Historic Horlick Athletic Field wouldn’t exist without William Horlick, Sr. Horlick grew up in England but came to the United States with his father-in-law, J.A. Horlick. Along with his brother-in-law, the three ran a limestone and quarry business. William moved to Chicago a few years later to help the business grow, but returned to Racine in 1875 and opened Horlick Food Company in 1876. It was at this time that William began working on developing a dried milk product, which he patented and launched in 1883. Originally called Diastoid, the trademark name was changed to malted milk in 1887.
The business grew and William needed more land, eventually purchasing ten acres in Mount Pleasant along the edge of the City of Racine which became known as Horlicksville. The plants built by the Horlick Food Company were among the safest in the country, both for employees and for the processing of milk. Many other milk processing plants in the state and across the country asked for the Horlick Food Company guidelines so they could more safely process milk products.
William was a huge supporter of the Racine community. He donated Memorial Hall, wings at St. Luke’s Hospital, Island Park, Horlick High School, and Horlick Athletic Field. He also sponsored polar expeditions, including one by Richard Byrd in the Antarctic and Roald Amundsen to the North Pole. Horlick’s Malted Milk was one of the main food staples for these expeditions and Byrd named a mountain range the Horlick Mountains in the Antarctic.
On October 18, 1919, it was announced that William purchased the former W-I League Park and renamed it Horlick’s Athletic Field. The first event to take place at the park was a football game between the Racine Horlicks (soon to be Horlick-Racine Legion) and Nash Motors out of Kenosha. In 1922, the American Professional Football Association (APFA) changed it’s name to the National Football League (NFL) and admitted the Racine Legion into the league. The Legion played at Horlick’s Athletic Field for free during the organization’s existence from 1919-1924.
On September 3, 1935, William and his wife (and second cousin) Arabella, donated Horlick’s Athletic Field to the City of Racine. The deed, filed on November 15, 1935, stipulated that the field was to be called, and “always be known as,” Horlick Field and that the land would “be used for the promotion of athletic sports, outdoor games, amusements, musical events, military drills, and events of similar nature.” The deed further stipulated that the land was not to be used for a “general public park.” Alexander and Bertha Horlick donated the land from Carlisle Avenue to where the west stone wall once stood to the city in 1949 to give the entirety of what is now known as Historic Horlick Athletic Field.
William Horlick, Sr. passed away on September 26, 1936, at the age of 90 and less than a year after donating Horlick Athletic Field to the City of Racine. In those 11 months, a lot changed about Horlick Athletic Field. The Works Project Administration built the north wall and 100 feet of the east wall, including the current ticket booth, put sidewalks around the field, while the city installed lights.
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