Shillito’s, Abandoned

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

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:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

Ooh, vintage wallpaper on the wall of the old interior design studio:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

The fur vault:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

A nice find in the media studio:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

Santaland was the highlight of the tour:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

Old photos of kids visiting Santaland include bubble boy:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

Shillito’s had its own bank branch inside the store:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

In the cafeteria kitchen, pieces of the old menu board include a hamburger, cobb salad and sandwiches:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

Down in the basement, the shipping/receiving conveyor belt to the loading dock:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

The appropriately creepy sub-basement:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

The displays in the Race St. windows featured all sorts of Shillito’s ephemera, goods and mannequins:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

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.

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

Duh, I never thought of this as a ghost sign:

abandoned Shillito's department store in downtown Cincinnati

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.

10 thoughts on “Shillito’s, Abandoned

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. Pingback: Looking Back: Best VL Posts of 2013 | Visualingual

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

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