Then & Now: Joliet’s Boston Store
December 7, 2011 5:46PM
Mannequins display the latest fashions in August 1962 in the windows of The Boston Store at the northwest corner of Ottawa and Jefferson streets in Joliet, Ill. | Joliet Area Historical Museum, Joliet, Ill.
Updated: January 9, 2012 8:00AM
The Boston Store was founded in Joliet in 1889 by M. A. Felman as a 18-foot-by-50-foot general store amid unpaved streets and wooden sidewalks.
The store boomed to become Joliet’s largest department store. It was totaled by fire when a blaze started on the second floor at 6:30 a.m. April 26, 1908.
Little was left of the building, but the owners purchased property across the street at 23 W. Jefferson St. and built a new five-story building.
It was touted as “Joliet’s biggest, busiest and best store.” The “retailers of everything” even advertised in a 1914 Joliet prison publication that they could supply pedigreed puppies.
Though they shared a name, the Joliet store wasn’t affiliated with The Boston store that eventually merged with Bergner’s, then Carson Pirie Scott.
The store employed 225 people at its 60th anniversary in 1949. For the anniversary, the store gave away 5,624 pounds of cake and six diamond rings.
A 50,000-square-foot Boston Store was opened in the brand-new Hillcrest Shopping Center at Route 30 and Larkin in Nov. 18, 1959.
Owner M.A. Felman Co. sold its stock to Combined Enterprises in August 1972. The new owner said it would be business as usual, but closed the downtown stare in early 1971 while expanding the Hillcrest site. (The second store closed in the late 1970s.)
In 1974, the downtown Boston Store building was sold for $150,000 and demolished as part of 20-year plan for improving downtown Joliet.
The five-story building that replaced the Boston Store was called the Pioneer Building. It featured 30,000 square foot, with office space, a pedestrian arcade and small retail stores at ground level.
Today, it also uses the address of 54 N. Ottawa St. and is still called the Pioneer Building.