Firm founded 1917, closed 1976

Lake Street & Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park
Built 1908

In the years prior to the opening of branch stores by leading Chicago retailers, the top department store in Oak Park was Gilmore’s.

Masonic Block Building (formerly Gilmore's), March 2004

Masonic Block Building (formerly Gilmore’s), March 2004

The store was founded in 1917 by William Gilmore and was initially known as the Avenue Dry Goods store. Gilmore changed the name of the store to William Y. Gilmore and Sons when his two sons graduated college and joined the business. During its early years, the store occupied the northern part of the Masonic Block building, a large Prairie School-style commercial structure built in 1908 on the southeast corner of Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue. Over the years, the store expanded to occupy the entire building, not only due to the rapid growth of Oak Park and surrounding communities during the 1940s and 1950s, but also in an effort to withstand increased competition from rival department stores such as Marshall Field’s and The Fair, both of which opened branch stores in Oak Park in 1929.

Gilmore’s closed in 1976. The Masonic Block building, in which the family-owned department store operated for nearly sixty years, was restored to its original appearance in 1984.

Image source: Author’s collection