celebrated its centennial 1834 -1934.
Interesting facts about Racine
In 1934 their were 63-fireman, 66-policeman,
8-theaters, 3-hospitals, 16-hotels, 70-churches, 21-parks, 1-daily newspaper,
2-airports and a population of about 67,542.
In 1935 the Charles (Karel) Jonas Statue was moved from Michigan Blvd.
to the intersection of High St. and Douglas Ave. ( Flat Iron Square)
The Racine Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps first performed in the City's July
4th parade in 1936. The Kilties would eventually go on to win many state and
national drum & bugle honors.
The first Goodwill celebration and parade idea started in April of 1937
when Mayor Roy A. Spencer called a group of about 25 business and labor
leaders to join the planning.
Radio commentators early in 1937 referred to Racine as "Little Moscow"
because of the strikes and labor unrest.
In 1938 Eugene W. Leach, Racine's pioneer historian died at the age of 81
at his home at 512 8th St.
The Racine Theater Guild started in June, 1938 by John Thompson, Orvin
Klema and George Toner with 26 members. The Guild is still active today.
In 1939 the famous Frank Lloyd Wright office buildings of S.C. Johnson &
Son were completed.
The last Electric Street car made its last run in September of 1940.
Wustum Museum of Fine Arts opened November 16, 1941 on Northwestern
July 4,1943 the monument of Abraham and Mary Lincoln was dedicated in
East Park. This was the first statue in the United states of a president and
his wife. It can be seen in front of the Gateway Technical College located on S. Main street.
On May 30, 1944 a headstone for the grave of Gilbert Knapp located in
Mound Cemetery was presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
On January 1, 1945 Walter Goodland set the age record for governor of
Wisconsin he was 82 years old when he was inaugurated. This record stands
as of 2002.
In 1946 the American Legion "Victory Convention" was held in Racine.
A unofficial estimate was that 70,000 people jammed the streets of Racine.
In 1947 Dominican College opened as a four year degree school.
Fredric March wins his 2nd Oscar for the Best Years of Our Lives.
The City of Racine celebrated it 100 year as a city (1848 -1948).
Main St. in downtown was repaved.
A bequest by Herman Menge in 1949 purchased a memorial for Racine's
founder Gilbert Knapp. The Marker was placed at Knapp Park on Michigan
Blvd. And High St.
The Research tower at S. C. Johnson & Son opened in 1950.
April 27, 1951 General of the U.S. Army Douglas MacArthur visited
Racine. Thousands cheered and bands blared as military men stood at salute.
Lutheran High School was built on Luedtke Ave. and opened in 1952.
In 1953 the Racine Water Company stand pipe built in 1886 at 10th St. and
the Northwestern Railroad tracks was razed.
On January 15, 1955 E.H. Wadewitz founder of Western Printing
the age of 77.
On January 3rd 1956 the first jail break occurred from the
Jail located on the 9th floor of the County Courthouse. The jail at the time
was considered non-escapable.
In 1957 McDonald's opens its first fast food restaurant in
Racine at 21st
and Lathrop Ave. This business location is still the same.
May 18, 1958 the new public library at 7th and lake Ave. was opened.
August 20, 1959 Racine resident Mary Christmas was honored in the U.S.
House of Representatives with remarks about her devoted work and "The
Mary Christmas Shut-in club". Mrs. Christmas wrote thousands of letters
each year to shut-ins all over the world. Mary Christmas was this
remarkable ladys real name.
The J. I. Case Co. strike of 1960 was marked with violence and injury.
Tony DeLaat Sr.(pictured) who was a well known and respected Racine union man,
picketed in a wheel chair after a strikebreakers car ran into him. The
dedicated Mr. Delaat had been injured once before in the Case strike of 1934
when policemen clubbed him while picketing.
In 1962 In-Sink-Erator opened a new plant on 21st and Ohio St.
The last run of the North Shore Electric Railroad was on January 21,1963.
In 1964 the Racine Kilties won the National VFW championship and later
back -to-back VFW championships in 1968-69.
The Racine Shoreline Leader newspaper began publication in 1965.
In September of 1965 Prairie School opened.
In 1966 J. I. Case High School opens.
