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DeKoven Center (Racine College)

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1853–1900. 600 21st St.

Founded in 1852 by the Milwaukee Episcopal Diocese, Racine College was dominated by its second president, James deKoven, a powerful preacher and champion of the Oxford Movement, a religious revival within the Church of England (see WK22). Under deKoven, Racine College became a college preparatory for Episcopal priests. It closed in 1933 and is now a retreat and conference center.

Amid an expanse of lawns, stone paths, and trees on a lakeside bluff stand nine Gothic Revival buildings modeled on the medieval quadrangles of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Construction began in 1853 with Park Hall, at the quad’s northeast corner (burned in 1864, but soon rebuilt). Kemper Hall, at the southeast corner, followed in 1857. Both buildings are massed in three parts; the taller cores have three-story entrance towers with crenellated parapets and corner but-tresses. The one-story Dining and Assembly halls were added in 1871 and 1872 and joined by a cross-gabled connector building. These fill the space between Park and Kemper halls, tying the two older buildings into one long, five-building complex, all with cream brick walls and pointed-arch windows and doors. Their delicate details include trefoil window tracery, quatrefoils on the brick bargeboards, and an octagonal belfry with cusped openings, tapering to a faceted spire.

In the middle of the quad, St. John’s Chapel (1864) takes inspiration from English Gothic parish churches in its compact form, steep roof, emphatic buttresses, and colorful brick patterning. Here, cross motifs accent the lancets, panels, and steeply peaked parapet. An early history of Racine County credits Lucas Bradley with the design, but he was probably only the builder. J. F. Miller of New York was likely the architect of this and other campus buildings. To the northwest, Taylor Hall (1867) echoes Kemper’s and Park’s three-part massing, brick buttresses, and lancet windows (here paired), but it adds wall dormers, corbeling, and a forest of chimneys. An 1875 double-gabled gymnasium with brick corbeling and an 1876 gatehouse with segmental-arched windows anchor the quad’s southwest corner.

Writing Credits

Marsha Weisiger et al.


What's Nearby


Marsha Weisiger et al., "DeKoven Center (Racine College)", [Racine, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 171-172.

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