Racine is a city in and the county seat of Racine County, Wisconsin, United States. It is located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Root River. Racine is situated 22 miles (35 km) south of Milwaukee and approximately 70 miles (112 km) north of Chicago. It is the principal city of the US Census Bureau's Racine metropolitan area (consisting only of Racine County). The Racine metropolitan area is, in turn, counted as part of the Milwaukee combined statistical area. As of the 2020 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 77,816, making it the 5th largest city in Wisconsin. In January 2017, it was rated "the most affordable place to live in the world" by the Demographia International Housing Affordability survey.
Racine is the headquarters of a number of industries, including J. I. Case heavy equipment, S. C. Johnson & Son cleaning and chemical products, Dremel Corporation, Reliance Controls Corporation time controls and transfer switches, Twin Disc, and Arthur B. Modine heat exchangers. The Mitchell & Lewis Company, a wagonmaker in the 19th century, began making motorcycles and automobiles as Mitchell-Lewis Motor Company at the start of the 20th century. Racine is also home to InSinkErator, manufacturers of the first garbage disposal. Racine was also historically home to the Horlicks malt factory, where malted milk balls were first developed, and the Western Publishing factory where Little Golden Books were printed. Prominent architects in Racine's history include A. Arthur Guilbert and Edmund Bailey Funston, and the city is home to several works by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Native Americans inhabited the area of Racine for thousands of years. Artifacts that have survived include the burial mounds in what is now Mound Cemetery. Historians separate the natives living in the Root watershed at that time into Woodland people and Hopewell people. After European contacted the Natives, the Miami and later the Potawatomi expanded into the area, taking part in the French fur trade.
In November 1674, while traveling from Green Bay to the territory of the Illinois Confederation, Father Jacques Marquette and his assistants, Jacques Largillier and Pierre Porteret, camped at the mouth of the Root River. These were the first Europeans known to visit what is now Racine County. Further expeditions were made in the area by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1679 and by François Jolliet De Montigny and Jean Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes in 1698. Nearly a century later, in 1791, a trading post would be established along Lake Michigan near where the Root River empties into it.
Following the Blackhawk War, the area surrounding Racine, which had previously been off-limits, was settled by Yankees from upstate New York and New England. In 1834 Captain Gilbert Knapp USRM, who was from Chatham, Massachusetts, founded the settlement of "Port Gilbert" at the place where the Root River empties into Lake Michigan. Knapp had first explored the area of the Root River valley in 1818, and returned with financial backing when the war ended. Within a year of Knapp's settlement hundreds of other settlers from New England and western New York had arrived and built log cabins in the area surrounding his own. Some of the settlers were from the town of Derby, Connecticut, and others came from the New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The area was previously called "Kipi Kawi" and "Chippecotton" by the indigenous peoples, both names for the Root River. The name "Port Gilbert" was never really accepted, and in 1841 the community was incorporated as the village of Racine, after the French word for "root". After Wisconsin was admitted to the Union in 1848, the new legislature voted in August to incorporate Racine as a city.
In 1852, Racine College, an Episcopal college, was founded; it closed in 1933. Its location and many of its buildings are preserved today by the Community of St. Mary as part of the DeKoven Center.
Also in 1852, Racine High School, the first public high school in Wisconsin, opened. The high school operated until 1926, when it was torn down to make way for the new Racine County Courthouse. Washington Park High School was built to replace it.
Before the Civil War, Racine was well known for its strong opposition to slavery, with many slaves escaping to freedom via the Underground Railroad passing through the city. In 1854 Joshua Glover, an escaped slave who had made a home in Racine, was arrested by federal marshals and jailed in Milwaukee. One hundred men from Racine, and ultimately 5,000 Wisconsinites, rallied and broke into the jail to free him. He was helped to escape to Canada. Glover's rescue gave rise to many legal complications and a great deal of litigation. This eventually led to the Wisconsin Supreme Court declaring the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 unconstitutional, and later, the Wisconsin State Legislature refusing to recognize the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Waves of immigrants, including Danes, Germans, and Czechs, began to settle in Racine between the Civil War and the First World War. African Americans started arriving in large numbers during World War I, as they did in other Midwestern industrial towns, and Hispanics migrated to Racine from roughly 1925 onward.
