IMPORTANT: Always call the business before going to take the factory tour. We try and keep our data s up-to-date as possible but you should always check first.
SC Johnson Wax
1525 Howe Street,
Racine, WI 53403-2236
Latitude: 42.712808 Longitude: -87.791383
This tour is free
This is a visitor center only, no actual factory tour.
Since its opening on April 22, 1939, the SC Johnson Administration Center has been a "mecca" for tourists, architects and Frank Lloyd Wright devotees from around the world. Artists and photgraphers have captured the building's sweeping curves and geometric designs on canvas and film. And thousands of people have delighted in the spectacular "bird-cage" elevators. What began as a new office building for SC Johnson Wax has become a testament to the foresight of H. F. Johnson, Jr. and the vision of Frank Lloyd Wright. The feeling was shared by LIFE magazine when it compared the 1939 World's Fair and the SC Johnson Wax building: "Future historians may well decide that a truer glimpse of the shape of things to come than is represented by the New York World's Fair was given in a single structure built strictly for business - the Administration Building of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., in Racine, Wisconsin."
Wright decided the Administration Center to be a functional building. He studied the daily work flow and believed that the most important criteria for his designs were the people. Wright also considered the corporate hierarchy. The clerical staff had office areas on the main level, the manager's offices were on the mezzanine level surrounding the clerical staff, and the executive offices on the third or Penthouse level, over-seeing everyone below.
The Great Workroom, which covers nearly one-half acre, is the main office area. Though it has many unique features, two of the most prominent are the slim, dendriform columns which support the roof and the glass tubing which replaces conventional windows. Neither of these features had been used before.
The bricks used in the building are also unusual. More than 200 sizes and shapes of bricks were made to form the angles and curves used by Wright. Even their color, Cherokee Red, was specified by Wright. To complement the warm tone of the brick, a lighter colored Kasota stone was used as trim. And to continue Wright's idea of fluidity and movement, the mortar in the horizontal brick joints was recessed or raked out.
Johnson's interest in Frank Lloyd Wright continued and in 1947 construction began on the Research and Development Tower. The 14-floor tower is one of the tallest structures ever built where there is no visible support under the outer walls. Wright designed the Tower using the cantilever principle which is similar to the root, trunk and branch system of a tree. This design allows the tower to appear to hang, suspended in the air. The interior levels alternate round and square floor levels. Wright's intention was to allow for easy communication between floors via the "open corners." The architect again used glass tubing instead of windows to allow for even, shadowless light and to prevent any view of outside distractions.
Connecting the Administration Center to the Research Tower, is a Wright designed bridge, enclosed completely by plate glass and glass tubing. And to further ensure the comfort of the employees in the cold Wisconsin winters, he also created a system of interconnected, underground tunnels to access each building.
The genius of Wright did not stop with the design of the building. He also designed the furniture, again, to complement the work flow and needs of the employees. The now-famous three-leg chairs prompted good posture.
Although by architectural standards the SC Johnson Wax Administration Center and Research Tower are relatively new, it is the intent of the company to maintain the buildings' integrity throughout the years. In 1976 the Administration Center and Research Tower, along with their companion buildings, were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This classification assures future generations that they will be able to see the buildings as close to their original form as possible.
Individuals and groups are invited to the company's public tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Administration Building begining from the Golden Rondelle. Tours are offered on Fridays only and reservations are requested. The tour highlights the outstanding architectural features of the building, and gives a broad overview of SC Johnson. Tours are offered free of charge and last about 40 minutes.
Open Fridays only 11:00, 1:15 PM.
The architectural tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Administration Building lasts approximately 40 minutes. The tour highlights the main architectural points of interest and gives a broad overview of SC Johnson. Youths under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult. The tour includes considerable walking.