Racine Wagon & Carriage Company built this building around 1865 to manufacture a full line of spring vehicles and farm wagons including vans, surreys, carriages, express and delivery wagons, and phaetons. Putting this time frame into perspective, in 1865 Abraham Lincoln is assassinated five days after signing the Confederate surrender which ends the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery takes effect. The Homestead Act of 1862 has been approved granting family farms 160 acres to settlers on land carved out of Indian Territory. As the 1860’s continue, the US purchases Alaska from Russia. The first practical typewriter is patented. George Westinghouse invents air brakes for railroad trains, goes on to patent 400 inventions, founds 60 companies, including Westinghouse Electric Company. Laura Ingalls Wilder is born in Pepin, WI, and Horatio Alger publishes his first book, Ragged Dick, with the “rags to riches” theme. American entrepreneurship is burgeoning.
One can imagine the activity spurned on by the westward expansion and the industrial north, planting Racine as a hub of innovation. Racine Wagon & Carriage Company was producing the vehicles to meet the needs of incoming immigrants and outgoing pioneers. The factory consisted of wheel, smith, wood, trim, paint and assembly shops. “The company ground all its own paint, built its bodies, gears, tops, manufactured all its cushions, backs, dashes, fenders, forgings and made all its own wheels, welding the axles and tires with electricity.”1
In 1903 the company merged with Sattley Manufacturing Company of Springfield, IL becoming the Racine-Sattley Company. Sattley manufactured plows and implements. The headquarters remained in Springfield, but the factory here continued to manufacture farm wagons and spring vehicles. This was the first successful consolidation of a plow company and vehicles.
However, by 1910 the automobile industry surpassed the wagon and carriage industry, yet Racine-Sattley announced that it would not be manufacturing autos and would stay with wagons and carriages. By 1914 a new company organized becoming the Racine Carriage Company with J.C. Lund as secretary and treasurer. He had been a long time employee with Racine Wagon & Carriage Co. At this time the company discontinued manufacturing farm wagons. The factory was remodeled and equipped with up-to-date machinery and tools modernizing its equipment and supplying a sprinkler system. Racine Carriage Company opened a repair department that included retrimming and painting, with special attention to automobiles.
In 1916 the “Sattley Building” was renamed the Racine Industrial Plant and officially became the first business incubator in the country with J.C. Lund managing the facility. Arthur B. Modine, who pioneered the development of the unit heater and the room-heating convector, founded Modine Manufacturing Company in 1916 when he patented the Spirex radiator for tractors. They rented 10,000 square feet of space but eventually outgrew the Racine Industrial Plant and by 1941 they had their factory and wind tunnel built right next door.
A few other Racine companies that got their start at the Racine Industrial Plant are Webster Electric, Dumore, Midland Container Co., D.W. Davies, Scan-o-Matic, Marini Tool & Die, Racine Industries which manufactures HOST Dry Extraction Carpet Cleaner and vonSchrader Manufacturing.
In 1944 two entrepreneurs, H.D. Rench and Fran vonSchrader, purchased the building. They wanted to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit that was alive in the building by keeping affordable space available for small business owners. By 1955 there were 46 different companies located in the Racine Industrial Plant.
Reflecting a shift, the name was changed to the Racine Business Center in 1990 when parts of the building were updated and remodeled. By 1995 artists were starting to move into spaces that boasted exposed brick and beams and large windows letting in natural light. Today there are over 100 entrepreneurs, artists, merchandisers and retired professors who call Racine Business Center home for their endeavors.