The Frederick and Nellie Harter House 
(ca. 1880)
Until the late 1800s, land situated north of the City of Racine was not legally part of the city.  A large portion of this land had been purchased in the mid-1800s, and by the late 1860s was being developed as a response to the post-Civil War economic expansion.  This is where the working class of Racine’s growing manufacturing industries would build their houses, form neighborhoods, attend church and educate their children.  These citizens left a legacy of well-built houses and buildings that remain to this day. 

1652 Michigan Boulevard is a circa 1860-1880 Victorian with few embellishments, and is a fine representation of houses common to the working class of this era.  With four rooms downstairs and a steep back stair leading to one open room on the second floor, this house was built for function.

In 1880, city records indicate that Frederick Harter, a shoemaker employed by J. Miller Shoe and Boot Manufacturing, and his wife, Nellie, a music teacher, owned the house until around 1906 when it was purchased for investment rental property.  During this period of approximately ten years, the house was rented to several notable businessmen.

William H. Armstrong rented it from 1906-1908 during which time he served as Vice-President of Mitchell Motors, President of Holbrook-Armstrong Iron and Racine City Clerk.  The house was purchased around 1917 by C.C. Mortenson.  Mr. Mortenson was bookkeeper of Commercial and Savings Bank and President and owner of Mortenson Family Supply House.  It is noted in the City Directory of 1920 that Mr. Mortenson and his wife, Clara, had a telephone.  Mr. Mortensen lived in the house until his death in the 1950s; Mrs. Mortenson owned the house until the early 1980s.

There are no building permits on file for the entire life of the house until recently when new owners, Patrick and Shari Troy, began interior renovations.  While moving walls, found between the boards, was a well-worn leather shoe perhaps belonging to a four-year-old.  The Harters had two sons; it could easily be surmised that this small shoe, perhaps made by Frederick Harter for one of his sons, was tucked between the boards by an impish four-year-old, or perhaps by Frederick himself as a gesture to a future owner of his home.

Many thanks and much appreciation to the Troys for sharing the beautiful new interiors of this house so deeply rooted in Racine’s history.