Wisconsin Historical Society

National or State Registers Record

7825 First Avenue

National or State Register of Historic Places
7825 First Avenue | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Southport Beach House
Reference Number:02001684
Location (Address):7825 First Avenue
Southport Beach House
7825 First Avenue at Southport Park, Kenosha, Kenosha County
Architect: Christian Borggren
Date of construction: 1936-1940

Southport Beach House, like most of Kenosha's park structures, was the product of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA). The beach house was the culmination of a decades long vision for an extensive park system, beginning with the formation of the Kenosha Park Association in 1906.

After attempts to create a major port proved impractical, Kenosha experienced an industrial boom that began in the 1880s and continued until the advent of the Great Depression. Industrialization created a powerful local elite and a growing middle class, many of whom became interested in social reform. The Progressive Movement, which reached its zenith at the beginning of the twentieth century, emphasized the need for redemptive public spaces like libraries, bathhouses and parks, and encouraged the social elite to work for the good of the "deserving" poor.

Kenosha's elite gifted most of the land for Kenosha's park system by 1922, but it was not until 1925 that the city planner, Harland Bartholomew began systematically developing park amenities. The city used the WPA work relief funding to hire idled industrial workers for extensive park improvements. In 1936 and 1938, park projects employed over a thousand people and cost over one million dollars each year. The Southport Beach House, begun in 1936, used recycled materials to cut costs. This way, rather than paying for new materials, the city paid workers to tear down condemned buildings as well as build new ones. The beach house uses luxurious slate, stone and marble materials salvaged from the old Kenosha post office, which would have been otherwise unaffordable.

The beach house is an eclectic mix of popular architectural styles. The east side combines Tudor window details with Mediterranean arches, while the symmetry and mass of the west side show Classical Revival influences. The interior features an incongruously modern Art Deco ballroom with abstract, geometric ornamentation executed in paint, raised plaster, and aluminum banding applied to the walls and ceiling.

The Southport Beach House remains open for parties and public events.

Period of Significance:1936-1941
Area of Significance:Architecture
Area of Significance:Community Planning And Development
Applicable Criteria:Event
Applicable Criteria:Architecture/Engineering
Historic Use:Recreation And Culture: Music Facility
Historic Use:Recreation And Culture: Sport Facility
Architectural Style:Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals
Architectural Style:Art Deco
Resource Type:Building
Architect:Borggren, Chris
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
National Register Listing Date:01/08/2003
State Register Listing Date:10/22/2002
Number of Contributing Buildings:1
Number of Contributing Sites:0
Number of Contributing Structures:0
Number of Contributing Objects:0
Number of Non-Contributing Sites:0
Number of Non-Contributing Structures:0
Number of Non-Contributing Objects:0
National Register and State Register of Historic Places, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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