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PHOTO: Illuminating Presence Over Racine

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Research Tower on the Racine campus of SC Johnson is illuminated over the foreground of the neighborhood on 17th Street to the south. SC Johnson relit its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Research Tower on Saturday evening, December 21, 2013, to mark the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The tower will soon open to the general public for tours for the first time in its history beginning in the spring of 2014. The tower, which opened in 1950 and closed in 1982, recently underwent an extensive 12-month restoration. / Scott Anderson Buy this Photo at

RACINE — This spring, for the first time ever, SC Johnson will open the doors of its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Research Tower to the public.

For 32 years, the tower, on the headquarters campus of SCJ, 1525 Howe St., served as a “hub of innovation,” the company said, where household products including Raid, Glade, Pledge and Off were invented.

Beginning Monday, visitors can make online reservations for free tours that include the Research Tower. The season’s new tours begin May 2 and run on Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 27.

The Research Tower is located at the heart of the company’s global headquarters campus. It stands 153 feet tall with 232 stairs that climb 15 stories.

“Frank Lloyd Wright’s creative vision and iconic architecture have served as a source of inspiration for our business for more than 75 years,” SCJ spokeswoman Kelly Semrau stated. “There is no place that demonstrates this more than the Research Tower, where some of our leading brands were created, and we’re eager to open it to the public for the first time.”

In 1936, SCJ leader H.F. Johnson Jr. sought the expertise of Wright, and a legendary partnership began. Wright went on to design the company’s Administration Building, which opened in 1939, and the Research Tower, which opened in 1950. Both buildings are now on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1937 Johnson also commissioned Wright to design a home for his family in Wind Point. The resulting structure was Wingspread, described by Wright as “the last of the prairie houses.” It is now a conference center for The Johnson Foundation.

The Research Tower

The SCJ Research Tower was home to the company’s research and development scientists.

The Tower is an example of cantilever construction with an inner core extending 50 feet into the ground that provides support for the 16-million-pound structure. Wright coined the term “taproot” to describe the unique foundation to his design. The “taproot” core bears a resemblance to the lily pad-like columns seen throughout the Administration Building.

Although SCJ closed the tower in 1982, the company continued to light it every night. The lights were turned off during an extensive, 12-month restoration last year, which involved both exterior and interior updates.

During the process, the company replaced 21,170 bricks and more than 5,800 Pyrex glass tubes that were used to construct the building’s numerous windows.

The company relit the tower in late December after the final restoration of the original lighting scheme.

Available tours, films at SC Johnson

RACINE — SC Johnson offers the public a free look at more than just its Research Tower at its global headquarters campus, 1525 Howe St.

The following free tours are available there:

- The Landmarks Tour — The two-hour tour is tailored for guests who would like an in-depth look at SCJ’s architecture, and features the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Administration Building, the Research Tower, Fortaleza Hall, The SC Johnson Gallery and The Lily Pad, a gift shop featuring exclusive SCJ memorabilia and Wright-inspired items.

- The Gallery Tour — This takes guests on a one-hour journey through Fortaleza Hall, The SC Johnson Gallery: At Home with Frank Lloyd Wright and The Lily Pad gift shop.

A new exhibit at The Gallery will feature Taliesin, Wright’s home and studio in Spring Green, and Taliesin West, his winter home and studio in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In addition, visitors can view films at the Golden Rondelle Theater which was designed for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. The Rondelle is currently presenting:

- “Carnaúba: A Son’s Memoir” is a one-hour film that depicts Sam Johnson’s 1998 re-creation of his father’s 1935 expedition from Racine to Fortaleza, Brazil.

- “To Be Alive!” is an Academy Award-winning 20-minute film commissioned by SCJ for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair that celebrates the similarity of cultures around the world.

For more information about visiting the SC Johnson global headquarters campus or to schedule a tour, use the online scheduling tool at, call 262-260-2154 or email

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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