February 17, 2010

Celebrating 175 years: History of Racine's hospitals

As part of our series looking back on 175 years of Racine's history, here's a look at the evolution of Racine's hospitals. All photos, except for Dr. Cary, courtesy of Jerry Karwowski at racinehistory.com

Dr. Bushnell B. Cary was Racine's first physician. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, he was born in Shoreham, Addison County, Vermont, and came to Racine on August 15, 1835. In May of 1836 he was appointed postmaster of Racine. Cary died on February 13, 1860.

For about 70 years, Racine had two independent hospitals. St. Luke's Hospital, pictured in 1906, was built in 1876 at College Avenue and 13th Street. Racine's first public hospital had 20 beds and cost $5,000 to build. Additions were added in 1901 and 1927.

In 1882 a group of Franciscan Sisters purchased the old three-story Blake House Hotel building which had been moved to 16th and Campbell Streets ( now Grand Avenue) They cleaned up the building and named it St. Mary’s Hospital. In 1889 the old building was moved and a new brick building was built on the site. The Hospital added additions in 1897 and again in 1906.

By 1928 a campaign was started to build a new hospital. The sisters purchased 13 acres off Kinzie Avenue between Illinois and Virginia Streets. But because of tight money the plans were scaled down and a new red brick building was completed in 1933 at the Grand Avenue site.

St. Mary's on Grand Avenue in the 1930s. On August 19, 1977, these buildings were sold to S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. for $1.5 Million. SCJ remodeled the hospital to house new laboratories for research and development, which are still in use today.

Groundbreaking for the present hospital began in July 1974. On December 5 of that year, St. Luke’s and St. Mary’s signed a memorandum to consolidate pediatric and obstetrical services. On Saturday August 20, 1977, the new St. Mary’s went into service.

In 1987, St. Luke's and St. Mary's agreed to combine services, and in 1991, St. Luke's affiliated with St. Mary's to create All Saints Healthcare System Inc. In 2006, Wheaton-Franciscan consolidated leadership of its hospitals and clinics in southeastern Wisconsin, a move that, for the first time in city history, removed local control from Racine's hospitals.

Earlier this month, a group of doctors upset with Wheaton's management threatened to resign and form their own medical group.

Big thanks to Jerry at racinehistory.com for his help in putting this story together.


  1. What about Shoop? I thought that building downtown was once a hospital too. Can you verify this?

  2. Dr. Shoop manufactured patent Medicine. The building was never used as a hospital.

  3. Looks like the only time anybody cares about hospitals is when their sick!

  4. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with everyone Mr. K Historical items are something that should be shared not hoarded or hidden in boxes that are seldom opened. Nice pictures and informing text.

  5. Dr. Shoop's house is now Marsh-Meredith funeral home.

  6. I still have a cabinet from one of them. My dad got a bunch of them when they remodeled one of them. Most have been in the early '80's or maybe even the late '70's now that I think about it.

    He also saved the chain that held up the marquee in front of a theater they tore around that same time. It hung on our deck for years.