January 21, 2010

Racine History: Evolution of SC Johnson's Racine campus

SC Johnson will unveil its $40 million "Project Honor" building on Friday night with an exclusive gala dinner (no, we weren't invited). But in honor of SCJ's newest architectural masterpiece, we have a series of photos documenting the growth of SC Johnson's Racine campus over the past 100 years.

All photos compiled by Racine historian Gerald Karwowski from his collection at the Oak Clearing Farm and Museum. Buy Karwowski's latest book, "Racine: A Postcard History" here.

As a side note, this collection of photos kicks off a year-long project at RacinePost celebrating Racine's 175th birthday. Look for more historical photos and essays in the weeks to come.

Looking at the North east corner of 16th and Howe Street in about 1910 before the buildings were razed to build the New S. C. Johnson & Son administration building. The Victorian house next to the Leon Szczupakiewicz Schlitz Saloon was used as the company's main office from about 1903 to 1910. At left is George Stanton's barbershop.

In 1911,hand-filled cans of wax were hand packed 100 to a hand-made wooden box and hand-trucked to the shipping room where they were loaded into horse drawn drays. The wagons took the load of 100 pound crates to the dock to be shipped by water on the old Chicago-Racine-Milwaukee shipping line.

Advertising billboards and factory buildings which were located at the north east corner of Racine and 16th Streets. At this intersection the sweet smell of wax was so strong that a blind man would know they were near the Johnson Wax factories.

Frank Lloyd Wright chats during a 1930s test ordered by building inspectors to see if the lily pad columns which were a integral part of the Administration Buildings design would hold the weight they were designed for.

The Great Work Room of the Administration Building as it looked in the 1950s.

A rare view during the construction of the Johnson Research tower taken from in front of the Frank Karwowski house at 1537 Franklin Street.

A stunning night view of the S.C.Johnson& Son Research Tower Complex in 1952.

Two children admire the beautiful Johnson world globe. It was the largest of its kind when it was erected at the Racine plant in 1954.

One more aerial view.

Project Honor, SCJ's newest addition to its Racine campus. (See more photos here.)


  1. WOW

    When I was a kid we played all around the buildings. It was like we were in another world.

  2. This is a cool feature. I think it is fun to take a look back.

    Good work!

  3. Very cool photographs.

  4. Good job on this one. Nice mix of history and pictures.

  5. Yes I like the photos as well, it had to be kinda cool before it was all fenced off I have always admired the globe from the street.

    Lots of good videos on youtube about the Johnson's Racine campus.

  6. Although the Waxies and their six-figure income loot lackeys inhabit a very pleasant place, Racine's rank-and-filers are trapped in a realm of penury, poverty and pounding, pugnacious pain. From what I've heard, the House of Wax and its Ivy League elitists belong to an exclusive mutual admiration society. For the Carnauba Court and its fiscal flunkeys, the rest of Racine's residents are pawns, peons or peasants. The arrogance engendered by excessive wealth and a cult-like corporate culture have combined to transform a clan of cash-cadgers and the retainers thereof into a menace. Company towns and the corruption which they spawn do not happen by accident. Visitors who equate Racine with a corporate version of Stepford are merely honest people who know what they're looking at and call it by its proper name.

  7. Thank you 8:44 for befouling another discussion. You may crawl back under your rock now!

  8. 12.05 Nice comment -- Uptowngirl!!

  9. Most people don't know that the Johnson's Wax story was pretty close to a Rags to Riches story. Samuel C. Johnson was a struggling middle aged flooring salesman. When the local manufacturer he was working for discontinued the wood flooring line Johnson bought it. With hard work and some insight from His son Herbert the company grew to be a world leader.

    The first Samuel C. Johnson lived in a very modest home on Wisconsin Avenue. He's buried in Kenosha the city he considered home.

    We're so lucky that his Children, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren -- consider Racine as their home.

    Looking in my crystal ball

    Headlines will read some day

    The massive Complex will include a modern new high tech Public Library, Fine Arts Museum, Heritage Museum and a large Theater for stage and music productions. all under one roof with a public mall space in the center. The complex is to be built on City parkland just south of the Racine Zoo.

    A member of the Johnson family remarked at the ribbon cutting - "The best interests of our home town have always been our first priority"

    Laugh now!! But I've seen crazier things happen in my short life. Maybe I'm a dreamer? But so was the original Samuel C. Johnson and look what happened to his dream.

  10. I remember as a kid going to the show across from SCJ on 16th St. Leaving the show and standing on the air vent on the corner of the SCJ building to warm up for the walk home...and to be warm enough to play around the globe. How lucky we were back then that the globe wasn't blocked up..

  11. 2/03/2010 9:14 AM

    Is this a true story or did some just make this up??

  12. Great story !!!! Wish there was more!!!

  13. my mother worked her entire career at johnson's and provided quite well for our family. SCJ is a great company to work for and to have in the community. they do treat their employees well and do foster a cult-like atmosphere. every good company does. the only people who don't like that are people who don't fit in or don't support a company's vision.

  14. Did that 8:44 say "I'm looking for that waskely, waxie, wabbit? Hahahahahaha"