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Racine College

Racine Wisconsin

1852-1887 (college) 1852-1934 (High School)



Historical Sketches of the Colleges of Wisconsin is available on HathiTrust as is James Francis Allen’s Higher Education in Wisconsin.  DeKoven Center, the present occupier of the campus, has a Facebook page.  A 1902 yearbook can be found at the Wisconsin Historical Society. contains a page of digital Racine photos.  The seal come from the 1876 catalog credit to the American Antiquarian Society.



Racine College was founded by Dr. Roswell Park for the Episcopal Church in 1852.  While Episcopalian, and English in model, it was not initially a sectarian school.  In addition to a preparatory division, it had two courses of study for older students.  The full course led to a traditional Greek and Latin based Bachelor of Arts degree.  Racine also offered a short course of two years that prepared graduates for careers in business.   However in 1859, Under the leadership of Dr. James DeKoven, Racine College entered another phase in which its role as a church institution became prominent.  Now its object was to “educate the youth placed in its care…with an especial view. . .to the preparing for the study of Theology, those interested in becoming clergymen.”  But, according to an article in the Chicago newspaper Interocean, the proportion of students seeking training in fields other than theology grew to the point that by 1865 the theological preparedness statement had disappeared from the catalogue.  Still, James Francis Allen pointed out that Racine was making the moves necessary to become the “University for the North-West,”one that combined Christian virtue with sound learning. 


When Interocean reviewed the college in 1886, they found  it to be the only college “where a daily church service is held.”  The newspaper praised the college for its freedom from indebtedness, for its cleanliness and for the abundance and quality of meals served to students.  Nevertheless the school’s financial situation soon became so grave that by 1890, the college portion of the school was dropped. This move dropped the overall enrollment from 150 to 40 grammar students.    After DeKoven’s death, the school discovered that it owed him $80,000 in untaken salary.


Racine College remained as a preparatory school until 1934, when it closed its doors.

Sketch of the Racine Campus taken from Homer Wheeler's 1876 Historical Sketch of Racine College  (accessed 1-19-2017)  <>

Bricks and Mortar

Racine College occupied ten (later 90) acres on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.  In 1881 The Cincinnati Commercial Traveler described the Racine campus as resembling an H.  The college occupied the west side with the laboratory/gymnasium and Taylor Hall (1868).  The grammar school—Park Hall (1852), the refractory, the grammar Building (1865) and Kemper Hall (1857) occupied the east side, fronting the Lake.   The Chapel joined the two wings.  The east front stretched more than 400 feet.


In this sketch of the campus, Taylor Hall is to the upper right.  Directly below it is Kemper Hall, with the matching Park Hall, the school’s first building, in the lower left.


After the preparatory school closed, the campus was taken over by an order of Nuns and converted to the DeKoven Center.



Racine College played both baseball and football.  In baseball Racine was a member of the Northwestern College League, along with Lake Forest, Beloit, Wisconsin and Northwestern.  Racine won the league in 1887.


Racine played Michigan in 1878 in the first football game played in the Northwest, Michigan winning 1-0.  Prior to 1887 they also had games with Lake Forest, Marquette, and regional athletic clubs.  As a preparatory school, they scheduled more high schools, academies, and athletic clubs.  But still Rush Medical School, Marquette JV’s, Chicago Veterinary School, Crane JC, and service units showed up on the schedule.


In 1903 football games were cancelled because the players were caught eating fudge, which was thought to make them poor athletes and students.


The 1907 Racine College football team.  Image from the 1908 National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Guide (accessed 1-19-2017) (;view=2up;seq=78)

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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