Grant Store/Harts’ Block
225 So Fifth St
(The 2 south storefront sections
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 fašade 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
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
fašade retains some of its original 1868 fabric.