Going Public: A Frank Lloyd Wright Tower

courtesy SC Johnson

The architect’s lost—and found—masterpiece.

Since the SC Johnson Company research tower went up in 1950, travelers to Racine, Wisconsin, have gazed longingly at the Frank Lloyd Wright gem, a 150-foot-high building with walls constructed of 17.5 miles of translucent Pyrex glass tubing. Though other parts of the SC Johnson campus have long been open to curious sightseers, the tower never has. After closing the building in 1982, when updated fire codes made it unworkable, the company continued to maintain the iconic structure (the birthplace of household products like Glade and Pledge) and, after replacing all the tubing, will open sections of it to the public in early May, for the first time ever.

Barry Bergdoll, cocurator of the current exhibition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s high-rise designs at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, says of the tower, “Wright realized a nearly two-decade dream of a tower cantilevered entirely from a central trunk, allowing for multiple open floors all wrapped in ripples of glass tubes. It changed skyscraper history.” Now, finally, visitors can experience the innovative design—rather than admire it from a distance. At 1525 Howe St.; scjohnson.com.

Pictured: A ca. 1955 photo of the SC Johnson campus, including the newly reopened research tower.