1242 Racine Street, the “Mayor’s Mansion”

Graham Home at 13th and Racine Streets
Designed and built by Frederick Graham and his workmen in 1872-73
Demolished approximately 1942 for a parking lot

From the Grassroots History of Racine County — an amazing house I never knew existed:
Frederick Graham’s greatest pride was his home. The large three story mansard-roofed structure was surrounded by wide lawns, covering eight deep lots, with tall pine trees in front and apple and cherry trees in the rear, and was known as the “Mayor’s Mansion.” … Considered radically “futuristic” at the time, the home had twenty-two rooms with eight open fireplaces, and piping put in for future running water in the numerous bedrooms, something unheard of in Racine in 1871 and 1872. The outstanding feature of the old mansion, the deviation that drew sightseers from miles around for a glimpse of its uniqueness, was the ceiling decorations of the second floor, which was used entirely for parlors. Specializing in mason-contract work, Graham spent eighteen years completing the plaster molds for the raised effects, showing cupids and flowers and scrollwork design within the home. Several of these decorations are still in the possession of the family.

1242 Racine Street (circled in yellow) from the 1887 Sanborn Map of Racine

Racine Journal, October 29, 1896


The marriage of Miss Ada L. Graham to Mr. William Henry Cram, which was solemnized at the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Graham, No. 1242 Racine street, at 6 o’clock p. m., Oct. 21, was one of the prettiest and most brilliant events of the autumn season. It was a pink and green wedding. The interior of the spacious residence was beautifully decorated with the colors and roses, plants and ferns were also conspicuous.

At the appointed hour Schulte’s orchestra of two pieces played Mendelsohn’s wedding march and the bridal party entered the east parlor and took their position under a bank of ferns and other choice flowers.

Rev. Arthur Piper of St. Luke’s church, performed the ceremony, it being the beautiful Episcopal service with ring. During the ceremony the orchestra rendered, “Call Me Thine Own.” The bride wore a gown of Japanese white silk, trimmed with pearl trimmings and carried bridal roses. The maid of honor was Miss Verna Graham, attired in white silk and the bridesmaids were Miss Bell Peck, who wore white silk and Miss Ella Tate, robed in blue silk. The best men were Mr. Frederick Graham and Mr. George Crane.

After the ceremony nearly one hundred guests who were present to witness the marriage extended congratulations and a wedding supper was served in the dining room, decorated in pink and green.

The bridal bouquet was caught by Miss McDrew and if the fates predict right she will be the next young lady to wed.

The display of gifts was large and costly and the gift of the groom to the bride was a handsome gold watch and chain.

The newly wedded pair departed at 9:47, via the C. & N. W. railroad for Minnesota, on a brief wedding tour. They were followed to the station by their many young friends and old shoes and rice was generously distributed and never did a newly-wedding couple start out under more auspicious circumstances.

They will be at home to their friends after December 15, at No. 828 West avenue, Kalamazoo, Mich.

The bride is one of the most popular and charming south side society ladies and few young ladies have warmer and truer friends; she is also cultivated and those qualifications which go to make up a noble woman.

The groom was formerly of this city and held a position with Armour & Co. He was promoted to the position of manager of the company’s business at Kalamazoo. He is a thorough business man and is bound to rise. To him and his estimable bride is extended the congratulations and best wishes of the Journal.

Racine Daily Journal, July 15, 1902

Y. T. S. C. of the Holy Innocents church will give a lawn social at the home of Mrs. Fred Graham, 1242 Racine St., on Wednesday evening of this week. Strawberry and chocolate ice cream served.


Book That Tells Racine’s History

Dear Tex: Racine has many new residents, and more seem to be coming all the time. Perhaps they would like to learn some of the early history of their adopted city. If so, they cannot do better than obtain from the public library the 64-page booklet “Early Racine,” by Miss Verna B. Graham.

It seems this account of the city and its beginnings is in use in the public schools and a copy was brought in to me by a boy from Roosevelt school who lives next door. There could not be a better book for the purpose. It is simply written, concise and clear, but packed with facts, many of them new even for old-timers like the undersigned.

Miss Graham attended the 6th Ward school under Martin L. Smith when I did and also the high school, one year ahead of me. Later, she taught in the 6th Ward, later named the Franklin school.

Well do I remember her as a pupil walking primly to school. I never imagined that 60 years later I would be reading a book by her with the greatest delight.

Her father was Frederick Graham, mayor of Racine, 1897-98, and the family home was a large brown house at the corner of 13th Street and Racine Street.

George A. Perham

Frederick Graham, 1932-1905 (approx. 73 years old)
Mound Cemetery, Racine, Wis.
Builder of 1242 Racine Street
Mathilda Graham, 1840-1911 (approx. 71 years old)
Mound Cemetery, Racine, Wis.
Wife of Frederick Graham
Frederick W. Graham, 1859-1944 (approx. 85 years old)
Mound Cemetery, Racine, Wis.
Son of Frederick Graham

Racine Journal Times, September 9, 1944

Frederick Graham, Former Racine Manufacturer, Dies

Frederick W. Graham, 85, retired manufacturer, who had made his home with his sister, Miss Verna B. Graham, 3716 Washington avenue, died Friday.

Mr. Graham was born in Racine Jan. 20, 1859, the son of the late Frederick and Matilda [sic] Graham, pioneer residents of Racine. When 21 years old, he left for the west and was joined by his cousin, Will LePoidevin, and a friend, Will Reilly. The next 10 years were spent in mining and ranching in New Mexico Colorado.

Returning to Racine, he learned the pattern maker’s trade and later opened a factory. He helped to superintend the building of the casing for the Racine water tower, which was erected by his father. For 40 years Mr. Graham and his brother, H. E. Graham, engaged in making wood and metal patterns under the name of the Graham Manufacturing company. Frederick Graham retired in 1926, after the death of his brother.

Mr. Graham was a member of Holy Innocents church.

Surviving are two sisters, Mrs. E. H. Hanson and Miss Verna B. Graham; one niece, Lucile Hanson; several grandnieces and nephews. Funeral service will be held at 2 p. m. Tuesday in the Thronson funeral home with Rev. E. Leonard officiating. Burial will be in Mound cemetery. Friends may call Monday afternoon and evening at the funeral home.

Ada L. Graham Cram, 1872-1921 (approx. 49 years old)
Mound Cemetery, Racine, Wis.
Daughter of Frederick Graham, featured in 1896 wedding story above
Verna B. Graham, 1876-1950 (approx. 74 years old)
Mound Cemetery, Racine, Wis.
Daughter of Frederick Graham, featured as maid of honor in 1896 wedding story above.
Author of the 64-page pamphlet, “Early Racine”
Box 3, Folder 15, Elementary schools, Eugene Walter Leach Collection