City of Springfield, Illinois

James O. Langfelder - Mayor

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Grant Store/Harts’ Block

225 South 5th Street, Springfield, IL

Designed in the Italianate style and built circa 1868 for Springfield businessman Peter Harts, only the two south storefronts are landmarked. The structure’s original brick façade was resurfaced with a smooth-faced limestone in 1930, along with its segmentally arched windows with elaborate hoods and two-over-two light sashes. The windows were again replaced in 1940 after a fire.

The building’s significance stems from a long association with the city’s commercial and retail history as the heart of that district expanded out from Second and Jefferson Streets. Jefferson was originally considered “Main Street”, but after Springfield became the state’s capital, the businesses district began to settle around the public square that housed the new Capitol Building.

An expansion of business construction ran along Monroe between Fifth and Sixth Streets and headed south on Market Street, now Capitol Avenue, toward the new State Capitol in the 1860s. Construction in the 1850s and 1860s also included a Masonic Hall, a Federal Building and Post Office and the Leland Hotel. In 1868 alone 37 commercial structures were built in the burgeoning downtown.

When Peter Harts’ building was constructed circa 1868, Harts operated a combination bookstore and drugstore in one of the two storefronts. Harts sold his businesses in 1891 but retained ownership of the building, which he rented to Harry T. Loper, who opened a large and fashionable restaurant.

Ten years later in August 1908, Loper’s restaurant would become the site of the first fatality of the Springfield Race Riot of 1908. Loper had agreed to provide transportation to move two black prisoners to a safer location. When riots erupted, a white patron of the restaurant was killed by a stray bullet and rioters, angered by Loper’s support in removing the prisoners to safety, destroyed both his restaurant and car.

Various businesses occupied the rebuilt structure until 1929 when W.T. Grant’s dime store opened and remained in business for the next 35 years. Nationwide, the Grant Company stores catered to the blue collar trade with merchandise that met everyday needs, including ready-to-wear clothing for the entire family, household items, hardware and more. The stores also stressed the importance of providing employment for local women.

After a fire in 1940, the store’s interior was rebuilt with an eye on efficiency and shopping convenience. It included restful pastel colors, more than a quarter mile of counter display, and a new scientific lighting system, all of which combined to create a thoroughly modern experience. After a subsequent fire in 1956, the building was again repaired and reopened. The Grant Store closed its doors in 1965 due, in part, to an inability to compete with new discount stores, such as K-Mart and Woolco.

The building was taken over by Thrifty Drug Store until 1986 and later by a healthcare office of the Veterans Administration and then by present occupant Equip for Equality.

While having undergone many renovations in its 140+ year history, the building’s façade retains some of its original 1868 fabric.