Unitarians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists from New England initially dominated Racine's religious life. Racine's Emmaus Lutheran Church, the oldest Danish Lutheran Church in North America, was founded on August 22, 1851. Originally a founding member of the Danish American Lutheran Church, it has subsequently been a member of the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (UDELCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC), and, since 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). There was also a large Catholic movement to the city, opening up churches for their own ethnicity, such as St. Stanislaus (Polish), St. Rose (Irish), Holy Name (German), St. Patrick (Irish), Sacred Heart (Italian), St. Joseph (German), St. Mary (German), Holy Trinity (Slovak), St. Casimir (Lithuanian), and others. As years passed, populations moved and St. Stanislaus, Holy Name, Holy Trinity, St. Rose, and St. Casimir merged in 1998, forming St. Richard. With new waves of people arriving, older parishes received a boost from the Hispanic community, which formed Cristo Rey, re-energizing St. Patrick's into the strong Catholic community of today.
Racine has the largest North American settlement of Danes outside of Greenland. The city has become known for its Danish pastries, particularly kringle. Several local bakeries have been featured on the Food Network highlighting the pastry. In June 2010, President Barack Obama stopped at an O & H Danish Bakery before hosting a town hall meeting on the economy and jobs later that afternoon.
Racine was a factory town almost from the beginning. The first industry in Racine County included the manufacture of fanning mills, machines that separate wheat grain from chaff. Racine also had its share of captains of industry, including J. I. Case (heavy equipment), S. C. Johnson & Son (cleaning and chemical products), and Arthur B. Modine (Heat Exchangers). Racine's harbor was central to the shipping industry in Wisconsin in the late 19th century. Racine was also an early car manufacturing center. One of the world's first automobiles was built there in 1871 or 1872 by Dr. J. W. Cathcart, as was the Pennington Victoria tricycle, the Mitchell, and the Case.
In 1887, malted milk was invented in Racine by English immigrant William Horlick, and Horlicks remains a global brand. The garbage disposal was invented in 1927 by architect John Hammes of Racine, who founded the company InSinkErator, which still produces millions of garbage disposers every year in Racine. Racine is also the home of S.C. Johnson & Son, whose headquarters were designed in 1936 by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright also designed the Wingspread Conference Center and several homes and other buildings in Racine. The city is also home to the Dremel Corporation, Reliance Controls Corporation and Twin Disc. Case New Holland’s Racine manufacturing facility, which builds two types of tractors (the New Holland T8 and the Case IH Magnum), offers public tours throughout the year.
Historic districts and buildings
Racine includes the Old Main Street Historic District. Historic buildings in Racine include the Badger Building, Racine Elks Club, Lodge No. 252, St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, YMCA Building, Chauncey Hall House, Eli R. Cooley House, George Murray House, Hansen House, Racine College, McClurg Building, First Presbyterian Church, Memorial Hall, Racine Depot, United Laymen Bible Student Tabernacle, Chauncey Hall Building, Thomas P. Hardy House, and Horlick Field. The area is home to several National Register of Historic Places listed structures: National Register of Historic Places listings in Racine County, Wisconsin. The city is also home to Regency Mall.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built the Johnson Wax Headquarters building in Racine. The building was and still is considered a marvel of design innovation, despite its many practical annoyances such as rainwater leaks. Wright urged then-president Hib Johnson to build the structure outside of Racine, a city that Wright, a Wisconsin native, thought of as "backwater." Johnson refused to have the Johnson Wax Headquarters sited anywhere other than Racine.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which, is land and is water.
Racine has a warm-summer Continental climate (Köppen climate classification: Dfb). Summers are warm and short while winters are cold. Precipitation is dispersed evenly throughout the year, although summers are slightly wetter and more humid than winters.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $37,164, and the median income for a family was $45,150. Males had a median income of $35,079 versus $24,279 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,705. About 10.8% of families and 13.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.6% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those aged 65 or over.
As of the census of 2010, there were 78,860 people, 30,530 households, and 19,222 families residing in the city. The population density was . There were 33,887 housing units at an average density of . The racial makeup of the city was 61.8% White, 22.6% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 10.3% from other races, and 4.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 20.7% of the population.
There were 30,530 households, of which 35.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.5% were married couples living together, 20.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.0% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.17.
The median age in the city was 33 years. 27.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.6% were from 25 to 44; 23.8% were from 45 to 64; and 10.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.
;Income and poverty
Racine employs community-oriented policing, the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to address the immediate conditions that give rise to crime. The number of crimes committed in the city in 2013 dropped in several categories to the lowest point in decades. Racine saw a 38.3 percent drop in violent crime from 2009 to 2013, making it the 10th largest decrease in the country. Property crimes were at their lowest point since 1965, while the number of violent crimes was the lowest for any year on record.
