Since 1961, Wingspread Retreat & Executive Conference Center has been offering a serene and historic setting for meetings, retreats, and conferences. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Racine, WI, Wingspread’s modern facilities offer a unique backdrop for people working to solve a problem, reconnect, or set a strategy.
Located on 36 acres and featuring a private 40-room guest house, the Wingspread campus has been an inspiring setting for small groups who value being in the right place, with the right environment, and using the right tools to make their convening a success.
General manager Eric Bates recently chatted with Cory Falter on the InnSync Show about what makes Wingspread so special.
Let’s start at the beginning with a brief history of Wingspread Retreat & Executive Conference Center.
Wingspread was the former home of Herbert Fisk Johnson III and his family. The Frank Lloyd Wright home was built in 1939 by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the then Chairman of the SC Johnson Wax company based in Racine, Wisconsin.
At a time when most executives were building tall, stately Victorian-style homes, Wingspread’s 14,000 square foot Prairie style design spread low and long across the landscape – becoming one with nature and bringing the outdoors in through ample patios, trellises, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
It is one of Wright's most stunning examples of his Usonian design, and its four wings spread out in every direction – giving it the name it still carries today.
The family enjoyed Wingspread, which Mrs. Johnson always thought to be an excellent home for entertaining, for 20 years. In 1959, it was donated to The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread as a place for convening, and the family moved to a smaller home they constructed elsewhere on the property.
That second home would later become our conference center in 1978 as part of the growing campus.
Today, the Wingspread campus covers 36 acres and consists of three distinct facilities, including a 40-room guest house.
Wingspread is a pretty special place. There a dozens of ways it stands out from other conference centers, but the top 5, according to Bates are:
You can’t help but be inspired by the Wingspread structure itself. The building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is stunning in every regard. The soaring 30 ft ceiling capped with clerestory windows fills the space with natural light and its floor to ceiling windows offer incredible views of the sweeping prairie that surrounds the building.
The grounds are tranquil, calm, connected, inspiring, and purposeful, allowing attendees to leave their other worlds behind and to be fully present for the purpose that brought them here.
Eric says, "When The Johnson Foundation set out to help design innovative solutions to the problems of the day in the 1960s, the topics were different - such as nuclear disarmament, environmental issues and international affairs. Now that the world can communicate more easily, the Foundation’s focus is more regional. At Wingspread, we are bridge builders and change incubators."
Wingspread has several unique spaces for meetings, retreats, training, and more. In Wingspread alone, those include the massive Great Hall with its three-story fireplace and the intimate library with built-in shelves around a cozy fireplace. Unique spaces abound all over the Winspread campus - from the Prairie room in our Conference Center to our Wind Point room in our Guest House.
“The campus is unshared,” Eric says. “Our groups don't share their space with anybody else. In fact, the entire campus isn't typically shared with any other groups. So it is a more private, residential feeling. A lot of our attendees feel instantly at ease.”
At Wingspread, we understand that no two groups are alike, so we offer tailored experiences to match each group’s needs. Each meeting is customized to the agenda and attendees.
Eric says, "It’s your place. It’s your home, and we’re focused only on you and your ability to have an impactful meeting. When was the last time your group had an entire property staff focused exclusively on YOUR needs?" This is executive level service at its finest.
At Wingspread, we are sensitive to our environmental impact and use local resources whenever possible.
Our gardens, apiary, orchards, and partnerships with local suppliers help us create a bespoke menu for every event.
To further lessen our impact, we have implemented an environmentally sensitive building design that emphasizes materials recycling or reduction (bring or refill your water bottle), composting, waste-reduction, resource management, geothermal heating and cooling systems, as well as solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations. Our goal is to leave the smallest environmental footprint possible.
We understand the importance of focusing on outcomes for meetings to succeed. Our experienced staff works hard to provide a distraction-free environment that allows groups to focus on their goals and objectives.
Eric says, "We provide an environment where people can become inspired, think differently, trust themselves more, and develop creative solutions to meet objectives. Unlike nearly every venue, it’s not about us; it’s about YOU and your outcomes."
What we do here isn’t just a rote cookie-cutter approach to meetings. We’re always looking for elements that make a meeting most successful and incorporating those into your planning.
We are merely the magical place with the convening tools and experience to encourage successful outcomes.
Planners recognize us for the detail and easy one-price complete meeting packaging.
Seasonal pricing helps our planners find the best season to meet their budgets and timelines.
Eric ends with this, “If the meeting is important enough to bring people together to solve a problem, reconnect, or set a strategy, then you have to do that in the right place, with the right environment, using the right tools. Wingspread is that place.”
Reach out to us here to book your event at Wingspread.