RACINE — On Sunday, Preservation Racine will host its 45th Annual Tour of Racine’s Historical Sites. The theme this year is “An Eclectic Collection,” and is set to feature a variety of former industrial or commercial properties that have since been repurposed for public benefit.
The Journal Times received a sneak peek of one of these sites, an eye-catching, cream brick structure at 566 State St. Built back in 1900, the 4,088-square-foot building spent its life hosting a variety of different businesses, the most recent being “The Furniture Store,” which officially closed its doors in 2019.
In 2020, Todd Nelsen and his wife purchased the property with intentions to renovate the structure, but only if they could do so while maintaining and paying honor to its original features. After weighing all the viable repurposing options, Nelsen and his wife decided to take their proposal plans to the city for approval. The proposal in question was unprecedented — never put forward by any of the sites’ previous owners.
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“Once we got our layout that we liked, I hired an architect, because he had to drop all the little plans so that I could get an engineering stamp and go to the city and get all my permits,” Nelsen said. “So, I had to go stand in front of the mayor and aldermen and say, ‘Here’s my proposal. I want to take this commercial building and turn it into a residential, commercial block.’”
Once the proposal was approved, renovations commenced. Nelsen never broke his initial promise to remain as loyal as possible to the original structure. Aside from the cream brick shell, Nelsen retained all the functional wooden materials he could. He made it a point to incorporate other local historical artifacts wherever he was able. Many of the bricks added came from Racine’s historic Capitol-Park Theater, built in 1928 and razed in 2021.
“We tried as best we could to stay with the character,” Nelsen said. “Even the barn beams above the kitchen — those came out of an old Amish farm in Kenosha.”
After years of dedicated work, the end results of the property are a seamless blend of historic early 20th-century design and décor along with the necessary integration of modern-functional upgrades for safety and comfort.
So, what does it mean to turn a 122-year-old structure into a mixed-use residential and commercial building?
“We decided to split the building in half and to ‘Airbnb’ the front end,” Nelsen explained. “It gives you a little bit more room here right downtown than you would get in a hotel.”
In other words, the entirety of the 2,300-square-foot front end of the building is now available as a vacation rental condo through Marina District Homes via Vrbo, one of Airbnb’s top competitors in the short-term rental market.
The Vrbo listing (vrbo.com/2389967) for 566 State St. describes itself as “Perfect for a lake getaway with friends and family” and includes two bedrooms with seven beds, two full bathrooms, a “fully equipped” kitchen, free Wi-Fi, and a game room with foosball and board games.
In Photos: Sites on Preservation Racine’s Tour of Historic Places, 2016
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