Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s Aurora History - The Beginning to the Finale

Sears, Roebuck & Co.~Aurora, Il  ~ 1928-2020

Sears, Roebuck & Co. 
Broadway & Downer
The ending of an era. 

Sears, Roebuck & Co. was first founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in 1892. The operation began as a mail ordering catalog company and began opening retail locations in 1925.

The first Sears, Roebuck & Co. department store came to Aurora in 1928. The original location was at 69-75 S. River Street up until 1935-1936 where it moved to the corner of Broadway and Downer (currently a parking lot).

Sears Golden Jubilee
Beacon News
June 28, 1936

The Sears, Roebuck & Co. was at the Broadway and Downer location up until the 1960s when Northgate Shopping Mall opened. Northgate was originally the "Aurora Driving Park" where there was a large field for many events, including a visit from the Wright Brothers and their "Flying Machine" back in 1910. When Northgate opened with so many shops, this was the beginning of the retail decline in Downtown Aurora.

Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Merchants Bank in background

Sears, Roebuck & Co. 

In 1975, a $1 billion building project that focused on 6 square miles on the eastern edge of town that included a new concept, Fox Valley Mall, that encompassed 1.2 million square feet. Sears then moved to this location as one of the four anchor stores (along with JCPenneys, Marshall Fields (now Macy's), Lord & Taylor (which became Carson Pirie Scott in January of 1996).

Sears Northgate Lake Street location

 In place of the Northgate location, Bergner Weise/Bergner's took over.  In 1989 Bergner Weise/Bergner's bought Carson Pirie Scott.  Carson Pirie Scott was originally Block & Kuhl which moved from its original location on the corner of Galena and Stolp (now Stolp Island Social/Aurora Arts Center) to Fox Valley Mall and their second location where Sears Northgate used to be.

After years of declining sales, Sears' parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15, 2018 and chose to close its many stores including our Fox Valley Mall location. On December 26, 2020, demolition was started at the Fox Valley location.

Centennial Real Estate Company, owners of the Fox Valley Mall, began demolition of the former Sears store. The plan is to construct Midrise Multiple Family dwellings at the Sears site. This will be a new beginning for the mall which opened in 1975. The retail portion will go from the current 1 million square feet to approximately 500,000 square feet, basically transforming the mall into more walkable, mixed used development. 

Beginning of the end 2020
Sears Fox Valley demolition
Mural by Gregg Valley 2019


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Aurora Holiday Express!

In the spirit of the holidays, Downtown Aurora presents "Aurora Express" for the 2020 holiday season, featuring storefront displays of locomotives and other forms of transportation from yesteryear to today by local artists. I created this video to outline the history of trains in Aurora, Illinois. From the first tracks to the restoration of the Roundhouse and the fabulous Pioneer Zephyr, this video takes us on a fun tour of local train history. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Work and Life


I do apologize for not updating as often as I was. Unfortunately, work and life kind of get in the way when you have personal projects such as this. Not that I'm complaining, work helps me get the things that we need and life is life and I'm grateful for the life I have. Once things get squared away and re-organized, I'll be able to come up with some fun updates and equally fun stories! I have a lot I want to do on this page and more! So please, stay tuned!

All my best,


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Good Morning Aurora Podcast!

One of the coolest things happened today! Check out Good Morning Aurora and watch their podcast featuring yours truly! We talk about the history of Aurora and the history of Leland Hotel! Curtis and Kristine are wonderful hosts and are fun to be with! Thanks to you two and to Hunter and JB for making this a fun adventure for this homebody. LoL! Can't wait for next time! Hopefully things in the world will get better and we can all have fun going back in time once again. 

Good Morning Aurora with Special Guest Tracy Duran

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Grand Opening of Leland Hotel February 8, 1928 Part 2 -- Let's take a look inside!

Mr. Peabody and Sherman
by Jay Ward

Leland Hotel

 Let's go back in time...

Come with me into the wayback machine and change the dials to 

February 8, 1928!

As we finally see our way out of the atomic steam from the time and space continuum ... we'll see a fantastic 22 story brick building standing tall and proud by the Fox River in Aurora, IL! 

An old 1925 Ford Model T, oh wait... it's not that old... honks at us since we're in the middle of the intersection of Island Avenue and Main Street (now Stolp Avenue and Galena Boulevard). We slowly look up at this grand building. No other building is as tall as the Leland Hotel! Granted, a few years later the record for the tallest will beat us when the Empire State Building is completed in March 17, 1930 then by the Chrysler Building in May 27, 1930. For the first year Leland Hotel stood tall and proud. The gem of the Fox Valley!