Lucius and Caroline Blake House (1868)
This Italian Villa style mansion was home to Lucius Blake and his wife Caroline. The home was actually built in 1868 for George and Roxilana Bull, who resided here for five years before selling it to the Blakes. The survival of this structure tells the story of preservation efforts, as the building was scheduled for demolition in 1976. The porch seen today gracing the front of this house was reconstructed this summer after decades of discussion. The building now contains five apartments; one serves as the office/archive of Preservation Racine, the host of this annual tour. Revenue from these tours supports the maintenance and restoration of this building.

The ornate features of the Italian Villa style include wide bracketed eaves and long and narrow windows, which frequently are in pairs that are arched with  ornamentation. The front entrance is set within the tower that rises above the roof of the house to provide a lookout or belvedere. Cream city brick, produced in southeastern Wisconsin, was used to construct the home. The brackets and the spindles on the porch were designed and custom-made to be as historically accurate as possible to those on the home’s original porch.

The Blakes purchased the home in 1873. After the death of Lucius Blake in 1894, his family continued to make this their home until 1926. At that time it was sold and became a boarding house. In 1952 the Beth Israel Sinai Congregation purchased it and converted it into five apartments. The need for additional parking led the congregation in 1976 to consider demolishing the deteriorating building. Four civic organizations stepped forward and, through fundraising and over 6,000 hours of volunteer labor, preserved this significant building.

Lucius Blake arrived in Racine at age 19 and farmed with his father. He saw a need for a piece of farm equipment that would separate wheat from chaff. Thus began his journey to being known as “the fanning mill king”. He manufactured as many as 3,000 mills a year, selling them across the country and even in Europe. He also established other Racine industries: Racine Woolen Mills and Chicago Rubber Clothing Company, and he built a grand theater to host performers from New York. Sadly, the elegant Sixth Street Theater burned down two years after it was built. In addition to his talents for business success he was civic-minded, holding a variety of positions. His obituary in 1894 said, “He was one of the most public spirited men in the city and never lost faith in the future of Racine, and no man that has ever lived has been more active in promoting its growth than he was.”

The interior of the house is graced by ornate plaster cornices and marble fireplaces where guests were once assisted by one of the two downstairs maids. Preservation Racine welcomes you to enjoy this “saved” treasure.