History of The Site

The land on which the Watersedge Hotel is located has a fabled place in the history of the city of Racine, Wisconsin.  To say the name Horlick represents one of Racine’s founding families is a great understatement. Joseph A. Horlick Sr. was the first of the Horlick family to arrive in Racine. He came from Gloucestershire, England, in 1844. A carpenter and a lumberjack, Joseph started a lumber business. In 1853 Joseph founded a lime and stone business, responsible for constructing the Root River dam of cement and rubber stone. Horlicks later added a mill, farm, and an ice business to his company.  Horlick also operated a boat livery at the dam.  The complex came to be known as “Ye Old Mill”, pictured below:



“Ye Old Mill” became a boat house and recreational area from which boats could be rented and rowed up river to Thompsondale, a favorite picnic ground. Many Racine residents maintained summer cottages along the river north of this dam, and the big event of each season was “Venetian Night,” when decorated boats and elaborate “sets” along shore were lighted in a competition for prizes. According to an early copy of the Racine Argus, the first camp meeting ever held in Wisconsin was held near here by a Methodist Revival group.

The roots of the family, made famous by malted milk, branch out into many different aspects of the city’s history.  A stone quarry, a dance club, a dog food manufacturer, Racine’s first hamburger stand, and a small amusement park all were family businesses operated by Horlicks. The name not only represents the Racine pioneer and his family, but the growth of the family along with the city.

The dam is today known as now known as Horlick Dam, and it is right behind the hotel property.  Watersedge Hotel nestles on the banks of the scenic Root River, one of the largest fishing spots for King Salmon and Lake Trout. Here is a contemporary picture/video of anglers at the Horlick Dam:




The old mill was destroyed in a 1922 fire, then rebuilt from original millstones into a version that stood until 1969, when the land just north of Highway MM and Northwestern Avenue was developed for a Holiday Inn; and today is a Travelodge.