THE LUCIUS BLAKE HOUSE (c.1868)
936 Main Street
This cream brick house was built for George and Roxilana Bull in the Italian Villa Style - sometimes called Italianate or Bracketed. - which was very popular in the United States from the mid-1850's to the 1880's. The style was derived from the provincial houses of Italy, which often began as simple rectangles but were added to over the years and developed into complex structures. It is characterized by gently sloping roofs, usually with wide eaves and decorated with brackets, sometimes in pairs. Highly decorative porches, balustrades, or porte-cocheres are not uncommon. (The Blake House's porch has been removed.) The Tuscan Villa type, like this one, is usually built around two sides of a tower or campanile that rises above the roof of the house to provide a look-out or belvedere.
George Bull owned a dry goods store on the southwest corner of Sixth and Main. In 1873 he sold the house to Lucius and Caroline Blake. Lucius Sawyer Blake (1816-1894) came to Racine County in 1835, when he was 19. He farmed with his father for a time and later worked as a carpenter until 1843, when he began making farm implements here in Racine. His specialty was fanning mills (hand-cranked blowers that removed chaff, husks, and dirt from grain), and he is said to have made the first ones in the city - by hand. He eventually built a factory that made as many as three thousand fanning mills a per, and he distributed them from Vermont to California and even to Europe. Mr. Blake helped to establish a number of other early Racine industries, including the Racine Woolen Mills and the Chicago Rubber Clothing Company (now Rainfair). He was also active in civic affairs. He served as a village trustee, as an alderman, as county treasurer, and as a provost marshal for Camp Utley, Racine's Civil War camp. And he was concerned about culture in the community. In 1882 he built "the finest theater in the west" here - the Blake Opera House - in an attempt to bring plays directly from New York stage to Racine. Unfortunately, this sumptuous theater burned to the ground two years later during the Christmas season of 1884. "He was one of the most public spirited men in the city," according to his obituary, "and never lost faith in the future of Racine, and no man that has ever lived has been more active in promoting its growth than was he."
The Blake House was scheduled for demolition in 1976, but the Junior League of Racine, the Racine County Historical Society, Racine Urban Aesthetics, and Preservation Racine formed a coalition to lease the house, restore it, maintain it, and manage it. The house now contains several private apartments and offices.
Resource: Walking Tour Guide of Racine, published 1994.
Submitted by Deborah Crowell