What's the oldest business in Racine?
It's a question easier and more difficult than you'd imagine. The easy part is CNH. J.I. Case was building his threshers in Rochester in 1842, and those inventions became the international behemoth that's still in Racine today.
Around the same time Allen Porter was building cabinets and coffins in the village of Racine. His craftsmanship would grow into Porter's furniture, a fixture in Downtown Racine for decades until just this week, when the furniture story closed down.
The second tier of businesses appears to be W.H. Pugh and D.P. Wigley. Pugh traces its roots back to 1850 in the coal business, while David P. Wigley purchased one of the oldest flour and feed businesses in the city in 1893.
Wigley bought Kent & Smith flour and feed, whose start date is seemingly lost to history. Interestingly, the D.P. Wigley site at Wisconsin Avenue and Third Street was known as "Mill Corner" and had grain-related businesses early in Racine's history.
Two other businesses that have been around for much our city's history include Knight-Barry Title Group, founded in 1854 by, Albert Knight, one of Racine County's first clerks and treasurers, and The Journal Times, which first started publishing in 1856.
While these businesses are among the oldest in Racine, it's hard to say if they are the absolute oldest. Most businesses started with different names and were bought and sold as different companies over time. Unraveling the tangle of past business transactions is a real challenge for historians. It also means there could, or should, be older businesses on this list.
Additions or corrections? Add them in the comments.
(Photos-right) The Pugh Marina building, including a marker that reads "Rebuilt 1886." It was the original Racine Water Company pumping station, which was built in 1886.