Thomas P. Hardy House

It may be quite difficult to imagine what Racine Wisconsin looked like in 1905. But a Google Maps search for the city at that time period results in an amazing view of an area not far from the SC Johnson campus, where Frank Lloyd wright designed two buildings circa 1936; the Administration Building, which opened in 1939 and the Research Tower, which opened in 1950.

South-west elevation of the Hardy House

The Building Site

That area is a bluff that is located not far south of where the Root River flows into the harbor at Racine. The narrow bluff falls away quickly – and steeply – to the shore of Lake Michigan. This is the location selected and purchased by Thomas P. Hardy for a home. Wright designed the home for the Racine attorney in 1904-1905 and Hardy moved in circa 1906.

And apparently, Hardy convinced Wright to scale back the original design; only half of it was built. According to students of architecture, this was the first Prairie style house built on a dramatically sloping lot; if you get the chance to visit the home, you will understand the meaning of “dramatically sloping”.

The north-west elevation

From the street, there really isn’t much of the home that is visible. The stucco-finished front is, like most homes on this street, almost flush with the current sidewalk; the hill drops quite quickly away from the street and down towards the lake. The neighboring house to the north has almost zero set-back: there are literally only a few inches of space between the two structures. It would be a challenge, at best, to imagine anything but a claustrophobic feel once inside the house with the neighboring house so close.

The lot slopes steeply to the lake

There is no other home to the south but neither can one see much, if any, of the rear of the house from the south. Wright’s design though, is an incredible example his ability to fit a design to any particular site; this home is literally conjoined with the bluff. If you were foolish enough to try to get around to the back side of the house – without sliding down the steep embankment – you would see what a marvelous view Mr. Hardy had: two-story windows, living room and a magnificent terrace on the rear of the building allow one an unobstructed view straight out onto the beautiful grandeur of Lake Michigan.

There are three stories total – not counting the basement – with an upper story balcony, creating seven levels, all connected by stairways, providing a very open feel inside the structure.

Band of windows that face the street

Wright's entryway for the Hardy house is literally at the line of the sidewalk, with one apparent entrance at each end of the building. Windows on the front side are scarce and a rather substantial stucco wall reinforces the sense of privacy from Main Street. There is however, a thin band of square-shaped windows that runs below the second story soffits that adds intrigue.

Previous Owners

Thomas Hardy took out a total of three mortgages on the home, finally losing it to foreclosure in 1938 at age 73. Since then, there have been six different owners: Thomas Hardy, 1906-1938; The Sporers, 1938-1947; The Archers, 1947-1957; The Sewards, 1957-1963; The Pfisterers, 1963-1968; The Yoghourtjians, 1968- 2012; and Eugene Szymczak 2012 – 2014.

Rehabilitation of the Hardy House

Szymczak undertook a full restoration of the house in 2013 to 2015, including replacing aging wood and refinishing the house in its original colors inside and out; the outside stucco was restored to its original terra cotta color. Unfortunately, after four long years of repairs, Gene J. Szymczak, the seventh owner of the Hardy House, passed away on Saturday, December 3, 2016 at the age of 67.

For his rehabilitation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine, Gene was posthumously honored as recipient of the 2017 Kristin Visser Award for Historic Preservation.

Related Articles, Media, Resources & Links

  • Hardy House Rehabilitation by Mark Hertzberg
    The article has additional information about the rehabilitation of the house as well as many interior photos.

More Information

Front door is almost at the sidewalk

Location

1319 South Main Street
Racine, Wisconsin
Map
 

Tours

The house is privately owned and not available for tours.

The Johnson campus is only 1/2 mile from the Hardy House and open for free tours.  Make your reservation.

Quick Links

 

 

The Wright State: Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin  

Frank Llloyd Wright Prairie Houses