Lloyd Jackson became Racine's first Black principal at the former Lakeside School in 1966. He was the first African-American Alderman in the City of Racine, elected in 1968. He also became the first Black Chairman of the Racine County Democratic Party and a activist in the city's fair housing movement. The Civil Rights leader died July 3, 2001.
On October 3, 1967 Racine experienced its first "Freedom March".
In 1968 Hamilton Beach company closed the Racine operations. The
closing caused a loss of about 600 jobs. Hamilton Beach was one of the
largest electrical appliance manufacturers in the U.S..
In 1969 Gilbert Berthelsen became the first Racine County Executive.
The S. C. Johnson family established the Heritage Bank of Racine in 1970 .
JULIAN BOND AND CORINNE OWENS 1988
Corinne Owens was the first black and first woman on the Racine Vocational, Technical and Adult Education board in 1971, and in 1978-79 was chair of the Gateway Technical Institute board of directors.
She was chosen "Teacher of the Year" and "Citizen of the Year" by the Racine PTA Council in 1971. The Women's Civic Council named her Racine's "Woman of the Year" in 1973. She was the recipient of the Rosa Parks Award in 1979 and the NAACP regional conference.
In April of 1972 the first women were elected to the Racine City Council. They were Dr. Helen Patton and Betty J. Rowley.
In 1973 Stephen F. Olsen was elected mayor of Racine and served for an unprecedented 14 years.
The first Salmon-A- Rama in 1975 attracted 750 fishermen from 11 states
and offered cash and prizes totaling $10,000.
Preservation-Racine, Inc. a private non-profit organization originated as the
Landmarks Committee of Racine Urban Aesthetics in 1973. Rapid growth in
membership and preservation actives led to a separate incorporation in 1976.
Eileen Reilly, became the first female deputy on the Racine County Sheriff's Department in 1976.
In 1977 the Venetian Theater is razed. Of all the theaters which have now
become history the best remembered would probably be the Venetian. This
was because of its ornate statues, twinkling ceiling stars and often long
waiting lines to get in. The Venetian was the theater where the famous
Beatles movies made their debut.
October 1979 Shopko discount department store opened as the anchor store
of Westgate Mall. The Mall was built on the site of the West Gate drive in
movie theater on Washington Ave..
Regency Mall celebrated its Grand opening in August of 1981.
In 1983 S. C. Johnson & Son Inc. purchased the former Nelson Hotel at 245
Main St., and the Wisconsin Gas Building at 239 Main St. and the Dr.
Shoop Building at 215 State St. and totally redeveloped them.
In 1984 Racine celebrates its Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of its
founding. Events were held throughout the year. The goal was to establish a
permanent festival site as a lasting memorial of our 150th anniversary.
Ald. Margaret Johnson was Chairwomen of the Sesquicentennial Committee.
J.I. Case merges with International Harvester and becomes Case-IH in
In 1986 Johnson Wax celebrated its centennial year.
On May 7, 1987 the new Racine harbor and Marina was dedicated.
Visionary and County Executive Leonard Ziolkowski through leadership and innovation spearheaded the Racine harbor/marina project.
Ziolkowski is remembered as .......
" A big man,
with big dreams, who changed Racine's lake front forever."
In 1988 the new $5.7 million State St. bridge is completed. The 292-foot
span was built by Lunda Construction Co. and is the third bridge to reach
across Root River at State St.
In 1988 Lennie A. Weber Became Racine County's first woman District Attorney.
On July 21,1989 ground was broken and the plans for development of
Gaslight Pointe were on the way.
Robert Turner became the first Black man from Racine to be elected to the Wisconsin state assembly in 1990.
In 1976 Rep. Turner began his civic career when he was elected to the Racine city council .
As of 2005 Turner has become the longest serving state elected official from Racine.
He has also become the longest serving Black elected official in the State of Wisconsin.
On April 17, 1990 Jean M. Jacobson became the first woman to be elected
as Racine county boards chairperson.
Racine's Inn On The Lake was razed in December of 1992.
J.I. Case celebrates 150 years of business 1842-1992.
In 1994 J. I. Case becomes Case Corporation with sale of stock to the
Jean M. Jacobson became the first woman to be elected Racine County
Executive in 1995.