However, that trend has since changed. As of 2018, the chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in Racine is 1 in 37, thus making the city's crime rate higher than 92% of Wisconsin's other cities and towns.
Racine has a mayor-council form of government. The mayor is the chief executive, elected for a term of four years. The mayor appoints commissioners and other officials who oversee the departments, subject to Common Council approval. On October 17, 2017, Cory Mason was elected as mayor of Racine, completing the term of John Dickert.
Racine's other citywide elected official is the Municipal Judge. The city council, the legislative branch, is made up of 15 aldermen, one elected from each district in the city. The council enacts local ordinances and approves the city budget. Government priorities and activities are established in a budget ordinance usually adopted each November. Being a diverse community with a history of organized labor, the city predominantly votes for the Democratic Party (United States). The City's youngest City Council President was Tom Mortenson, 28, who was a leading Progressive Republican who led ethical reform that served as a model for other municipal governments.
Racine is represented by Bryan Steil (R) in the United States House of Representatives, and by Ron Johnson (R) and Tammy Baldwin (D) in the United States Senate. Robert Wirch (D) and Van H. Wanggaard (R) represent Racine in the Wisconsin State Senate, and Tom Weatherston (R), Peter Barca (D), and Greta Neubauer (D) represent Racine in the Wisconsin State Assembly.
Mayors of Racine
Fire protection and ambulance service is provided by the Racine Fire Department with six fire stations. Law enforcement services are provided by the Racine Police Department.
Racine's public schools are administered by the Racine Unified School District, which oversees 21 elementary schools, eight middle schools, and six high schools with a combined student enrollment of around 17,500. Programs such as International Baccalaureate and Montessori are widely utilized in the District.
Private schools in the city include:
The Prairie School is in nearby Wind Point. It was co-founded by Imogene "Gene" Powers Johnson.
University of Wisconsin–Parkside is located south of Racine in the Town of Somers. Prior to Parkside's creation there were state college campuses in both Racine and Kenosha, but with their proximity it was decided they would be better served by one larger campus in between the two cities. A campus of Gateway Technical College, which serves the tri-county area of the southeastern corner of Wisconsin, is located in the downtown district on Lake Michigan.
Racine's municipal water is drawn from Lake Michigan. In 2011, the city's water was named the best tasting tap water in the United States by a panel of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Mass transit is provided by the Belle Urban System or "BUS" for short. Taxi service is provided by Racine Taxi.
Racine is also served by Amtrak's Hiawatha Line from the Sturtevant station in Racine County. Additional train service to Chicago is provided by Metra's Union Pacific/North Line from the downtown Kenosha station, which is located 6 miles from the Racine County line and 11 miles from downtown Racine.
Batten International Airport (KRAC) is a public use airport located in Racine, and the largest privately-owned airport in the United States. Racine is one of only three Wisconsin cities, along with Milwaukee and Green Bay, to have airports with customs intake capabilities. Commercial air service is provided by O'Hare International Airport and General Mitchell International Airport.
Racine has several examples of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, including the Johnson Wax Headquarters, Wingspread, the Thomas P. Hardy House and the Keland House. S.C. Johnson offers free tours of its corporate campus, and receives about 9,000 visitors per year. The Research Tower, which is located on the SC Johnson campus, is one of only 2 existing high rise buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Fortaleza Hall, designed by Norman Foster, houses the "SC Johnson Gallery: Frank Lloyd Wright At Home" and a Frank Lloyd Wright library. The Johnson Wax disc-shaped Golden Rondelle Theater was originally constructed as the Johnson Wax pavilion for the 1964 New York World's Fair and then relocated to Racine.
The Racine Art Museum, designed by the Chicago architecture firm Brininstool + Lynch, is a modern reuse of an existing structure to house RAM's permanent collection of contemporary craft. The building has an exterior façade of translucent acrylic panels that are illuminated at night, making the museum glow in the dark like a Japanese lantern.
The OS House, a private residence designed by the Milwaukee architecture firm Johnsen Schmaling Architects, was recognized in 2011 as one of the top 10 residential projects in the United States by the American Institute of Architects. The LEED Platinum-certified home was also named in 2011 as one of the top 10 green projects in the country by the AIA, and in 2012 as one of 11 national winners in the Small Projects category. The OS House has been featured in the New York Times. The house, an example of 21st-century modern architecture, is located on the shore of Lake Michigan in Racine's south side historic district.
Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places
Arts and culture
Racine is home to museums, theater companies, visual arts organizations, galleries, performance groups, music organizations, dance studios, concert series and special art events (for a complete list see List of Arts and Culture Resources in Racine, Wisconsin.)
