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You’re in the Wright Place!

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SC Johnson Research Tower (1936)

Touring the SC Johnson Research Tower is like taking a giant step back in time… for several reasons. The tour takes you back to the age of test tubes, scales, gas ports and hand-written notes – giving one a real feel for what it might have been like to work in a 1950’s research laboratory. It also allows one to see just how innovative and forward-thinking and ahead of his time Frank Lloyd Wright really was.

The fifteen-story, 153-foot tall Tower was built on the principle of the cantilever; the reinforced concrete slab floors are horizontal extensions from a central “taproot” core, the base of which extends more than fifty feet into the earth below. The Tower was home to the invention of many of SC Johnson’s landmark products. We are all familiar with trusted names like Raid®, OFF!®, Glade®, and Pledge® – all developed in the mid- to late-1950’s and sold around the world today.

There are actually two different kinds of floors/levels in the building: square bands of bricks (more than 22,000 of them), in beautiful and serene Cherokee Red, a Wright/SC Johnson signature color – as viewed from the exterior – are main floors and are square in shape on the interior; the floors in-between them feature the same kind of Pyrex glass tubes used in the Administration building and are the mezzanine/circular levels. Open communication within a department – necessary for collaboration – was made easily possible using this main floor-mezzanine floor design, i.e., each department had a main floor and a mezzanine floor.

Running through the core of the building are a circular elevator (unfortunately no longer able to be used) and a lighthouse-style circular and rather narrow stairway. From the second floor, there is also a narrow bridge with an arch of glass tubes that connects the Research Tower to the Administration Building.

Guarding the front of the building are two giant stone statues of Native Americans. On the west side of the sidewalk is the seventeen-feet tall Chief Nokomis; on the east side is the thirteen-feet tall statue of his wife Nokoma, both designed by Wright and commissioned on the campus in 1977. The building was a marvel and was given great reviews… by almost all except employees, who complained of the leaking seals between the joints connecting the Pyrex glass tubing, as well as the extreme brightness they allowed into the structure. Many complained and even demanded sunglasses.

By 1982, the research needs became so great that SC Johnson opened another facility for its ever-expanding research department. Unfortunately, safety concerns and newer building codes resulted in the ultimate abandonment of the Tower; evacuation would be extremely difficult with only one narrow staircase to use. Even so, the company decided in 2013 to undertake an extensive renovation project.

Completed in 2014, the Tower’s lower floors are now available for tour by the public. The Tower stands proud and tall and remains testament to the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright and the solid bond of friendship and respect developed between he and SC Johnson.

SC Johnson – corporate website
Wingspread located just north of Racine in Wind Point, WI
Thomas Hardy House located just 1/2 mile from the SC Johnson campus

Howe & 16th St
Racine, Wisconsin 53404

Tours of the SC Johnson Campus and of Wingspread are free and open to the public but advance reservations are required. Click here to make your reservation.

Photographs are allowed of the exterior of the buildings on the SC Johnson campus but no interior photography is allowed.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s SC Johnson Research Tower by Mark Hertzberg

The Wright State: Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin

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About Me

Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

FLW Enthusiast & Webmaster

Architecture and home design have always fascinated me. As a young girl I enjoyed drawing floor plans, rearranging my parent’s furniture and playing with Lincoln Logs and Legos.  My passion has always been the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Since I have been old enough to drive a car, I have visited Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the Chicagoland area and attended the Wright Plus house walks. Now, as co-owners of Northern Sky Designs, my husband & I are able to combine our website design skills and FLW travels to bring you this website! Enjoy!

Yvonne Carpenter-Ross