Racine (or ) is a city in and the county seat of Racine County, Wisconsin, United States. It is located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Root River. Racine is centrally located between Milwaukee and Chicago. As of the 2013 U.S. census, the city had a population of 78,199, making it the fifth-largest city in Wisconsin. Its median home price of $103,625 makes it the least expensive city in Wisconsin to buy a home.
Racine has long been a factory town with production of J. I. Case (heavy equipment), S. C. Johnson & Son (cleaning and chemical products), Dremel Corporation, Reliance Controls Corporation, Twin Disc, and Arthur B. Modine (Heat Exchangers). It is home to various immigrant communities. Racine was home to wagon maker Mitchell & Lewis Company in the 19th century, which, at the start of the 20th century, began making motorcycles and automobiles as Mitchell-Lewis Motor Company. Racine was also home to the inventor of the InSinkErator, the first garbage disposal. Architects of the city included A. Arthur Guilbert and Edmund Bailey Funston. Malted milk balls were also developed in Racine.
Native Americans inhabited the area of Racine as early as 10,000 BCE, but most of the artifacts that have survived, such as the burial mounds in what is now Mound Cemetery, date back only to 500 BCE or later. Historians separate the natives living in the Root watershed at that time into Woodland people, who were more common, and Hopewell people, who were more advanced. After European contact, the Miami and later the Potawatomi expanded into the area, taking part in the French fur trade.
In November of 1674, while traveling from Green Bay to the territory of the Illinois Confederation, Father Jacques Marquette and his assistants, Jacques Largillier and Pierre Porteret, camped at the mouth of the Root River. These were the first Europeans known to visit what is now Racine County. Further expeditions were made in the area by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1679 and by François Jolliet De Montigny and Jean Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes in 1698. Nearly a century later, in 1791, a trading post would be established along Lake Michigan near where the Root River empties into it.
Also in 1852, Racine High School, the first public high school in Wisconsin, opened. The high school operated until 1926, when it was torn down to make way for the new Racine County Courthouse. Washington Park High School was built to replace it.
Before the Civil War, Racine was well known for its strong opposition to slavery, with many slaves escaping to freedom via the Underground Railroad passing through the city. In 1854 Joshua Glover, an escaped slave who had made a home in Racine, was arrested by federal marshals and jailed in Milwaukee. One hundred men from Racine, and ultimately 5,000 Wisconsinites, rallied and broke into the jail to free him. He was helped to escape to Canada. Glover's rescue gave rise to many legal complications and a great deal of litigation. This eventually led to the Wisconsin Supreme Court declaring the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 unconstitutional, and later, the Wisconsin State Legislature refusing to recognize the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Waves of immigrants, including Danes, Germans, and Czechs, began to settle in Racine between the Civil War and the First World War. African Americans started arriving in large numbers during World War I, as they did in other Midwestern industrial towns, and Mexicans migrated to Racine from roughly 1925 onward.
Unitarians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists from New England initially dominated Racine's religious life. Racine's Emmaus Lutheran Church, the oldest Danish Lutheran Church in North America, was founded on August 22, 1851. Originally a founding member of the Danish American Lutheran Church, it has subsequently been a member of the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (UDELCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC), and, since 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). There was also a large Catholic movement to the city, opening up churches for their own ethnicity, such as St. Stanislaus (Polish), St. Rose (Irish), Holy Name (German), St. Patrick (Irish), Sacred Heart (Italian), St. Joseph (German), St. Mary (German), Holy Trinity (Slovak), St. Casimir (Lithuanian), and others. As years passed, populations moved and St. Stanislaus, Holy Name, Holy Trinity, St. Rose, and St. Casimir merged in 1998, forming St. Richard. With new waves of people arriving, older parishes received a boost from the Hispanic community, which formed Cristo Rey, re-energizing St. Patrick's into the strong Catholic community of today.
Racine was a factory town almost from the very beginning. The first industry in Racine County included the manufacture of fanning mills, machines that separate wheat grain from chaff. Racine also had its share of captains of industry, including J. I. Case (heavy equipment), S. C. Johnson & Son (cleaning and chemical products), and Arthur B. Modine (Heat Exchangers). Racine's harbor was central to the shipping industry in Wisconsin in the late 19th century. Racine was also an early car manufacturing center. One of the world's first automobiles was built there in 1871 or 1872 by Dr. J. W. Cathcart, as was the Pennington Victoria tricycle, the Mitchell, and the Case.
In 1887, malted milk was invented in Racine by English immigrant William Horlick, and Horlicks remains a global brand. The garbage disposal was invented in 1927 by architect John Hammes of Racine, who founded the company InSinkErator, which still produces millions of garbage disposers every year in Racine. Racine is also the home of S.C. Johnson & Son, whose headquarters were designed in 1936 by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright also designed the Wingspread Conference Center and several homes and other buildings in Racine. The city is also home to the Dremel Corporation, Reliance Controls Corporation and Twin Disc. Case New Holland’s Racine manufacturing facility, which builds two types of tractors (the New Holland T8 and the Case IH Magnum), offers public tours throughout the year.
Historic districts and buildings
Racine includes the Old Main Street Historic District. Historic buildings in Racine include the Badger Building, Racine Elks Club, Lodge No. 252, St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Young Men's Christian Association Building, Chauncey Hall House, Eli R. Cooley House, George Murray House, Hansen House, Racine College, McClurg Building, First Presbyterian Church, Memorial Hall, Racine Depot, United Laymen Bible Student Tabernacle, Chauncey Hall Building, Thomas P. Hardy House, and Horlick Field. The area is home to several National Register of Historic Places listed structures: National Register of Historic Places listings in Racine County, Wisconsin. The city is also home to Regency Mall.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built the Johnson Wax Headquarters building in Racine. The building was and still is considered a marvel of design innovation, despite its many practical annoyances such as leaks. Wright urged then-president Hib Johnson to build the structure outside of Racine, a city Wright thought of as "backwater." Johnson refused to have the Johnson Wax Headquarters sited anywhere other than Racine, and in a compromise Wright built it in Racine, but without windows.
Racine County Insane Asylum
The Racine County Insane Asylum was established in 1889. The asylum was destroyed in a fire in 1904 that was widely covered in the national press. The asylum was rebuilt after the fire, and a home for the county poor was added to the facility in 1918. The institution was also known as the Gatliff Asylum and was served by the Gatliff stop on the railroad. Gatliff was named after Nelson Gatliff (1813–1898), an early pioneer in Racine County that owned extensive farmland. The facility was also used as a tuberculosis sanatorium. Later it was known as High Ridge Hospitals and High Ridge Health Care Center of Racine County. It was razed circa 1980. The site is now a retail development known as High Ridge Centre, with only the old pond remaining from the former asylum.
The city is known for its large prom celebration, at which students from all the high schools in the city participate in an after prom party. This was featured on the radio show This American Life in Episode #186 "Prom", which originally aired on June 8, 2001; Racine's prom tradition was also the subject of the 2006 documentary The World's Best Prom.
Racine received an award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors on June 20, 2011 for having the best tasting city tap water in America. Racine's water comes from Lake Michigan. It is filtered through a system of about 120 million straws.