The Racine Art Museum is the site of the largest collection of contemporary craft in America, with over 4,000 pieces in art jewelry, ceramics, fibers, glass, metals, polymer, and wood, and over 4,000 works on paper and sculptures. RAM's satellite campus, Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, presents exhibitions of regional artists along with art classes and workshops. The Racine Arts Council's exhibitions feature local and regional artists. The annual Get Behind the Arts Studio Tours offer a look inside artists’ workspaces in Racine and Kenosha.
The Racine Theater Guild annually offers a season of seven to eight main-stage plays and musicals, Racine Children's Theatre, Jean's Jazz Series and Comedy Tonight. Every winter, Over Our Head Players at 6th Street Theatre hosts Snowdance, a playwriting contest in which audience members determine the winning plays. Entries for the contest come from all over the world.
The Racine Symphony Orchestra performs 2-3 Masterworks concerts per year, several free pops concerts, and an annual concert for fifth graders. Local bands perform free noontime and evening concerts at downtown's centrally located Monument Square throughout the summer. Weekly open mic opportunities for musicians and other performers are hosted by Family Power Music.
The monthly BONK! Performance Series showcases local, regional and national poets.
There are four opportunities for area artists and poets to receive recognition for their work: The RAM Artist Fellowship Program awards four $3,000 Artist Fellowships and one $1,500 Emerging Artist Award every two years with recipients given solo exhibits; The Racine Arts Council ArtSeed Program provides grants ranging from $500 to $1,500 to projects that are new, innovative, experimental and collaborative; the Racine Writer in Residence Program awards two 6-month residencies each year with a stipend of $1,200; the Racine/Kenosha Poet Laureate Program chooses one poet from Racine and one poet from Kenosha every 2 years.
4th Fest Parade
Racine is nationally known for its 4 July Parade. The 4th Fest Parade in Racine is the Largest in the Midwest. 4th Fest of Greater Racine, Inc. is a non-profit organization with an entirely volunteer board of directors. This group is responsible for all celebratory activities in Racine associated with the 4th of July. In 2008, USA Today ranked Racine's 4th Fest Parade as one of the Top 10 Places to celebrate the 4th of July.
The Racine Legion, a professional football team and part of the National Football League, played here from 1922 to 1924. Its official name was the Horlick-Racine Legion. The team then operated as the Racine Tornadoes in 1926. They played at Horlick Field.
The Racine Elks was an amateur basketball team.
The city is known for its large prom celebration, at which students from all the high schools in the city participate in an after prom party. This was featured on the radio show This American Life in Episode #186 "Prom", which originally aired on June 8, 2001; Racine's prom tradition was also the subject of the 2006 documentary The World's Best Prom. In addition to the large prom Racine has become known for, the city has also been hosting a special needs prom called A Night To Remember every year since 2013. The A Night To Remember prom always takes place on the Sunday following Racine's larger prom and includes those from age 13 to 30.
Racine is served by the daily newspaper The Journal Times, which is the namesake (but not current owner) of radio station WRJN (1400). The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel formerly published a Racine-specific page on Thursdays and a Racine County section on Sundays, but dropped those in a series of downsizings that began in 2007. The Insider News covers issues specific to the African-American community. Racine County Eye offers web-based coverage for Racine.
The city has one television station owned by Weigel Broadcasting, WMLW-TV (Channel 49), an independent station which airs syndicated product, and had its analog transmitter just north of the Milwaukee County line in Oak Creek. For all intents and purposes the station serves all of southeastern Wisconsin, with the station offices located in West Allis and the station's current transmitter is located on the Weigel tower in Milwaukee's Lincoln Park. WMLW airs a Saturday morning public affairs program called Racine & Me, which is produced and hosted by Jessica Tighe of sister station WDJT-TV, and is devoted to topics of interest to Racine residents. The station's fourth subchannel also rebroadcasts Telemundo affiliate WYTU-LD.
FM radio stations serving the area are country music WVTY (92.1 FM) and urban contemporary WKKV-FM (100.7). WVTY specifically targets Racine and Kenosha and is locally owned, while WKKV is a station owned by iHeartMedia that, although licensed to Racine and having a transmitter in north-central Racine County, is targeted towards Milwaukee audiences and has its offices in Greenfield. Sturtevant-licensed WDDW-FM (104.7) broadcasts a traditional Mexican music format targeting the metro area's Mexican-American population.
Racine's sister cities are:
This page uses material from the Wikipedia article Racine, WI, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 4.0.