Christmas House Bed and Breakfast (1893)
This 123 year-old house built in the Dutch Colonial Revival style was designed by James Gilbert Chandler and built by Josiah Hocking for Emily C. Baker at a cost of $25,000. In 1912, Alexander Horlick made extensive additions, which raised its value from $19,000 to $34,000.

In 1893, this house had eyebrow dormer windows, a polygonal tower running through all three floors on the southwest side, and gambrel roofs on the Main Street and lake sides. In 1912, Mr. Horlick added three new wings: one forward to the park, one eastward to the lake, and one northward for the kitchen. All three floors on those wings are new and Horlick reused where possible and matched the rest. Today’s living room is by Horlick and includes the glass windows that had only been possible since 1903. It has a large front door with sidelights, dentil trim under the eaves, uninterrupted shell motifs above the dormers, garland ornamentation on the friezes and quasi- Palladian windows on the park-facing wing.

Emily Carswell Baker was the widow of Robert Hall Baker, one of the first so-called Big Four investors in J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company. Mr. Baker, a Racine City Council member, Mayor, Wisconsin State Senator, and Commissioner of Racine Public Schools, died in 1882. When the Baker heirs sold their leased family home to Alexander and Bertha Horlick, on August 1, 1904, for $18,000, the Horlicks could not occupy until March 1, 1905.

Mr. Horlick was in charge of sales and business practices at his family’s firm, the Horlick Malted Milk Company. When his father, William, the founder, died in 1936, Alexander became the last American president of the company. In addition to being Racine’s Mayor for three terms, he served on the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin.

The deaths of their parents in 1949 and 1950 prompted the Horlick daughters to sell to Horace Benstead, an executive at Western Publishing Company. He gave it to St. Luke’s School of Nursing for a second- and third-year female-student dormitory. Benstead named the residence, the Henrietta Benstead Hall, to honor his mother. After the nursing school closed in 1986, the Raymond Di Iulio family, he being the President of St. Luke’s Hospital, resided there until Mr. Di Iulio’s retirement in 1996. The house was elaborately decorated at Christmas time to raise funds for St. Luke’s Memorial Hospital, hence, its common name, The Christmas House.

The house has been a bed and breakfast business twice, the first time in the late 1990s. In 2014, after a period of vacancy, the Deskins purchased the property to live on-site. Our deepest thanks to Pamela and Hillary Deskins for stepping up to preserve this Racine gem when it fell into disrepair and desperately needed care to survive.