S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building and Research Tower

1525 Howe St., Racine, Wisconsin



Photo taken by J.R. Manning




Frank Lloyd Wright's Depression-era design for the Johnson Wax Company's Administration Building and Research Tower was so radical that local building commissioners refused to approve it without a test. At issue were Wright's novel "mushroom" columns, intended to carry loads varying from 2 to 12 tons. When a sample was built and withstood a load of 60 tons, the permit was granted. One of three notable commissions executed by the architect during the Depression, these structures employ a highly original system of cantilever-slab construction in a classic of modern office design. Frank Lloyd Wright's imaginative approach to structure is seen in his use of rounded "organic" forms, and in the T-shaped columns and "tree-like" tower. The complex, which opened in 1939, continues to serve its original functions, and still contains original furnishings that Wright designed. Widely published, it was recognized for its importance even before it was completed, and helped the architect to gain a number of commissions. -- National Historic Landmark statement of significance, January 7, 1976

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 27, 1974
Reference number
NR name
Johnson, S.C., and Son Administration Building and Research Tower
Architectural styles
American Movement; Other architectural type; Wrightian
Areas of significance
Engineering; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Professional; Research facility
Current functions
Professional; Research facility
Period of significance
Significant years
1936; 1939; 1947
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 2

Update Log 

  • April 24, 2014: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • April 8, 2012: New photos from J.R. Manning