January 11, 2009
SC Johnson adds historic fire station to buffer zone around corporate offices
SC Johnson bought the historic Fire Station No. 1 on Racine Street last month. If the past is an indication, the company will tear the building down.
Over at least the past 12 years, SC Johnson has created a buffer zone around its corporate headquarters in the middle of Racine. The company buys up properties around its campus and tears down the buildings to create a border of green space along its edges. The practice creates a boundary between the company and the surrounding neighborhood. (Right-top: SCJ's buffer zone along 16th Street. Right-middle: The buffer along 14th Street. Right-bottom: Grand Avenue, where SCJ owns few properies.)
The most obvious example is along 14th Street, where SC Johnson owns every property on the north side of the street from Racine Street to Villa Street. Continuing around the block, the company owns a few properties on the northeast corner of 14th Street and Grand Avenue, but little else along the street that includes St. Richard's Church.
SC Johnson owns almost every property along the south edge of 16th Street from Racine Street to Grand Avenue, and owns three-quarters of the west edge of Racine Street from 14th to 16th streets.
In all, SCJ owns 64 percent of the properties that abut its headquarters. In terms of square-footage, the number is closer to 80 percent. All of SCJ's properties adjacent to its campus are vacant lots.
The company's purchase of the old fire station at 1412 Racine St. breaks up a section of privately owned properties on the northwest corner of Racine and 14th streets. The company paid $200,000 for the property, which was assessed at $65,000 in 2008. The previous owner was Roger Olshanski, who now lives in Wausau. Olshanski had owned the property since at least 1996, and has a story all his own (another one here).
The Racine native turned a Martin Johnson Meade painting he bought for less than $20 into a windfall. Olshanski, who described himself as an "accumulator," sold the painting at auction in New York City for $1.35 million. He had no idea the painting, which had sat in the old fire house for years, was worth that kind of money until a friend recognized its significance. Olshanski took home $936,000 from the auction.
As for the firehouse, which resembles a castle, it was built in the early 1900s. This site says the tower was used to hang up hoses to dry them out after use.
It'll be interesting to see what SCJ does with the old firehouse. The city lost one its historic stations last year when The Journal Times tore it down to make a parking lot. We'll see if SC Johnson holds onto the building, or knocks it down like it has all of the other buildings surrounding its campus.