Timeline for 245 Main Street: from The Journal Times, May 10, 2007
1837 – The land purchase is the first deed ever recorded in Racine County;
1837 – First Racine schoolhouse built on the property;
1857 – Alexander McClurg buys the property. McClurg is the son-in-law of Racine founder Gilbert Knapp;
1857-58 – The building is erected as the first fireproof structure in Wisconsin. Its Italianate, cast-iron facade is brought by ship via the Great Lakes from Buffalo, N.Y.
The building houses the offices of the county’s first railroad, the Racine, Janesville & Mississippi Line, as well as the City Bank of Racine;
1882 – The concrete building is the only structure to survive the Great Fire of 1882;
1870s and 1880s – It houses the Racine Advocate newspaper and law offices;
1890 – Bought by former Racine mayor M.M. Secor.;
1893 – Secor has the interior rebuilt and opens the Midwest’s first Turkish bathhouse, the Secor Medical Baths. The baths remained in continual use until 1941;
1897 – Racine’s first public library opens on the first floor, with 3,439 books;
1900 – The first Racine County Municipal Court is established on the second floor;
1904 – The library is moved to Main and Seventh streets, now home to the Racine Heritage Museum.
The Bijou Theater is started at 245 Main St. to show vaudeville acts and movies such as “The Great Train Robbery”;
1913-21 – The Racine Continuation and Industrial School, Wisconsin’s first vocational school, conducts classes;
1918 – Peter Nelson opens the Nelson Restaurant. He later bought the building;
1924 – Nelson remodels and adds hotel accommodations;
1956 – The building changes hands but continues to be run as Nelson Hotel and Restaurant;
1975 – Pat and Terry Ludeman buy it and open 245 Main Place, a restaurant;
1977 – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places;
1987 – Bought and then sold to present owner, Johnson Redevelopment Corp., the real estate arm of SC Johnson;
1985 – The remodeled Main Place opens with Robert W. Baird as first tenant;
2007 – Dunn Bros. Coffee opens on remodeled first floor.
Dennis Tully: Here is some more information from the Preservation Racine Newsletter 1982:
Local Group Buys Nelson Hotel
One of the key buildings in the preservation effort in downtown Racine, this vacant and deteriorating four-story building was constructed in 1857, four years before the start of the Civil War in 1861, and only 31 years after the death of two of the greatest signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Wisconsin had become a state only nine years earlier in I8I+8. President James Buchanan presided over a troubled nation in 1857 of 27 million free citizens and 1+ million slaves.
This building has played an integral part in Racine’s long and robust history. At various times, it has contained a railroad head¬ quarters (the Racine, Janesville & Mississippi Railroad for which the partnership is named), a bank, the municipal court, the public library, a vaudeville theater, a movie theater, a restaurant, a hotel, and a turkish bath. The tile walls of the turkish bath survive in relatively good condition in the basement of the building,
RJM Land Company will restore both the interior and the exterior of the building. The ground floor will be returned to commercial use, retaining most of its present excellent features such as the large windows, ornamental tin ceiling and walls, and tile floors. The three upper stories and the mezzanine will be timed into ten apartments containing about 1,000 square feet each. The building consisting of 17,1+00 square feet of space, has many fine features including the iron columns on the front of the building and throughout the upper stories, and the vaulted ceilings on the upper stories, including one 15 feet hi^ on the fourth story. These vaults were constructed of brick and mortar between iron beams extending the entire length of the building.
A local group calling itself “RJM Land Company” has purchased the 125 year old former Nelson Hotel building at 21+5 Main Street, The group, consisting of Mary W. Josten, Barbara Englander, Lois Hammes, Emile Mathis II, James E, Tully, and Tanya Lehmann, purchased the building for $32,000.00 at a sheriff’s mortgage foreclosure sale, subject to a real estate tax liability of almost $19,000.00 which the partners will also pay. The group has strong local preservation and renovation ties. Several partners have been involved in successful renovations of other older local structures.
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which provides several tax advantages to the partners, including a 2S% tax credit for each dollar used in a certified renovation of the building. This means that if the State Historical Society and the National Park Service approve of the renovation plans, each of the partners will to write off dollar for dollar against his or her individual tax liability his or her proportionate share of a $125,000.00 tax credit upon an anticipated total renovation cost of $500,000.00,