Founded in 1852 by the Episcopal Diocese of Wisconsin, Racine College prepared men to attend the newly founded Episcopal Seminary in Nashotah and also had a business and science curriculum. In 1859, Father James DeKoven brought the students from his primary / secondary boarding school, St. John’s Academy, to Racine. The college flourished under his leadership until his untimely death in 1879.
In 1889, the college division closed and the school remained a boys’ boarding school until 1933 when it closed during the Great Depression. The Community of St. Mary, an Episcopal order of women, bought the property at sheriff’s auction and formed the DeKoven Foundation for Church Work which carried on the work of Racine College. The sisters used the buildings as a retreat and conference center as well as a summer camp for girls. The sisters sold the property to the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee in 1985.
Since then, the DeKoven Center has operated as an entity of the diocese with a separate board of directors still holding to the vision of Father DeKoven and the Community of St. Mary.