St. Luke's Library and Chapel (1932)
In 1880, Dr. John G. Meachem, Jr. did an appraisal of Racine’s downtown area raising his concerns for health and sanitation of the community. According to a 1998 article in The Journal Times, he informed the Racine City Council members, “I have counted 41 stables, keeping 130 horses and 14 cows; 226 privies; 25 cesspools; 26 old stopped-up drains and at least 50 noticeable places where the surface of a part of the lot is left sodden by slops, dirty water, garbage and refuse of all kinds promiscuously and liberally thrown in every direction.”

By 1872 the first hospital in Racine, St. Luke’s, was established in a rented two-story house on Park Avenue, then called Chippeway, and 10th Street. (It has since moved to 808-810 17th Street where it is today.) On September 21, 1876 the cornerstone for a new hospital was laid and in February, 1877 the new 20 bed facility opened at College and 13th Street, the building located to the south of the Library/Chapel. This building eventually housed the St. Luke’s School of Nursing as new hospital buildings were built.

In 1932 St. Barnabas Chapel and St. Luke’s Library was built for about $35,000 through the generosity of Dr. John G. Meachem, Jr. The Chapel was erected in memory of his wife Eliza. The library commemorates the three generations of Meachem physicians. It was built with bricks from Klinkert’s Brewery, built in 1881 at 800-830 Washington Avenue. The brewery operated until Prohibition in the 1920s, and by 1931 it was forced to raze most of the buildings. The Library/Chapel architecture is Jacobethan, combining elements of Elizabethan and Jacobean. According to the Architectural Survey in 1974, incidence of this style is rare. The only change on the outside of the building is the replacement of copper downspouts with common ones, after the copper ones had been stolen a few times.

According to The Journal Times, Dr. Meachem said it was his intention to make the hospital library the most elaborate hospital library in Wisconsin. It was open to the use of all physicians in the city, and it was of great benefit to the School of Nursing (1906 – 1986). A new library was installed in 2000 on St. Mary’s Spring St. Campus.

In order to enter the chapel it was necessary to go outdoors and downstairs. This made it very inaccessible for patients and often families. In 1986 a chapel was dedicated on the 4th floor of the main hospital that was accessible to both patients and families. The Library/Chapel then became a space for the Racine Academy of Medicine, used for its meetings and continuing medical education.

Preservation Racine thanks Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare - All Saints for allowing us to share this special building.
Racine’s Automobile Manufacturers 
Collector of all things Racine, Jim Mercier generously brought for our tour guests relics of the past to display at the library.  



​Click here to view Jim Mercier's article featured in the tour booklet with information about Racine's Automobile Manufacurers.