June 4,1996 Racine Representative Kim Plache became the first person
in Wisconsin history to win a Legislative recall election, by defeating Republican
George Petak to represent the 21st State Senate District.
The City of Racine celebrates 'its' Sesquicentennial (150 years) 1848 -1998.
2000 -- Racine County builds a new Visitor Bureau at 14015 Washington Avenue, with a design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.
2001 The City of Racine and Town of Caledonia officials reached a landmark agreement on wastewater and revenue sharing. The agreement was spearheaded by Caledonia Town Chairman Dennis Kornwolf and Mayor James Smith. This agreement ended years of ongoing Wastewater related battles.
2002 --- The Johnson Family builds a new Stately building with hopes of sparking revitalization of downtown Racine. The idea was headlined as A New Day For Downtown Racine.
Horlick High School graduate Laurel Clark was among the seven astronauts killed when the space shuttle Columbia exploded Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003. Clark was the first Racine County native to fly into space.
The senior picture of Laurie Salton is from Clark's Horlick High School Year Book.
After the disaster news crews from around the United States flocked to the parking
area across from Horlick High to report on the disaster.
This was an event in history that Racine has never seen the likes of before.
Dedications and Memorials went on for days,
to remember and honor the seven fallen astronauts.
Julian Thomas, a Racine activist and African American leader died April 6, 2003.
On October 5, 2003 the former Garfield School was dedicated in his honor, as Julian Thomas Elementary School. The restored building and the new additions now stand as a tribute to a man who was instrumental in desegregating Racine public schools.
May 22, 2004 Samuel C. Johnson died at the age of 76. There are few words that can truly express the loss of this kind, caring and gentle man.
"Sam" could walk among kings, but he never lost the touch of a common man.
The Racine County Service Center Building was renamed in honor of Dennis Kornwolf in 2004. The consolidation of many Racine County services was a vision of the former County Executive. The Taylor Avenue building is one of the best examples of his accomplishments.
Kornwolf a veteran civic leader with over 30 years of public service, always made decisions with a personal and moral dedication to make Racine County a better place to work and live.
Dennis M. Kornwolf died October 2, 2005 after a courageous battle with cancer.
Kornwolf had shown us what cancer cannot do.....
It cannot hinder the spirit.
It cannot harness the soul.
It cannot erase the memories or the legacy.
It certainly could not silence the passion Dennis had for this community.
Throughout 2005 three of the largest industrial complexes are being reduced to rubble and sold for scrap. Racine continues the transition out of the industrial age as they raze the ......
J. I. CASE TRACTOR PLANT .... also known as the Case South Works or Clausen Works.
JACOBSEN manufacturing complex whose buildings were built by the Mitchell Motor Car Co. and also used as Nash and Massey Harris plants.
BELLE CITY MALLEABLE also known as Racine Steel Castings.
2007-- Barbara McNair, died at the age of 72. McNair was born in Chicago and raised in Racine... so she always considered Racine her home McNair was a performer all her life with a career in music, television, motion pictures and stage.
Major movies McNair played in were "Change of Habit," Elvis Presley's last film; "They Call Me Mister Tibbs!" and "the Organization," with Sidney Poitier, sequels to "In The Heat Of The Night".
2009 --November, Racine enters its Demisemiseptcentennial (175th) year .
On November 3, Honnorable, Representative Cory Mason, Racine, reads Resolution 95 commemorating Racine's 175 years of contributions to Wisconsin history. Following the reading members of the Wisconsin Legislature were invited to the Assembly Parlor to enjoy a few slices of Genuine, Racine, Danish Kringle.
O&H Danish Bakery of Racine, Created Racine's first "Demisemiseptcentennial" cake.
2010 ---January 23, Fortaleza Hall opens, the Johnson family's tribute to the late Sam Johnson.
***NEW BOOK RELEASE***
||Author and historian Gerald L. Karwowski has written a number of booklets and newspaper articles about the city's past and has entertained hundreds of groups with a show called â€œRacine in History. Karwowski retired after a 30-year career at the J.I. Case Company and has served as a Racine landmarks commissioner and as a trustee of the Racine County Historical Society. A devoted collector for the past 40 years, he has gathered one of the largest local history collections in Racine County.
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