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.

Historic Fire Station No. 1 at 1412 Racine St.

25 comments:

  1. SCJ- use the building! Racine has got to stop tearing significant buildings from its history. Racine as a whole looks like crap because it is just a piece meal of a few older buildings and the ugly modern ones. Why would anyone want to come here to see that???

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  2. Ghetto or green space around your company? Green space, thank you!

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  3. downtown_racine1/11/2009 6:26 PM

    I wouldn't condemn the building at this point as we all know if anyone has an interest or track record for saving historic buildings in Racine its the Johnson's.
    If anything one would hope the building will be looking 100% better than its long neglected self now. The building doesn't look to be in "bad" shape just dingy and dirty and crammed full of junk some of which is worth millions. Sheesh.
    The old NO.1 Fire House Castle should be on the Register of Historic places which would prevent it from being torn down.

    The Johnson's also own a old car lot on 14th and Villa. 1347 Villa a 14,400.0 Sq. Ft. brick warehouse in nice shape for dry storage and a nice parking lot for snowplows and salt piles.

    Most of what they tore down was dilapidated junk. Anyone remember G.I. Joes Liquor Store ?

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  4. Anon 5:21 - There's nothing "ghetto" about the fire station. Some of the other crap they've torn down, yes I agree it was ghetto and no great loss. Wish they'd buy that ugly blue house with the chain link fence in the back yard just off of 16th. In the summer you'll see laundry flung over the fence to dry, looks lovely.

    Back to the fire station - they need to preserve and keep it for future generations!

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  5. Buffer from what? Might that be the majority population of that neighborhood?
    Would not that go hand in hand IMHO of J Wax keeping Downtown rich and white?
    Quick some call the NAACP

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  6. Anon 6:27 - preserve and keep it for future generations to do what?

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  7. It's a piece of Racine's history as well as really cool architecture. I'm sure the Waxheads could do something with it that would be interesting and useful. Was the firestation already there when JWax was built?

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  8. Talk about somebody yelling "Fire!" -- Mr. Block is just stirrin' the pot. It seems that he talked to no one at SCJ, or he would have included that in the post. Chances are he may not have even attempted to contact anyone at SCJ because the typical "calls were not returned" is nowhere to be found.

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  9. StopthemadnessNOW1/12/2009 7:59 AM

    Thanks for the interesting story and revealing map concerning the SCJ buffer zone. I've noticed that trend and often thought it would make an interesting story.

    It would be enlightening if someone from the company (or perhaps a blogger) would explain why they've chosen this particular strategy. Privately-owned green space contributes a bit of tax revenue but little else, IMHO.

    To take the theme a bit further, I'm wondering if it's safe to say that the largest property holder in the City of Racine (and perhaps East of I-94) is comprised of the various Johnson family interests,.

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  10. Can you blame J-Wax for doing the zone? If I had the cash when I moved to West 6th st area I would have done the same thing. Gets rid of thugs and slum lords. Wish the City would buy up some of the trashy homes and tear them down too.

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  11. I have talked with the company. They promised to get back to me.

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  12. I've noticed SCJ also owns a lot of land around the point. Mmmmmm!

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  13. Johnson has reportedly committed to pouring about a half-million dollars into the uptown district for clean-up and property restoration, which may or may not include this property. I don't blame the company for demolishing some of the adjoining properties to create green space, but I certainly hope Johnson preserves and even restores this Racine gem.

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  14. No matter what J-Wax does or does not tear down, nothing will change substantially in that area until people accept responsibility for their own lives.

    Btw, I sorely missed the Toddle Inn restaurant when they tore that down, as well as B'z pizza, the mechanic who worked on VWs on the northwest corner of Villa and 14th, and even Bernhardt's bar. How does flattening a neighborhood improve it? I am very grateful for all the things that J-Wax has done for Racine, but they throw their weight around with impunity. They do what they want, and then notify the city of it. The city, or course, agrees because it is terrified of offending our master. I have firsthand knowledge of this, spanning back city administrations. Mayor Smith would kowtow to the wives of J-Wax executives, meeting with them personally to make sure their whims were fulfilled. Same thing with the building downtown: J-Wax did what it wanted, when it wanted, then notified the city. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

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  15. downtown_racine1/12/2009 6:27 PM

    Sometimes a building is just so slummy and in such poor condition that it has to be torn down.

    We all miss Gorton's, Racine GMC, Walker's and Ed's Mobil. Things change St Marys is gone its JWax.

    I appreciate the green zone everyday and know a few properties in my locale near St. Cats that could use some demolition services. Love what was done with the prefab cop house on 12th and Villa, looks really really nice and those pesky street pharmacists have moved on to the next block.

    Too bad about those theaters on Main St.

    Ciao from towerville ?

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  16. Hey Orbs: Why don't you take your fat suspender wearing bald head back to your pristine site. You're not allowed to moonlight on other blogs!! The "gang" won't be happy to hear this!!

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  17. Mr. Corbs:
    We here at J-Wax could care less about your cynical views of our company. Please keep your opinions and comments to yourself. Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation.

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  18. How many JWax employees live in the neighborhod that they have decimated? How many Johnsons live in that neighborhood? That's JWax, always doing unto others, always silencing their critics, always pushing others around. Racine's biggest bully. "Sustainablre Racine" as lomg as they can sustain their profits by exploiting our resources on the cheap.

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  19. They decimated the neighborhood? The ghetto-ugees ruined it long ago..

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  20. If it wasn't for J wax Racine would be the largest armpit in the state, If it were me I would buy all of the crap down there and bulldoze right through it. It's nicer to have a well kept empty lot as oppossed to an area people can't walk safly through.

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  21. I worked out of that station when it was an active fire station. I sure would love to see it restored to original, it is a unique piece of Racines' history.

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  22. I used to live in this castle when i was 6 years old. im now 19. so weird that i found this.

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  23. if anyone has anything to write to me get me at
    Jonf_8@msn.com

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  24. I used to live in this castle when i was 6 years old. im now 19. so weird that i found this.

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  25. Little by little SCJ helps to better Racine, even if it is only for themselves. The blocks around SCJ are nothing to proud of. Thank you SCJ for someting the City could and never would do on its own. Green buffer zone is good.

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