April 27: The Overlooked History of Carson Pirie Scott Presentation
by Patrick Steffes

The Overlooked History of Carson Pirie Scott



Chicago Magazine, 1965

Join Forgotten Chicago on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. for an exclusive presentation on the modernist architecture and design of the late, lamented Carson Pirie Scott at the Westchester Public Library, 10700 Canterbury Street in Westchester.

Besides Carson’s forward-thinking store design, this retail chain would, in the 1960s and 1970s, greatly expand to operate the flagship restaurant at the world’s busiest airport, as seen above and two distinctive suburban Chicago resort hotels. We hope to see you at this updated presentation, offered for only the second time in four years.


Architectural Record, 1955

Arguably, no other post-World War II U.S. retailer embraced modernist architecture and employed more high-profile architects than Carson Pirie Scott. In just the 10 years between 1952 and 1962, this Chicago-based department store chain would hire Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Holabird & Root, Howard K. Fisher, Welton Beckett & Associates and shopping center pioneer Victor Gruen to design a wide variety of branch department stores in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana. Nearly all of these buildings are extant more than 50 years later, with their futures in doubt following the closure of Carson’s in August 2018.


Architectural Record, 1954

The contribution of the Chicagoland built environment by Carson Pirie Scott & Company has been widely overlooked and little studied, especially compared to its cross-State Street retail rival. As part of its centennial celebrations in 1954, Carson’s sponsored a nationally promoted competition to reshape the Loop, including a curious plan to convert the Lake Street Elevated to a highway, as seen above.


Top: Visual Merchandising & Store Design, 1985 Bottom: Visual Merchandising & Store Design, 1987

Utilizing Forgotten Chicago’s vast archive of tens of thousands of images and articles, many unseen in decades, we will also discuss how Carson’s was far more innovative in architecture and merchandising than any other Chicago-based store. Seen above top is the State Street flagship location of Carson’s Arcadia line of novelty stores; this unique chain was once throughout the Chicago region.

Shown above bottom is the extensive remodeling of Carson’s second floor in the 1980s, rebranded as Metropolis on 2 by noted Chicago interior design firm Niedermaier Design. Note the extensive use of neon, including in ceiling fans, in the miniature food court.

We look forward to seeing you at this exclusive presentation in Westchester on Saturday, April 27!

When? Saturday, April 27, 2019 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Where? Westchester Public Library, 10700 Canterbury Street in Westchester, IL

How Much? Free; reserve a spot by calling the Library’s Adult Department at (708) 562-3573 or sending an email to [email protected]

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