I’m not a fan of scary things and strongly dislike Halloween, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to tour the old John Shillito & Co. department store in downtown Cincinnati. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a haunted house!
At 840,000 square feet, Shillito’s was once the largest department store in the US. Much of the guided tour was like this — dark, stripped-down hallways and rooms that seemed to go on forever:
Ooh, vintage wallpaper on the wall of the old interior design studio:
The fur vault:
A nice find in the media studio:
Santaland was the highlight of the tour:
Old photos of kids visiting Santaland include bubble boy:
Shillito’s had its own bank branch inside the store:
In the cafeteria kitchen, pieces of the old menu board include a hamburger, cobb salad and sandwiches:
Down in the basement, the shipping/receiving conveyor belt to the loading dock:
The appropriately creepy sub-basement:
The displays in the Race St. windows featured all sorts of Shillito’s ephemera, goods and mannequins:
I walk by this building all the time. It houses offices and apartments, but I never realized that much of the interior is simply abandoned. The one-night-only tour offered a unique peek inside as a fundraiser for Mike Amman of BLDG in Covington, to help offset his medical bills. The window displays were part of a silent auction, and there have been other fundraising events around town as well.
Duh, I never thought of this as a ghost sign:
The six-story department store was modeled after Le Bon Marche in Paris and opened in 1878. Lazarus bought Shillito’s in 1930 and, in 1937, the building was renovated and expanded in the Art Deco style. Read more about this “retail palace” here.
Love the mannequin!
I mainly went in that store for the Ticketron in the credit/service area. I have been in the lobby for Landor & there’s nothing there that looks like an old department store. That’s amazing there’s still so much unused space there.
We had friends living in Shillito Apartments and we got into that side of the building a couple times. It was freaky walking around with nothing but a smart phone for light. The craziest thing about the building is parts of it looked like someone had just shut off the lights for the night and would be back.
I actually expected to find more, umm, crap lying around, but I think the best stuff had already been gathered for the silent auction display in the windows. This was definitely a fun tour, and I think it was a successful fundraiser as well — tours were starting every 10 minutes for 7 hours, and a few were sold out a couple of days in advance. I hope a lot of money was raised for Amman.
What a fabulous experience ! It does look like they’ve just stepped out, which just adds to the appeal. So pristine!
Vetti, it was a lot of fun, and I hope this happens again because I know there were tons of people who didn’t get to check it out. Definitely a unique experience!
is this the one that was still up and running during the ’80s? I remember the ladies room lounge the most – it was old school, with big armchairs and there were always people smoking in there, which was perfectly legal back then.
Becky, I believe that this store was still open in the 80s.
Pingback: Looking Back: Best VL Posts of 2013 | Visualingual
I worked in that store in the offices in the sub basement as inventory controller analyst in the 80’s, first as Shillito-Rikes then bought by Lazarus. We worked in sub conditions, no windows and mice, and asbestos wrapped pipes, and then had to work in another part of the SUB basement reviewing returns to vendors, on a partial dirt floor. Was not a pleasant place to be.
Wow, Sharyn, that sounds like a pretty horrible working environment, and quite a contrast to the glamor that others have described in terms of shopping there back in the day. Thank you for sharing!